Living within walking distance of hiking
September 16, 2023 8:55 AM   Subscribe

One of my persistent day dreams is how great it would be to live very close to a few hiking trails. Say, a few 3-5 mile options. I live about a mile from a Great Lake where I jog frequently. Also less than a mile from several big parks, including a small nature preserve. So I have a lot of nature for a city person already. But my dream is to leave my backdoor and run through woods a few times per week. If you live this dream, how did you find your home? Is there an app for this or did you just slug through home listings? I think this is probably the dream for a huge number of people, so I am open to being told I already have the best one could hope for in this category. Or, if this is a realistic dream, how do I do it? Open to renting or buying in the midwest. Thanks!
posted by Sophiaverde to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Have you explored living in Duluth MN? I live on the N edge of town, and I can choose several routes that take me into the woods within a few minutes, and the Superior Hiking Trail runs less than a block away.

I've never lived anywhere like this, so I don't have recommendations for elsewhere, but I would suggest that living on the edge of a small city works well for this sort of thing.
posted by RedEmma at 9:35 AM on September 16 [3 favorites]

The only place I've been that's like this is Santa Fe. Incredible trail system that winds through the city and very quickly takes you into the mountains.
posted by attentionplease at 9:39 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]

Is money an object? This house for sale that comes with 95 acres connected to the Shawnee National Forest is what I would buy to achieve your dream. The woods have caves and rocky bluffs! Magical.

I love city living but if I ever decide to go rural again I would do it in those woods.
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 10:13 AM on September 16 [5 favorites]

I live in upstate New York and lots of people in rural areas have land which abuts state forests, which they can freely access. Another friend lives less than a mile from a state park with many different trails. I personally am just outside of a city and there's a five mile municipal-owned hiking trail a half mile from my door, and another one a mile away. (And a 15-mile rail trail two houses down from mine, but that's not exactly "running through the woods." So I don't know the Midwest but this is far from an unheard of thing.

RE searching: maybe look at Alltrails to identify lesser known hiking areas which look cool to you, and look at houses in those areas to see which ones are affordable?
posted by metasarah at 10:39 AM on September 16 [5 favorites]

The common way to do this without owning hundreds of acres is to buy a house adjacent to a national forest, state forest, or county preserve, etc. Usually these people either have a lot of money of live rather simply. Many inherit the property. Generally houses like this cost a lot more than a comparable house without that proximity to natural areas. Both groups usually drive a LOT to get most places that aren't hikes, and pay a lot more for basic necessities than you would in a city or suburb.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:47 AM on September 16 [8 favorites]

I live in rural nh; a 30ish mile rail trail (that links to other trails) abuts my back yard and a lake is along my front yard. In our case, we told our realtor we wanted lakeshore and somewhere beautiful, but you could tell a realtor what you're dreaming of and see what they can do.
posted by shadygrove at 11:22 AM on September 16

Tucson is like this - there are a lot of developments that butt up into the various mountain ranges that surround the city. It's a hikers paradise if you can take the climate.

Two caveats: 1. Cactus rather than woods. And 2. The mountains get STEEP really fast.
posted by foodmapper at 11:30 AM on September 16 [1 favorite]

I live next to the UW Arboretum in Madison, WI. Miles of forest trails are a five minute walk from my door.
posted by rockindata at 11:45 AM on September 16 [6 favorites]

The East Bay hills (e.g. Berkeley, Oakland, El Cerrito) and adjacent neighborhoods are also amazing for this, though you can’t avoid a pretty intense initial climb to get up there. I do miss the run up Strawberry Canyon though- it put me in the best shape of my life and kept me sane in graduate school.
posted by rockindata at 12:05 PM on September 16

I have this, and it is pretty amazing. I live a short walk from the Middlesex Fells Reservation, a 2200 acre recreation area ~6 miles from Boston. I could walk out my front door and probably hike for 20 miles with little-to no backtracking if I felt like it (some backtracking necessary because there's a trail bottleneck where the interstate cuts through the park).

Now, this *is* an urban wild kind of park. One of the entrances is like a mile from the subway, and there are multiple bus stops nearby. So on the one hand, it feels like "The Woods" and you can get lost, but on a nice fall weekend you're going to see lots of other people and dogs, and there's a certain amount of broken glass on the rocks where kids go to drink (sigh, please just bring CANS, guys). Still - I hike more when I'm at home than I do when I'm visiting my family up in the White Mountains, an actual hiking destination. Being able to go for a hike without getting in your car is a game-changer, in my experience.

The way we found this place was: we were looking at condos in the neighborhood where we were renting at the time but we were priced out. We had also been going hiking in the Fells semi-regularly (probably a couple times a month - it's only 3-4 miles from where we were living). At some point one of our Zillow or Redfin filters or something caught a single-family house that was lower-priced than the condos we'd been considering and close to the Fells. We thought, "huh, why not check it out?" That particular house didn't work out (riddled with termite damage!) but it put "the neighborhoods around the Fells" on our radar and eventually we found the house where I live now.

Real estate prices in my neighborhood and the other neighborhoods surrounding the park vary a lot - it's all expensive, and prices have gone up a bunch since we moved in five years ago, because it's Boston-area real estate, but it's not all as wildly expensive as you might think, especially given that it's also fairly transit-accessible. I think there are five or six cities/towns that border on the Fells and some are more upmarket or downmarket than others. Inventory is generally REALLY low, and affordable-end-of-the-spectrum inventory even lower (and quirkier! there are some weird houses in my neighborhood), so you need to be ready to pounce when you find the right place.
posted by mskyle at 12:51 PM on September 16 [5 favorites]

I grew up in a house with hiking in the backyard in southern NH—this was not an expensive or exclusive area and this was not a park or anything; NH is just woodsy and not totally built up, and the various towns own land. Or even the private land isn’t totally built up and there are trails. A lot of Maine is like this, too.

The trade-off is you almost certainly have to drive to town (unlike Santa Fe which blew my mind because everything seemed steps away—world-class restaurants one way and serious hiking the other. So lovely.)
posted by kapers at 1:35 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]

We looked at a place in Snohomish County, WA where a handful of neighbors had all created a legal agreement to pool their land and maintain the trails on their part of it, so it was like they lived in a private nature preserve. There was a seemed pretty nice.
posted by potrzebie at 3:41 PM on September 16

When I lived in Boise ID I lived a short walk from Camel's Back Park, which connected to lengthy trails in the Rocky Mountain foothills. Not the woods, but it was awesome taking my dog for hour long hikes daily leaving from our house.
posted by emd3737 at 4:39 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]

We have a place like this, after some amount of looking. The most helpful thing was keyword searches for things like "backs up", "public land", "state park", "forest preserve" etc. That at least narrows the listings enough that you can see ones that are right next to green areas and zoom in a bit for more information.
posted by true at 5:57 PM on September 16

That's a fantasy of mine. In the Chicago area, there's a lot of forest preserves close to residential areas. I've always wished I lived in one of those houses I see near the woods. There's some in the city north near the Chicago and Des Plaines River where theres miles of wooded trails and the suburbs (Riverside, River Forest or the Palos area are some examples) Some are higher end, but some seem potentially affordable, including apartments/ maybe check out areas near the larger forest preserves.
posted by j810c at 8:39 PM on September 16

Check out any town on Lake Michigan between Port Washington and Door County and you could have this. There's some great houses by Point Beach and Kohler-Andrae state parks.
posted by notjustthefish at 9:59 PM on September 16

Sofia, Bulgaria might delight you :)
posted by jpziller at 5:33 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Depending on your definitions you may not even need to go somewhere rural. On the west side of Cincinnati there is Mt. Airy Forest which despite the name is a city park that looks and acts like a forest. It is also large (~1500 acres) and by din of it being a city park completely within the boundaries of the city of Cincinnati (a city of 300k in a metro area of 2.2 million). As such the park directly abuts all sorts of different types of neighborhoods.
posted by mmascolino at 6:14 AM on September 17

We live less than a mile from an awesome state park (which ignoring the confederate nonsense is full of great trails), and there are plenty of people in our town who can literally walk out their back door onto a hiking trail. For us, this was a major selling point of our town. It is not many wealthier people's ideal town for other, unrelated reasons (namely, it is very ethnically diverse area), and so houses here are more affordable than other similar situations like the nearby national recreation area that is surrounded by a very wealthy area. Ironically, most of that area is not pedestrian friendly, so a lot fewer of the folks there can actually walk to the trails. That does lead to my advice which is make sure that you can actually enter the wilderness area you're considering on foot. In many places that I'm familiar with, that may mean that national/state forests are a better fit for what you're after than parks, which often seem to be constructed with cars in mind.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:33 AM on September 17

There are a number of neighborhoods in Ann Arbor that have woods adjacent to them. It's a pricey area but lots of great woodland parks.
posted by leslies at 7:05 AM on September 17

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! This provides some great ideas and insight. I ran in Mt. Airy (which mmasculino mentions) as a teenager and realize that is probably a source of this dream...
posted by Sophiaverde at 7:09 AM on September 18

There are places like this around the US. For example, Colorado Springs CO and Flagstaff AZ.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:14 AM on September 18

You'd be surprised. I live in suburban Monmouth County, NJ, and thanks to our amazing park system, I can walk to 14 miles of trail across three parks, and bike to many more, including Gateway National Recreation Area (a national park).
posted by Miko at 9:22 AM on September 18

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