As I headed out the door, I thought about all the planning I did for the day. The walk for the day would involve walking to a few familiar places, allowing me to stretch my legs, get some fresh air, and fulfill the need to go on a local city hiking adventure. Something that any city-dweller would appreciate.
Usually, I workout at my home gym, ride my folding bikes around the city to places such as grocery stores and cafes, or do some exploring on my Xootr scooter. But lately, I’ve really started to love city hiking.
It allows me to slow down, go places I usually don’t see, and take photographs which I enjoy more than ever now. I can set new goals, and get a workout while exploring new places, all while being outdoors.
City hiking is very similar to regular hiking, just without the forests and mountains. Instead, you’re traveling on sidewalks. And can stop into cafe’s for a cup of coffee, or buy a few items at the grocery store. Then drink your coffee and eat your food somewhere quiet, while allowing your mind to relax.
The difference between a “walk” and “city hike”.
A regular walk is when you walk to a local destination to get exercise or take care of a few errands. City hiking on the other hand is about exploring. You intentionally explore unknown places. Take photographs. And do something totally new rather that what you usually do. Urban hiking definitely is a ton of fun.
City hiking is great for your mental health
Hiking is great for seeing everything around you because you move at a much slower speed, about 3 mph. These slower speeds allow your eyes, body, and brain to operate at a pace where we process our surroundings.
During this hike, I wasn’t able to get lost, because I know the area very well. But it was still fun, because I was able to see new areas, even parts covered in sidewalks. I felt like I was able to expand the world that I live in even though I wasn’t venturing far from my doorstep.
Where did I go on this city hike?
This city hike was about 3 miles round trip in total. The first place I visited was abandoned factories, right down the street from where I live.
Over the last 23 years I’ve watched this old building hollow out, until there wasn’t any businesses left. Now all that’s left is the imagination of what it was like when it was filled to full capacity.
Next up was El Camino Trail. Many years ago there were tracks here, with freight trains passing by multiple times a day.
Now, all thats left is a gravel path, where walkers and bicyclists hike throughout the day.
As I continued I noticed a pair of tree stumps. I’ve never seen them before while driving the car or riding my folding bikes.
Almost at the end of my city hiking adventure, I came to the guard rail that grew into a tree.
Then the old, jagged sidewalk that I use to pass each day and night when I commuted to Greece, New York and back home each day.
Right across the street is the old abandoned steps, where I believe a building use to be.
Looking back towards the road, you can see the wide open space where no trees have grown.
Walking towards the Genesee river you can see an old cement block, where a flag might have once stood proud.
And a dirt trail that seems to head towards an old abandoned road.
To finish this hiking adventure, I walked to the Veterans Memorial bridge, built between 1930-1931.
As I walked past it’s huge cement plaque and came to the beginning, I couldn’t help but remember how many times I’ve crossed this debris littered bridge on way to dad’s old apartment.
Who can city hike?
Anyone can do city hiking. And it’s something I’d highly recommend to anyone who wants to experience hiking without getting muddy. Or doesn’t get excited about camping.
There’s almost no bugs or wildlife encounters to worry about. No sleeping on the hard ground. You get a hot shower at the end of the day. And it’s harder to get lost.
Urban hikers almost always have a cell signal and phone GPS. And if you get tired or injured, it’s easy to call for a ride or take a bus home.
What does city hiking require?
City hiking doesn’t require as much gear as trail hiking. Just grab a backpack, bottle of water, and sun protection.
If you love hiking but live far from a national forest or park, urban exploitation is always a great choice. Unlike a trip in the backcountry, a city hike requires a lot less skills, gear, and effort.
Whenever you get the urge to explore, remember that the parks, sidewalks, and urban areas are available year-round.
Where can you go on a city hike?
You can go anywhere you want while on a city hike. There’s parks, stores, cafe’s, etc.
How to city hike
- Choose your destination: Think of it as the “summit” of your city hike. Set your goal as a distant park, mural, or cafe.
- Map it: Use free desktop services such as Google My Maps, which integrates with the Google Maps phone app. Route your hike through residential areas. They’re often shadier, safer, and better for seeing fun things.
- Follow the “rules” of urban hiking: Never backtrack. Make loops, not out-and-backs. This forces you to see more and different places.
- Pack your gear: Bring water, snacks, a headlamp, sun protection, a first-aid kit (e.g., blister relief), and reflective bright-colored clothing. Including your 100% charged phone, a backup battery, and paper maps.
- Wear the right gear: Pounding pavement impacts joints more than dirt trails. Wear supportive, well cushioned shoes such as the Zombie Racer’s from Carson Footwear.
- Give yourself plenty of time: City hikes can be sensory overload. Even if you can hike 4 mph, you may not want to on an urban hike. Plan time to investigate random findings.
- Be open to change: Construction or road closures can force you to re-route. Paths or alleyways can become shortcuts. As on a cross-country route in the mountains, be open to moving with the landscape.
Give city hiking a chance
City hiking can be a great way to slow down. Explore new places. And improve your mental health. If you’ve only hiked in forests and mountains before, you will be surprised how satisfying a city hike can be once you try it.