The Ultimate Escape! Here Are The Best Trails Located Just Outside Nineteen U.S. Cities
When you live in a big city, the constant concrete and smog can get to you. Sometimes you feel like you'd straight-up kill a man to see a patch of green, or like you'd weep openly at the sight of a weed. If you're feeling pretty desperate for the great outdoors but think you're trapped in a skyscraper hellscape, here's the best trail near your city.
New York City: Bull Hill
Escaping NYC can be hard when no one you know actually owns a car. To get back to nature, you're going to have to aim for a place that's available through public transit. But if you take the Metro-North Hudson line to Cold Spring, you'll end up on one of the amazing trails leading to the top of Bull Hill.
Bull Hill Mountain is 1,420 ft, so the hike can be quite the work out. There are some nearby hiking trails for more casual hikers who still want to see great views of the Hudson like Breakneck Ridge. Yeah, we know Breackneck sounds worse. We didn't name it.
WASHINGTON D.C.: MARYLAND HEIGHTS TRAIL
Just 90 minutes outside D.C., you can surround yourself with nature at the Maryland Heights Trail in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. We recommend going in the fall, when the area burns with red and gold. You'll just need a quick ride on the Orange MARC train and a short walk over the Potomac river before you'll reach this challenging--but rewarding--hike.
LOS ANGELES: VICTORY TRAILHEAD LOOP
L.A. is surrounded by popular trails, but because of the city's size and the abundance of tourists, weekend crowds can be a little obnoxious when you're trying to get away from bustling city life. Try going to Victory Trailhead in the Upper Las Virgenes Canyon Open Space Preserve instead! It's much less crowded, and it's located just 20 miles NW of Santa Monica. The Victory Trailhead loop is a relatively easy hike in the Simi Hills, and the scenery is gorgeous.
Austin: Wolf Mountain Trail
A little west of Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park has mind-blowingly beautiful scenery for you to immerse yourself in. We recommend the 7-mile roundtrip Wolf Mountain Trail if you're up for the mileage. The trail takes you over the limestone quarries where the Pedernales River and Pedernales Falls run, which makes the area perfect for fishing and swimming. Nearby there's mountain biking and tubing in the river. Expert hikers note that the area's prone to flash floods, so make sure you check the weather before heading out.
SAN FRANCISCO: PALOMARIN TRAILHEAD TO ALAMERE FALLS
San Francisco is such a beautiful area, and it has an abundance of nature trails and hikes that will take your breath away. Many hikers recommend the Palomarin Trailhead hike to Alamere Falls in the Point Reyes National Seashore, which is picture above. At just 34 miles north of the city, the Palomarin Trailhead is basically in your backyard. The Trailhead's a medium difficulty height, and this glimpse of Alamere Falls is totally worth any struggle. The trail can get a little crowded during the weekend, so we'd recommend making the hike on the weekend if your schedule allows.
Phoenix: Papago Park's Double Butte Loop
Papago Park has some pretty unique scenery. Just check out these red sandstone formations! The park's Double Butte Loop (we know, the name makes you feel like you're in middle school again) is an easy dirt trail that lets you explore two of the smaller buttes on the park. You can hike both around and inside of the buttes, creating a totally original and individual hiking experience!
San Diego: Balboa Park's Trail #5
Tourists may think San Diego is just one giant beach, but locals know that the city has one of the highest park-land-per-capita rates in the U.S. This creates dozens of options for escaping the city and retreating to nature, without having to travel out of town. Locals recommend Balboa Park's Trail #5, which is a a 6.6-mile loop. The trail passes through Palm Canyon, a beautiful green oasis created by an underground stream.
Boston: Blue Hills Reservation
Blue Hills Reservation in Boston will let you flee the city and get some much-needed alone time. Some of the trails can get a little steep and spooky, but they're well marked, and you'll be able to find a trail with a difficulty level that's both challenging and safe for you. The more intensive trails offer amazing views of the surrounding area--some people even say that you can see the Atlantic Ocean from the Skyline Loop, which is a tricky 3 mile stretch. The south loop is gentler and more level, only taking an hour and a half to complete.
Philadelphia: Ricketts Glen State Park Falls Trail
A representative of Philly's park system said that “This is the hike that turns first-time hikers into forever hikers." Located in Ricketts Glen State Park, the Falls Trail is very popular with both locals and tourists. The hike can be rocky, and sections of the trail can be pretty steep, but the trail features 21--yeah, you read that correctly, 21--various waterfalls. The tallest waterfall is 94 feet and absolutely stunning. You can even camp inside the park and make an entire weekend of your getaway.
Chicago: Waterfall Glen Loop in the Forest Preserve District
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is comprised of 2,492 acres of a variety of environments and scenery. You'll walk through savannas, prairies,and woodlands that all surround the Argonne National Laboratory. Overlooking the Des Plaines River, the Waterfall Glen Loop is located near a waterfall (hence the name?). The gorgeous spot is perfect to hike to, and could be completed with a picturesque picnic once you've reached the falls. You can even go off-road in some parts of this preserve--just don't get lost.
Seattle: Carkeek Park
The Seattle area is home to many parks and hiking spots, but many locals recommend Carkeek Park. Cross the metal, elevated bridge over a set of train tracks and explore the gorgeous shoreline. Or, if you're up for a hike, the area has boardwalk trails for you to trek across in the park's woodier areas. There's even a little playground area for kids, and many Seattlites watch trains from the top of the crossover bridge.
Nashville: Radnor Lake
Located a little south of the Green Hills area of Nashville, Radnor State Park offers a variety of walking and hiking trails for those looking to escape the Music City for just a little while. Radnor has a major walking trail that circles a large, beautiful lake; half of the Lake Trail is paved, making the walk easier on anyone looking for a less strenuous adventure. The park also has a variety of dirt and wood-mulched trails that weave up the small mountains at varying difficulties. No matter what season, the trees in this park are always beautiful, and you're likely to see a deer watching you off-trail.
Atlanta: Arabia Mountain Top Trail
The Arabia Mountain Top Trail is only thirty minutes outside of Atlanta's Midtown, and it's probably the most accessible hike on this list. Arabia Mountain has absolutely gorgeous landscape, rich with rock formations, pools, and foliage. The Mountain Top Trail is a short hike, barely over a mile in length, and is especially recommended for beginners or anyone hiking with children. The mountain is hardly out of the city, but you'll be so in tune with the area's natural beauty that you'll feel like you're miles and miles away from the mayhem.
New Orleans: Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve
You might not think of nature trails when you think of NOLA, but this preserve is incredible and features many dirt paths and wooden boardwalks. The wooden walkway takes you over New Orlean's rich swamp land, which is an entirely unique experience. After passing through the swamp, trails lead you to areas with thick palms and brambles. The entire preserve is well-maintained, and if you're into wildlife photography, this is the trail for you! However, that does mean you'll encounter some animals on this path that you should be incredibly cautious around and avoid, like alligators and snakes.
Portland: Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop Hike
This trail travels by eight major waterfalls and many more smaller cascades. You can start from either end of the trail for an amazing trip, and you'll come across so many amazing natural sights, including a basalt cliff, a weeping wall, and this gorgeous wooden bridge that looks like it belongs in a fairy-tale. Watch out, though! In the winter, the spray from the falls can freeze and make areas of this path slick.
But from Lemmon's Viewpoint to Wahkeena Canyon, this trail can be difficult and steep, but if you're an experience hiker, each beautiful waterfall you encounter is well worth it.
Which trail do you most want to explore? Have any local opinions on better hikes? Tell us in the comments below, and don't forget to share this with your fellow nature lovers!