Sure, there are bonuses to living in urban environments. But for many outdoor enthusiasts, living in a big city can feel suffocating, and finding a way to escape the concrete jungle and reconnect with the great outdoors is essential to keeping sane.
Luckily, there exist a bevy of hiking trails and national parks located just outside some of the biggest cities across the country, offering urbanites the chance to get away from it all.
Here are our five favorites:
New York City: Bull Hill
Most people in the Big Apple don’t own a car, which can make it difficult to escape the city.
Getting to a great hiking trail outside New York City requires finding one that is easily accessible by public transit. Bull Hill (Mount Taurus) is just that.
Located about 75 minutes north of New York City, the Metro-North Hudson line north takes you to the village of Cold Spring.
From there, hikers walk just a bit north to get to one of the many trails that lead to the top of Bull Hill, the 1,420-foot mountain located on the banks of the Hudson River.
The hike itself is at times strenuous and takes about four hours to complete, but it’s rewarding, offering views of the Hudson you won’t find anywhere within the city. Plus, it doesn’t attract the intense crowds of its neighboring hiking trail — Breakneck Ridge.
Washington D.C.: Maryland Heights Trail
There are actually a plethora of outdoor adventures to be had both within our nation’s capital and just outside of the city’s limits.
One of its best hikes is located on the Maryland Heights Trail about 90 minutes west of D.C. in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
To get to the hike, take the Orange MARC train west from D.C.’s Union Station to the Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, station. You’ll make a short walk across the footbridge over the Potomac River and make your way to the Maryland Heights trailhead.
The hike itself is about 6-miles roundtrip, and features some steep elevation gains, but can be finished in a few hours. It’s best experienced in the fall when the Harpers Ferry area comes alive with color.
Los Angeles: Victory Trailhead Loop
There are a bunch of popular hiking trails that Angelenos frequent, like Runyon Canyon and Topanga State Park. The weekend crowds, however, can be overwhelming.
But even in Los Angeles, there are hiking spots where you can avoid the crowd, such as Victory Trailhead in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve.
Located about 20 miles north and west of Santa Monica, the Victory Trailhead loop provides 5 miles of beautiful, easy hiking through the Simi Hills, and can be accomplished in a couple hours.
Austin, Texas: Wolf Mountain Trail
Located just under 50 miles west of the capital of the Lone Star State, Pedernales Falls State Park offers some of the most scenic hiking in the state, and the best hiking within the park is found on the 7-mile roundtrip Wolf Mountain Trail.
The hike traverses over the limestone quarries that the Pedernales River and Pedernales Falls run through.
The many creeks and pools provide a great setting for swimming and fishing. The nearby Juniper Ridge Trail offers 10 awesome miles of single track for mountain biking, and Pedernales River has great tubing for people looking for a slightly more relaxed visit.
If you decide to head to Pedernales, check the forecast. Rain can cause the falls and the river basin to flash flood.
San Francisco: Palomarin Trailhead to Alamere Falls
San Francisco and its surrounding suburbs are built into some of the most beautiful terrain in the United States, and as such, feature some of the best hikes in the country.
With spots like the Marin Headlands within arms reach of San Francisco, its hard to find a bad hiking spot, but one of the best is the Palomarin Trailhead hike to Alamere Falls in the Point Reyes National Seashore.
Located 34 miles north of San Francisco, the 8-mile roundtrip hike is relatively moderate and the payoff is Alamere Falls, which flows directly into the Pacific Ocean.
The hike can be crowded, so try to head there during the week if you can, but if you are going to go on the weekend, get to it early.
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