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The 10 Best U.S. Cities for Hiking, Says New Study

Get your steps in while surrounded by nature in these picturesque hiking hotspots.

Hiking provides a great way to not only get outside and explore, but also to get in some exercise. However, if you live in the city, you might think you can't go hiking unless you travel far beyond the city limits. According to Lawnstarter's 2022 Best Cities for Hiking study, that's not always true.

The study looks at 13 hiker-friendly factors such as hiking access, trail difficulty, and safety to determine which U.S. cities offer great hiking. Here's a closer look at the cities that made the top 10. And next, don't miss The No. 1 Vacation You Should Book Right Now.

San Diego

san diego hike

From the coast to the mountains, San Diego invites hikers of all skill levels to explore its many trails. In the 600,000-acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, you'll find numerous hiking trails, but some of the best are those that showcase the park's wildflowers. These include the Cactus Loop and the Hellhole Canyon trail. In the mountains, consider the Lower Doane & French Valley loop at Palomar Mountain State Park or the hike along the shoreline of Lake Cuyamaca. More skilled hikers will love the challenge of climbing Stonewall Peak at the Paso Pichacho Campground.

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Las Vegas

Las Vegas hike

Surrounded by natural beauty, Las Vegas offers much more than flashing lights, gambling, and top-notch shows and entertainment. In fact, just outside the glitz of neon, you'll find plenty of hiking trails to keep you moving. And, according to the Lawnstarter study, Las Vegas sits in a five-way tie for second as having the lowest natural hazard risk while hiking. A good starting point is the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, which includes several trails, including the Corn Creek trails that start right behind the visitors center. Another popular hiking spot, the Mount Charleston Wilderness area includes 40 miles of trails along the Spring Mountains.

Boise, ID

boise idaho hike

Because it sits in a high desert valley, Boise offers numerous hiking trails in the nearby foothills and mountains to challenge all hikers. One of the city's most popular trails, the Table Rock Trail includes a 994-foot gain in elevation as you travel the 3.4-mile trail. In the 734-acre Military Reserve Park, try the Cottonwood Creek Trail, a great hike for families and beginners. If you want to make hiking an all-day adventure, try the 12.6-mile Hulls Gulch Reserve Trail. The Upper Hulls Gulch contains a 2,246-foot elevation gain so be ready to conquer the climb. Don't forget to pack a picnic in your backpack along with plenty of water.

Los Angeles

hollywood sign los angeles

You might think the City of Angels is hardly a hiking destination, but you'd better think again. Los Angeles actually features a wealth of hiking trails, many of which are rated easy or moderate. For example, at Fryman Canyon Park, you can explore the Betty B. Dearing Mountain Trail, which features valley views. A very popular hike, the Mount Hollywood Hiking Trail provides views of Griffith Park as well as the infamous Hollywood sign. In Eaton Canyon Natural Area, you even can hike an approximate 2-mile in-and-out trail that brings you to a 40-foot waterfall.

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Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City hike

Hikers in Salt Lake City can start their journey at one of the many in-town trails, or make their way to the Wasatch Mountains just beyond the city. For a quick hike that rewards you with scenic city views as well as picturesque views of the Great Salt Lake, set out on the Ensign Peak trail, which is accessible from downtown Salt Lake City. If you love waterfalls, hike two miles of the Bell's Canyon Trail to see the waterfall. If you want, you can continue three more miles to the upper reservoir. Outside the city, you'll find more trails, such as the Lake Blanche hike that travels uphill into a side canyon that contains a lake.

Oakland, CA

oakland CA hike

Oakland welcomes hikers with more than 100,000 acres of parks and trails, along the coast or in the Oakland Hills. A great starting point is the Tres Sendas trail in Redwood Regional Park, where you can hike among the majestic redwood trees. Another good hiking destination is Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, which includes the 1.7-mile Huckleberry Trail loop that showcases some of the area's plants. If you're looking for a quick and easy hike, try the Dimond Canyon Bridgeview Trail, a 1.9-mile trail with a relatively low elevation gain of just 200 feet.

Colorado Springs, CO

Colorado Springs

Rated the No. 1 U.S. Park on Tripadvisor, Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs provides many hiking opportunities for everyone. The park contains 15 miles of trails, including a 1.5-mile paved trail that is wheelchair and stroller accessible. Another great spot is the 585-acre Austin Bluffs Open Space, where hikers can check out unique rock formations. If you're bringing your dog along, head to Bear Creek Dog Park, a 25-acre off-leash park with plenty of hiking trails for both man and beast. Advanced hikers will love the challenge of the 1-mile Manitou Incline that includes a 2,000-foot vertical rise built on the track of a historic rail car line.

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landscape photo of Phoenix, Arizona at sunset

Surrounded by parks and nature preserves, Phoenix easily takes the No. 1 spot for most hiking routes available. At South Mountain Park, you can try easy one-mile loop trails or try the 2.5-mile loop at the North Mountain visitor center. For a quick hike, try the Hieroglyphic Trail in the Superstition Mountains. To see the best views of the area, head to the Summit Trail (#300) in the Phoenix Mountains Preserve, where you can hike up Piestewa Peak. With a 1,200-foot elevation gain, this hike isn't for the beginner, but the panoramic scenes are worth it.

Tucson, AZ

tucson az hike man legs

Surrounded by five mountain ranges, it's no surprise Tucson landed in the study's No. 2 spot for most hiking routes. There are hundreds of miles of trails available to hikers of all skill levels. You can start with one of the city's urban trails, such as the 11-mile Rillito River Park Trail that winds its way along the north side of the city. When you're ready for more, you can hit the Gould Mine Loop in Saguaro National Park West, which takes you by old mines and petroglyphs in the rock walls. Advanced hikers will love the Romero Pools trail that starts in Catalina State Park before ascending a ridge to a pool where you can cool off.

Portland, OR

Portland Oregon hike

Taking the top spot, Portland overflows with hiking opportunities ranging from urban hikes to making your way through the area's forests. For instance, the 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail weaves its way through Forest Park, while the 4.5-mile 4T Trail offers hikers a look at the Portland Streetcar, the Portland Aerial Tram, and more along the loop, serving as a self-guided tour of the city, if you will. For more adventure, head to Mount Tabor Park, which is built on top of an actual volcano. Here you can travel one of the three trails: the 1-mile Red Trail, the 1.7-mile Green Trail, and the 3-mile Blue Trail.

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Karon Warren
For more than 20 years, Karon Warren has covered travel for numerous outlets including AAA, Family Vacation Critic, Cruise Critic, Trivago, and many others. Read more
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