Hikes for open-minded urbanites
July 19, 2022 9:55 PM   Subscribe

What gorgeous, entry-level hikes do you know of that are close to, even perhaps in view of, charming cities or towns? Anywhere in the world is fine! I would love to build out a list for dream vacations with my partner.

I am a crunchy hippie who grew up camping for months every year, and have spent a significant part of my adult life in remote environments. My partner is a cosmopole who has very much enjoyed the several brief hikes we have been on. On our last one, on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, he noticed how nice it was for him to feel the remoteness of our surroundings and yet still see the houses lining the bayside - it gave a feeling of confidence that we would be able to relax and enjoy home comforts soon.

I have no desire to win him over to enjoy camping/intensive hiking - I can do those with other friends and family! But it has been so, so good to be able to share this part of myself with my partner, and for him to enjoy it. Almost all of my hikes have been well outside of populated areas, usually in the context of camping, so I find myself drawing a blank for city-adjacent strolls we might take.

I have pretty loose parameters of what I’m thinking about as easy and comfortable, but the kind of hikes we’ve taken so far have been up to 5-6 miles, moderate elevation change (0-1500 ft), dirt paths, some slickrock, but no scrambling or climbing. For comfort, I know that he would prefer well-fenced cliff edges and trails that don’t require clinging to chains.

When my partner made this comment, my brain went immediately to Switzerland - in part because I’ve seen a few AskMes about how wonderful it is to travel there. But I imagine there are probably great options in deserts and mountains and forests and grasslands and coasts and any other beautiful populated ecosystem imaginable, all around the world.

Extra-amazing bonus points: regions/countries where such hikes might also be paired with delicious baked goods or desserts, art museums, hot springs, northern lights, fireflies, or other peak experiences of the human condition (so long as they are not made out of shellfish, to which my partner is allergic). Thank you!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt to Travel & Transportation (57 answers total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
Forest Park is a rainforest in Portland, Oregon. Hike in from a touristy part of downtown.
posted by aniola at 10:14 PM on July 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland. Long days right now, might be more likely to see the aurora in the fall. Just walking in Edinburgh was a fair bit of hiking.
posted by theora55 at 10:18 PM on July 19, 2022 [11 favorites]

Lion’s Head in Cape Town. Stunning views of the ocean and city, incredibly close to town.

The Grouse Grind in Vancouver (actually North Vancouver), or its less-busy cousin the BCMC trail. It’s a workout but you can get drinks+food up top then catch the gondola down.
posted by ripley_ at 10:25 PM on July 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

There's heaps in Sydney. Maybe the closest to your spec is the Spit to Manly walk, both ends of which are accessible by public transport and which has harbour views throughout. Get a bus to the Spit Bridge, have an afternoon's walk through national park, there's amazing views of the city, headlands, and harbour throughout, sidetrack to the beach if you want, finish with beers on the Manly pier, go home on the ferry. It's honestly a glorious afternoon out.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 10:33 PM on July 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

The Cinque Terre.
posted by praemunire at 10:52 PM on July 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Larabee State Park near Bellingham, WA, particularly Chuckanut Ridge Trail that I did a few weeks ago (link to my IG in bio), has nice town overlooks.

The rest of NW WA is just spoiled for choice with hikes ranging from easy (like, 3-year-old easy, speaking from experience) to quite intense.
posted by supercres at 11:25 PM on July 19, 2022 [2 favorites]

The Ridgeway - goes past Aldbury (twee town where film crews go to shoot period movies) and Tring (lovely town) Wendover (very nice little town as well) and Chequers. Oh and it goes past some great ancient monuments including the Uffington Horse, Waylands Smithy and Avebury.

The tradition in Britain is to enjoy a walk and then go to a pub or eatery after.
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 11:37 PM on July 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

Plenty of hikes in very easy reach of both Oslo and Bergen in Norway. Strong on baked goods and museums. Both a little south of northern lights territory, but you could travel north for those if you wanted.

You can poke around the map on ut.no. That link is focused on Bergen, where you can take a cable car or funicular up to the hills and walk from there, or even between the two.
posted by knapah at 11:37 PM on July 19, 2022 [5 favorites]

If you visit the Washington DC area, there's a bunch of easy but nice parks.

Theodore Roosevelt island, the National Arboretum, Glen Echo, the C&O Canal Trail (check out Glen Echo), Kingman Island, Four Mile Run, and more close to the city. Great Falls is a ways off from downtown but also nice.

It's not a natural hike but if you find yourself in Nashville, check out the gardens at Opryland. I wouldn't go out of my way to see it but if you're in the area is surprisingly nice as a plant stroll.
posted by Candleman at 11:38 PM on July 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

Cave Hill over Belfast is pretty good with nice views over the city and Belfast Lough.

Because it's Northern Ireland, there are plenty of more rural areas a very short distance away, like the Causeway Coast and Glens of Antrim or the Mourne Mountains. Both readily accessible from Belfast and suitable for short day hikes, with nice villages, cafes and restaurants, but also potentially scratching some of your own itches for something a little wilder.
posted by knapah at 11:44 PM on July 19, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wissahickon is about 30 min away from Center City Philadelphia by train. There is also Schuylkill River Trail in the city itself, but that's paved and probably more crowded than you want.

In DC, I'd add Rock Creek Park to Candleman's list. You could also travel a bit farther west or south from there.... Takes about 50 miles to escape the urban sprawl, but Central Virginia wine country is chockablock with charming towns, including Heaven On Earth aka Charlottesville VA right in the foothills of Shenandoah.

Hiking Upward lists most hikes in the Mid-Atlantic, searchable by intensity, length, and other criteria. Most of these do require a car.
posted by basalganglia at 12:01 AM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

A couple of Lake District ones from Keswick:
- loop north from the town over Latrigg - a modest hill but great views over the town and the more impressive fells
- loop south around Derwentwater - low level walk but most of it is on trails around the lake
Keswick has loads of nice cafes and pubs
posted by crocomancer at 1:01 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

The South Downs Way in Sussex along the the Seven Sisters cliffs between Seaford and Eastbourne. For an abbreviated version start at Seaford and then turn inland when you reach the Cuckmere River, finishing at Cuckmere Inn for a pint and a bite to eat. From there you can catch the bus or walk back to Seaford.
posted by theory at 1:38 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

You could probably spend weeks doing just the easier hikes around the Portland/Vancouver metro area. With a willingness to go even a half hour to an hour away from the metro, to basically in and around the smaller communities, it could stretch out to months or years. Just Forest Park (as mentioned above) can take a pretty decent chunk of time to fully explore.

Of course, if you could make it your full time job, you might run out.

It's really common around here for hikes to be tucked in populated areas, though they're generally designed in a way so the hiker can pretend that there isn't a shopping area just beyond a screen of trees.
posted by stormyteal at 1:39 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

If you visit the lovely town of Llangollen in North Wales, you can take this fantastic walk from town along the canal through the Dee river valley and see all this great historic stuff and eventually end up at the Valle Crucis Abbey ruins. I encountered all kinds of wonderful stuff while I was doing it, met a lot of lovely people, communed with some animals. The path to the abbey was closed when I got there unfortunately because of some flooding problems that had happened prior to my visit but especially if you go when the weather’s decent, you shouldn’t run into that. It’s truly wonderful.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:41 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

There's a pocket of rainforest reserve right in the middle of Malaysia's capital city Kuala Lumpur: KL Forest Eco Park. Like, 'literally smack dab in the middle of the business district/Golden Triangle, and the Twin Towers are right in your face', kind of middle. If you enjoy the juxtaposition hiking there can be an interesting option. They also installed walking sky bridges too, if you want the bird's eye view. Everywhere in the metro KL area there's a surprising number of tropical parks and reserves for a hike, but quite gentle enough since enough urbanites have access to them.
posted by cendawanita at 4:24 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Seconding the Wissahickon in Philadelphia.

And adding SEVERAL in and around New York City, many accessible by public transit:

* The Staten Island Greenbelt is a network of parks in the middle of Staten Island, and there are five or six trails running through them. I have hiked the White Trail twice - it's about 7 miles, an easy hike in terms of elevation, but wonderfully remote-feeling - I saw more deer on the trail than I did people both times. (One time I saw a 5-point buck.)

* Floyd Bennett Field is part of the national park system; it's an abandoned airfield that has been re-purposed for recreation. The runways are a kind of natural pedestrian pathway, and the grassland between the runways are protected grassland for bird nesting. One corner of a runway is set aside for people using remote-control model cars or airplanes; there's a kayak launch in one site, and a couple of sports fields. There's even a campground. One section has been set aside for nature trails, and there's lots of birding activity there.

* Van Cortland Park up in the Bronx has a series of trails throughout as well, some of them connecting with trails leading up into Westchester and points north.

* One of the trails spanning from Van Cortland to points further north would be ideal - the Croton Aqueduct trail. This follows the path of an old aqueduct that ran from Croton-Harmon, a town 26 miles north of New York City, to a reservoir in New York City itself. Much of the trail is actually built ON the old aqueduct, even. So it's fairly level, leads through several historic spots, and offers plenty of chances to tap out and stop for a meal (and catch a commuter train back to New York, as well).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:32 AM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

I found a short enough video on the KL Forest Eco Park, and I'm sharing because it's quite representative of the urban (literal) jungle hiking options you can find here and also Singapore in terms of layout logic and typical features/amenities. And of course, in either country, once you step back out to the city/town, you'll be spoiled for both food and culture almost immediately so I won't make specific recommendations.
posted by cendawanita at 4:32 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Telluride, Colorado has several nice trails that start right from town, including Bear Creek and Jud Wiebe.
posted by saladin at 4:46 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

If Japan is in scope, you might like Mount Takao, on the outskirts of Tokyo. You can get there by train in under an hour from the city centre, it's definitely a beginner-level hike (if you follow the most beaten path), it's very pretty with lots of nature as well as temples and shrines, and if the air's clear, there are some amazing views of the city and the mountains, including Fuji. This is a good summary.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:57 AM on July 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Mt. Rainier is right near Seattle and absolutely gorgeous and there is plenty of hiking around the bottom so you don't have to climb the mountain. Not sure how close you are looking but Olympus is not too far away either and close to other civilization.

Boulder, CO has a park that you walk to *right in the city* that has gorgeous easy-moderate hiking through mountains.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 5:03 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Hiking the Mississippi River gorge in Minneapolis and Minnehaha creek in Minneapolis is my happy place.
posted by advicepig at 5:05 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland is lovely.

Sakurajima, (Kagoshima) Japan isn't as big of a city but is pretty urban and might count.

In the US, Tilden Park in Berkeley, CA is really nice and you can see the entire Bay from many trails there.
posted by eotvos at 5:09 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh, also Grenoble, France has many options. The area around the Bastille is lovely. And you can take a cable car past the steep part in either direction if you get lazy.
posted by eotvos at 5:16 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Basically the entire country of Switzerland is lovely cities and towns with perfectly maintained hiking trails in the Alps above.
posted by rockindata at 5:27 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Queenstown, NZ. Maybe the hills around Apollo Bay, Vic, Aust.
posted by pompomtom at 5:31 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh.. also, Cuenavaca, just south of Mexico City, is beautiful and has a few great options.

And the Kepler Track in Te Anu, NZ is beautiful and you can walk to it from the (quite small but cute) town. It's longer than you specified, but you can get to the high point in a couple of hours and return the way you came.

(I'll stop thread-sitting now. I wouldn't have ever thought of saying that day hikes near big cities was a particular interest, but I guess it actually is. Looking forward to checking out the many unfamiliar ones mentioned here eventually.)
posted by eotvos at 5:33 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Mount Royal Park in Montreal,
posted by cardboard at 6:09 AM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Drat, I meant to point out explicitly that at the base of Mount Takao you'll find a trick art museum, plenty of good restaurants, and an onsen (hot spring bathing) with outdoor and indoor baths. If you go in the summer, there's also a place on the mountain where you can eat food and drink beer, although this is not a thing I ever did, because heat + beer + mountain + me didn't feel like a good combination.

But I also meant to point out explicitly that, sadly, the shellfish allergy might be a bit tricky to navigate in Japan. Here's an article with some details; it's a few years old but I'm not finding anything to suggest things have improved in this respect. Not impossible, but not a thing to do without some careful planning, I think.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 6:27 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Kyoto in Japan is really good for this.

Fushimi Inari shrine features thousands of gates that wind up a mountain over multiple paths.

Daigo-ji temple has a pretty decent hike up a mountain to get from the complex at the bottom to some temple buildings at the top.

You can hike up Daimonji Yama mountain to see the big symbol inscribed in it and also to get a decent view of the city.

If you travel a bit north of the city by commuter train you can hike from Kibune to Kurama which has hot springs.

Mt. Hiei is one of the highest mountains in the city (still not that high) and you can hike up to the temple complex at the top. There are cable cars as well if you don't feel like hiking the whole way.

The walk from Arashiyama to Jizo-in temple is mostly along the side of a sparsely used road but it goes along mountains and the temple itself is nice to visit.

The city is surrounded by mountains on three sides so there are endless hikes you could go on that are still fairly close to the city.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:30 AM on July 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Was also going to suggest Mount Royal in Montreal! It's a very easy hike, perhaps more of a walk, but there's a non-trivial elevation gain and it feels surprisingly remote for being smack-dab in the middle of the city.

There's also lots of great hikes within an hour's drive from the city. My most vivid memory of hiking Pain de Sucre in Mont-Saint-Hilaire is getting to the top, marveling at the natural beauty, thinking how great it was to get away from it all... and then seeing the Montreal Olympic Stadium what felt like a stone's throw away. The landscape of Quebec is basically flat except for random granite mountains jutting up from the ground here and there, which makes for some pretty spectacular views -- on a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles.
posted by mekily at 6:30 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Albuquerque might stretch your definition of charming, but there is great hiking with good views in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains at the edge of the city. Much of it moderately difficult, but some easy.
posted by hovey at 6:32 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you're in the Bay Area you've probably already been here, but Lands' End Trail, starting at Eagle Point in the Outer Richmond, is pretty spectacular and inside the city itself.
posted by pinochiette at 6:32 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I also came in to say Cinque Terre but it can get kind of crowded, but holy crap is it beautiful and when I did it 6 years ago, right after the hardest part of the hike there was an ancient old man picking oranges from trees right behind him and squeezing and selling juice off the path. It was magical.
posted by greta simone at 6:39 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

We recently visited the Dolomites in Italy, and stayed in Ortisei. From the center of town you can take chair lifts high up into the mountains and hike around, it's gorgeous and there's nice views of all the towns in the valley.

It's not a good summertime plan, but many of the hikes in the Palm Springs area are like this. Lots of trailheads right in town (behind the Target, the museum, the Vons parking lot...etc.) and the trails wrap around the mountainside in such a way that you're able to see the city almost the whole time.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:42 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out south of you to Newport Beach/Laguna Beach to Dana Point? it's basically exactly what you are asking for.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:12 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Coming back in to say that the Hudson River Valley is packed with hiking options, many of them based in or near cute historic towns and nearly all of them within a couple hours' drive of New York. You could have a very pleasant week or so's road trip through the Hudson Valley, stopping to explore so much stuff along the way:

* I believe I needn't have to sell you on New York City and what it has to offer. I've already mentioned the hiking available in Staten Island and a couple of other NYC parks.

* Heading north out of the city along the west side of the Hudson River, you first hit the Palisades, a stretch of cliffs straddling the New York/New Jersey border. Yes, there are trails, and fantastic views across the Hudson River back to NYC.

* Soon after that comes Harriman State Park, second-largest park in the New York State system. West Point Academy is just nearby.

* Just out of Harriman Park you will find New Paltz, a small historic city adjacent to the Shawnagunk Mountain range; for a real splurge, stay at the Mohonk Mountain House, a historic (and classy) hotel, or just pay for day use of their private grounds. There are trails and campsites, and they have a restaurant at the house.

* From Mohonk you are a short drive to Kingston, NY, regarded as "the gateway to the Catskills". Kingston was at one point the capital of New York state and some call it "the Brooklyn of Upstate New York" - there's an active arts scene, railway museums, and all kinds of funky stuff to do.

* From Kingston you can go explore inside the Catskills easily. Woodstock is only a 20 minute drive from Kingston; while Woodstock itself is not the site of that famous concert, it's been attracting an artsy crowd for years. It would take you only two hours of straight driving to cross to the far side of Catskill State Park; but there are ample places to stop along the way for hikes at all levels, many in close proximity to historic landmarks or fine dining.

* Then loop back and drive to Catskill, NY (a town just on the northern edge of Catskill Park) and take in the Thomas Cole historic site, a national landmark commemorating the work of Thomas Cole - a painter who almost single-handedly launched a major art movement. And from there you can cross to the east side of Hudson River to explore Hudson, another candidate for "the Brooklyn of Upstate".

* Head back down along the east side of the Hudson River and you will still find plenty to do. First you hit Hyde Park, home to both FDR's historic homestead and the Culinary Institute of America's main campus. An hour's drive south and you reach Beacon, NY, home to a contemporary art museum and a good base spot for exploring Mt. Beacon, just to the south. The eastern half of the Hudson Highlands State Park is just to the south, with Cold Spring, NY being a good place to stop for museums or food. Peekskill is to the south and also offers other hiking options. Then comes Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, historic sites both with landmarks associated with the writer Washington Irving. And just south of that is the northern end of the Old Croton Aqueduct trail, which I've already told you about.

* And then from there you're just a short drive back into New York City.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:18 AM on July 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

(Oh, P.S. - you may want to time that road trip to coincide with the fall color in the Hudson Valley, because it is SPECTACULAR. That's what launched Thomas Cole on his life's work; he was an English immigrant to NYC shortly after the Revolutionary War and was just, like, a sign painter or something; he was taking a ferry up the Hudson River to Catskill to meet someone, but ended up getting there two days late because he kept getting his mind blown by the fall colors he was seeing on the way, and kept asking to change his ticket so he could get out at a few of the earlier stops to make sketches of what he was seeing.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:21 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

More Bay Area stuff includes San Bruno Mountain, which is 20 minutes south of SF, the walk up to the peak has some interesting flora and then you get a beautiful view of the city. Also Point Reyes area, mostly flat walking on the coast, never too far from civilization but absolutely gorgeous.

The tradition in Britain is to enjoy a walk and then go to a pub or eatery after.

As a non-camping hiker I love how this is normal.

Lots of people have mentioned locations in the UK. My only experience is Bath to Cheltenham through the Cotswolds, but in addition to being gorgeous you are hiking through pastures and villages as well as woods. With minimal planning you can hike, then stop for a pub lunch and beer, then hike to a different inn for an overnight stay. It's like living off the land for someone who likes showers.
posted by mark k at 7:35 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Sitka, Alaska is a cute little town in a beautiful location. There are many trails available, from flat & easy to steep & challenging. My kids & I hiked many of them last month & enjoyed the views of ocean, lakes, waterfalls, mountains, eagles, etc.
posted by belladonna at 7:45 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't suggest you travel to Boston in order to hike the Rock Circuit trail in the Middlesex Fells, but if you're in Boston anyway it's pretty great! Some of the trailheads are ~15 minutes walk from the subway, but you get good hiking (some scrambling but it's generally avoidable) and views out over Boston and the ocean to the south and east. Depending on the weather you also get some good views (in a New Englandy way - no Alps or Rockies, obviously) to the north and west. Another popular trail in the Middlesex Fells Reservation (a state park, basically) is the Skyline Trail on the other side of I-93. The Blue Hills Reservation also has nice hikes with pretty but semiurban views.
posted by mskyle at 8:24 AM on July 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

Also in Alaska, in Juneau there are loads of trails with trailheads right in the city. The last time I was there was on a cruise and we took the tram up Mount Roberts, had dinner at the brewpub, hiked around for a couple hours looking down at the city and the water, and then took the tram down again. It was terrific.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 8:55 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh this thread is bringing me such joy! Thank you all! Add more, if you like! There is so much here that is new to me - even in places with which I’m familiar. Hooray!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:16 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Also, let me state for the record that Albuquerque is WICKED CHARMING (a lot of my camping as a kid was in the Four Corners - plus Route 66, the Double Rainbow, Old Town… chef’s kiss.)
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:30 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Superior Hiking Trail goes the length of Duluth MN and then all the way to Canada.
posted by RedEmma at 9:42 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Miles Howard just finished making a city trail in Boston. A lot of it is city walking, but part one is mostly in the woods of the Stony Brook Reservation. Each section of the 25 mile hike has "frequent stopover points for food, drink, art and culture, and restrooms."
posted by momochan at 10:35 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Cities near mountains almost always have trails with urban views: Salt Lake City, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Santa Fe, Missoula, Las Vegas, etc.
posted by coffeecat at 10:38 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Should add in Sweeney Ridge if you haven't done it in the Bay Area, you can park in Pacifica or by Skyline College. Not a "destination" worth planning vacations around but It's a good hike and if you time it so the fog's not rolling in will have some great views.
posted by mark k at 10:43 AM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you are already in portland for aniola's suggestion, Tryon Creek State park is within the city, accessible by transit and gorgeous.
posted by Dr. Twist at 11:12 AM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Anchorage has some nice hikes in the city. Blueberry Hill has a great view from what I remember (about 10 years ago), and I think you can see the city. Here are some photos on All Trails. The city has some good food and a great museum with art and history exhibitions.

What about the Cliff Walk in Newport, RI? The view is beautiful, and for some art, you can tour the mansions there. It might be easier/shorter than what you're looking for though!
posted by Shadow Boxer at 12:53 PM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

Just outside DC (well, okay, "just outside" is subjective; it's about 7 miles from the DC/MD border) there's the Billy Goat Trail Section A, a fun, short-yet-intense rock scramble along the banks of the Potomac River. During the summer you are likely to see people doing technical rock climbs on the opposite bank, kayakers going down the falls, and trail runners who must have phenomenally good health insurance leaping from ledge to ledge. (Also you can play a fun game called "spot the first-dates".) I'd recommend wearing hiking boots with good soles and abrasion-resistant clothing (so you can slide down on your butt if necessary/desired), although you see people doing it in yoga pants and tennis shoes all the time.

Only takes a couple of hours and you can walk back to the start point along the C&O Canal Towpath. There are some big boulders about halfway through that are fun to sit on and have a snack (I'd recommend bringing it in a small, close-fitting backpack that won't unbalance you... although I have seen someone doing it carrying an entire rotisserie chicken, so whatever floats your boat).

If you want something with more urban views and less-intense terrain, you can also just walk along the Towpath, which starts in Georgetown near a restored section of canal, although I generally like to park at Fletcher's Cove. In peak seasons you may want to get there early, as the parking lot does fill up. The Lock 6 parking lot is also an option. As you walk north, there are some small side-trails to lookout points at the river's edge, including some where you can see the phenomenal modern-day Gilded Age mansions on the opposite bank. (Depending on the season, you can see the locally-infamous Merrywood Estate across the river between Locks 5 and 6, former home of Gore Vidal and Jacki O, currently Mr. Bone Saw's DC bachelor pad). It's also a very popular spot for bird-watching.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

The Cliff Walk, Newport, RI.
posted by SemiSalt at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

The Strand in Dana Point, CA, starting from the Nature Interpretive Center, fits the brief pretty well. There are some staircases and hilly bits, but nothing arduous, or requiring scrambling. On a clear day, the views are gorgeous, and there's a lovely beach to chill out at in the middle of the hike.
posted by TayBridge at 2:38 PM on July 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Up here in Northern New England most of the ski resorts have summer stuff going on that involves riding the chair lift up and hiking or biking down (or riding the lift down?). I've done it at Loon in the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and it's lovely. The views usually include some villages, etc. I bet Stowe in Vermont is beautiful in the summer in the ways you're looking for as well.
posted by nosila at 4:20 AM on July 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

Gatineau Park, across the river from Ottawa, has a bunch of hiking trails for all levels. The fall colours there are also spectacular, although the season comes a little earlier than the US, and it can get very crowded then.
posted by rpfields at 8:27 AM on July 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

Two highly-recommended hikes in the South and East S.F. Bay Area:

Don Edwards National Wildlife Preserve -

Alviso/North San Jose - features many long, flat hikes along the looping boardwalks and levees surrounding the former salt ponds. The views alternate between the nearby tech campuses/football stadium and flocks of birds nesting in reedy marshes. (video). Very relaxing, and six minutes away from my work.

Fremont - features many long, flat bayside trails and walking bridges with a choice to hike up a hill overlooking the bay. (video) Bonus adjacent hike over the Dumbarton Bridge toll plaza on the Quarry trail into Coyote Hills.
posted by JDC8 at 11:50 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

The book - Time Out Country Walks Vol 1: 52 Walks Near London provided my partner and I with some of our favourite experiences when we lived in London. Fantastic walks, all accessible by train and do-able in a day. Nearly all of them designed to have an awesome country pub in the middle for lunch (and ale, of course).
posted by shimmerbug at 6:01 PM on August 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

« Older How do you relate with your older parent?   |   Treatments for painful pinched nerve in upper back... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.