NYC, Chicago and Philly may not have the rugged peaks or steep cliffs of Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, but they have sidewalks and stairs in spades. Dust off your chucks, we’re taking you on a new type of hike.
The High Line
New York, NY
You could pound the pavement on NYC’s sidewalks all day, but our favorite place to roam is a story above ground, on a converted railroad dotted with local art installations, a miniature dogwood forest and charming pop-up shops. That’s right, we’re talking about the High Line. While you're suspended over Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District, making your way through Chelsea enroute to W 34th (between 10th and 12th), you can switch things up with a Tai Chi or meditation course, or simply take a break with a handmade strawberry rhubarb pop at People's Pops or a cold brew at Blue Bottle Coffee.
Schuylkill River Trail
Downtown Philly, the Blue Mountains, quaint Pennsylvania Dutch communities and 18th century mills – these are just some of the things you’ll run into on the scenic Schuylkill River Trail. The SRT (which is currently halfway to completion with 60-miles) was built for traditional hikers and urban trekkers alike, with a network of long distance regional trails and paved, city walkways at the ready. Starting in Philly, you can catch a 26.5-mile path that runs to Phoenixville, through the Valley Forge National Historical Park, or you can just loop your way around the city's 10-mile portion on the waterfront between Fairmont Water Works and Locust Street.
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Indianapolis Cultural Trail
Three years ago, downtown Indy underwent a major transformation as the auto-oriented hub made huge steps towards becoming a pedestrian friendly neighborhood. Today, the urban Indianapolis Cultural Trail has 8 different walking paths and 10 public art projects through 6 different cultural districts. With no official start or end point, walkers can join anywhere to mosey on foot the paths that run parallel to the city's canal, connecting downtown to the Indiana State Museum in White River State Park, the Indianapolis City Market, and high-end dining, galleries and shops in Fountain Square and Mass Ave. After you tire of walking, look out for bikeshare spots (there are 26) or rent a paddleboat or kayak and take to the canal.
California Coastal Trail
San Francisco, CA
While we don’t suggest you thru-hike the 1,200-mile California Coastal Trail (it runs the length of the enormous state), you should definitely spare a few hours on SF's more approachable 9-mile stretch. Starting at the Cliff House (near the Sutro Baths), hikes pass by a slew of small beaches (Baker and Marshall among them), the meandering Batteries to Bluffs trail, and come to an end at the Golden Gate Bridge. PS: the Coastal Trail is far from finished – once completed, it'll wind its way from Oregon to Mexico.
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angelenos – new and old, famous and not – seem to love a good hike. Head to the Los Feliz neighborhood where Griffith Park’s 53-miles of trails present options for every type of hiker – from short bouts to the Hollywood Sign, to longer stretches and challenging inclines like GP's Northside Loop and Wisdom Tree and Cahuenga Peak. Whatever path you choose, try to circle back around to the observatory for jaw-dropping views of DTLA. Stick around till nightfall to cap off your hike with a public star party where you can chat up astronomers and get a good look at the sun and moon through the historic Zeiss telescope (the next monthly gatherings are July 9th and August 6th).
Chicago Lakefront Trail
Whether you’re a cyclist, runner, rollerblader, walker, or mom with a baby carriage and eager dog in tow, Chi-Town’s 18-mile Lakefront Trail was made for you. You'll cross paths with the Lincoln Park Zoo, Navy Pier, and Grant Park as you follow the serene waters of Lake Michigan from Ardmore Street on the north side to 71st Street on the south side. No matter what area of the trail you hang out on, views of the iconic skyline – the Willis Tower (what some still call the Sears Tower) and John Hancock Center, in particular – are a given.
Rose Kennedy Greenway
Beantown deserves a real pat on the back – not only for embracing a collection of urban hiking paths, but also for putting in extra work to become one of the nation’s only fully organic parks. The Rose Kennedy Greenway stretches out across the North End, Wharf District and Chinatown in an array of landscaped, lawn-chaired parks, linked together by a mile and a half of paved walkways. If your cross town journey has your stomach rumbling, look to ever-present food trucks like Roxy's Gourmet Grilled Cheese, Bon Me, and the Chicken & Rice Guys (sorry NYC Halal Guys fans, but they're better).
Alameda Ridge and Stairs
Skip leg day at the gym and head for the 4.4-mile Alameda Ridge Trail in northeast Portland where stairs, stairs and - you guessed it - more stairs will whip even the most lackluster of calves into steel. Eleven staircases – with 30 to 127 steps each – run through the urban landscape, snaking through neighborhood hedges and the city's humble bungalows and stately mansions. (Be on the lookout for lumber tycoon Thomas Autzen's home which takes up an entire city block.) Once you've completed your loop, give your legs a rest at one of NW Portland's newest eateries – The Waiting Room – where grilled oysters and fried chicken entice even the pickiest PDX locals.
Elliot Bay Trail
Following the Puget Sound in Seattle is the 5-mile north-to-south Elliot Bay Trail. The paved route hugs the shoreline from South Royal Brougham Way to Smith Cove Park in Magnolia, passing by the shops and cafes of Pike Place Market, the Renaissance Revival architecture of Pioneer Square, and the dynamic designs of the Seattle Art Museum's Olympic Sculpture Park. Small patches of grass and public fishing piers along the way provide ample space for picnic breaks and photo ops of both Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains rising out of the Sound, and Seattle's iconic skyline.
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GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail
The abandoned Greenville & Northern Railway line was revived in 2010 when it was refashioned into the 21-mile GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail. Running from Falls Park in downtown Greenville to the Blue Ridge foothills and funky restaurants of Travelers Rest, hikers follow along the twists and turns of the Reedy River. Not in the mood for walking? Rent a bike from Pedal Chic for easy cruising – the trail has barely any incline, so you won't be stuck pushing your wheels up any hard-to-cycle hills. As for pre- and post-hike fuel ups, pop into Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery for a savory cheddar scone or gluten-free, vegan-friendly donut if you're trying to keep your workout in check.