When you think of an urban environment, greenery, waterfronts and serene landscapes are probably the last things that come to mind. Fortunately, cities across the U.S. are increasingly making an effort to provide areas ideal for both exercising and escaping the hustle and bustle of city life. This is especially important since spending more time in nature can help you de-stress and improve physical and mental health.
Change up your walking routine by trying one of these 10 walking trails as that are scenic and easily accessible from major cities.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Distance: 2.7 miles
While the entire 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail is worth checking out, a great section in Northern California is the 2.7-mile segment that heads through San Francisco’s Presidio. Beginning at Baker Beach, the route follows rocky coastal bluffs for some incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. Two overlook points offer the perfect spot to stop and take in the scenery before the trail ends at the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
Distance: 2.4 miles
Just a short trek from downtown, this loop is one of the best urban hikes in the area. While sections can be steep and will definitely give your legs a good workout, the view at the top of the Pacific Ocean is well worth it. Pause along the way to enjoy a break from the crowds and breathe in the fresh ocean air.
Distance: 3.3 miles
This path in the middle of downtown Denver is a great place to spend a lunch break or take a Sunday morning stroll. The 3.3 miles are mostly flat and feature a mix of dirt and cement, making it doable for most regardless of your fitness level. There are also terrific views of the water, and the trail is close enough to the Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Zoo to stop by without having to get back in the car should you want to make additional plans for the rest of your day.
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Distance: 4.2 miles
While the 18-mile Lakefront Trail is always an option, you won’t want to miss the 4.2-mile section near Montrose Beach that heads north along Lake Michigan. The hills (perfect for incline training) are unique to the area, and the Chicago skyline views are some of the best. The Lincoln Park Zoo and Wrigley Field are also nearby if you’re visiting the area and want to take in two of the city’s most popular attractions.
Distance: 16 miles
This multi-use path offers some of the most scenic sections of the Charles River, and connects to six towns making it easily accessible to a majority of the city. The path is paved and a favorite among walkers and runners alike for its natural landscape and architectural landmarks. The Museum of Science and the Harvard campus are two sites you’ll be able to enjoy along the way.
Distance: 11 miles
Minnesota is known for its 10,000 lakes. Lake Calhoun, Lake Harrie and Lake of the Isles are three that are interconnected in the heart of Minneapolis. The urban trail offers stunning views of the waterfront and for people who are short on time or want to walk a shorter distance, you can choose just one lake to loop.
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
Distance: 1.5 miles
This converted freight line path has transformed Manhattan’s West Side thanks to its infusion of nature. In addition to green trees and a plethora of plant life, you’ll see modern architecture, interesting artwork, and even edible gardens. Since the 1.5-mile trail is elevated, you’ll also get a unique view of the Hudson River, the Statue of Liberty and a few of the boroughs that make New York so iconic.
Distance: 12 miles
Connecting many of the area’s parks, this greenway mostly follows the river and meets up with the 120-acre Scioto Audubon Metro Park — a wildlife sanctuary that has its own system of walking trails should you want to explore further. The Scioto Mile is probably the most popular section of the trail thanks to its easy access to downtown, but you won’t be disappointed with any of the sections along this beautiful city route, featuring wetlands and lush tree canopies.
Distance: 28 miles
Just west of downtown, this urban trail is easy to get to and a great option if you want to train for a longer distance. Beginning in Washington Park before heading to Forest Park, the route can easily be broken up into more manageable sections. If you venture a little further away into Forest Park, the tall trees, rolling hills and quiet dirt paths allow you to escape the city for a truly peaceful hike.
Distance: 5 miles
While there are plans to develop about 300 miles of urban trails in Austin, there are plenty to enjoy in the meantime. The scenic Tejano Trail starts in East Austin just 10 blocks from the capitol and takes you through a historically Hispanic area showcasing historical homes and beautiful community gardens. The area is also full of lively cafés and restaurants to refuel post-walk.
Make progress every day while you work on fitness and nutrition goals, like walking more steps. Go to “Plans” in the MyFitnessPal app for daily coaching and easy-to-follow tasks to keep you motivated.