A good hike has the power to transport you from everyday life and immerse you in nature. But a good hike need not be remote. These ten treks, all within an hour of major urban areas, have more than their share of charms, be they historic bridges, strenuous scrambles, pathways through swamps or access to ancient petroglyphs.
Potato Chip Rock
Location: 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, CA
The town of Poway, just north of San Diego, has 78 miles of trails, one of the best being the rigorous seven-mile Mt. Woodson Trail, which leads to the Instagrammable Potato Chip Rock. This thin sliver of stone sits at 2,800-foot elevation, with a backdrop of blue sky and incredible views of Southern California. Bring water and opt for an early hike — folks have been known to wait hours in line to snap the perfect picture.
Location: 30 minutes from St. Louis, MO
The nation’s longest developed rail trail at 240 miles, the Katy winds along the Missouri River and is a picturesque escape for cyclists, runners, bird watchers and history buffs. It also boasts the Femme Osage Creek bridge, a turn-of-the-century Pratt-Truss styled pedestrian bridge — one of only a few remaining in America.
Location: 41 minutes from downtown Charleston, SC
This lush and resplendent wetland opened as Cypress Gardens in 1932, but the original dikes –– from its rice-producing era –– date back to the 1700s. Four miles of walking paths showcase flora such as black cypress groves, southern magnolias, water primrose and daylilies. You can rent flatboats to explore the swamps, too, and possibly meet a river otter or an alligator up-close.
Location: 26 minutes from The Strip in Las Vegas, NV
Nicknamed “The Sistine Chapel of Native American Art,” the petroglyphs here number 1,700 on 300 rock panels. The trail runs through the Mohave Desert, and bikes and horses are welcome. With a little luck, you can hang with the local bighorn sheep.
The Lost Dog Trail Wash
Location: 26 minutes from Phoenix Airport, Phoenix, AZ
Four hiking trails here range from ultra-easy to moderate, and wind through desert elevations where wildflowers, javelina, and horseback riders are common. End at the Taliesin Overlook for a bird’s-eye vantage of Frank Lloyd Wright’s former winter home, Taliesin West.
The Treetop Trail
Location: 30 minutes from downtown Birmingham, AL
Founded in 1927, Oak Mountain State Park encompasses 9,940 acres of wooded Alabama ridges. The trails are numerous, but for aviary enthusiasts, there is none better than Treetop, where wooden staircases lead visitors to elevated boardwalks and beautiful plank bridges.
The Tower Loop
Location: 25 minutes from downtown San Antonio, TX
Comanche Lookout Park has four miles of trails winding through 100 arid acres, all within the city. The Tower Loop packs a workout, with steep grades and nine fitness stations. You can also exercise your imagination at the medieval-inspired tower at the top.
The Angel’s Rest Hike
Location: 40 minutes from downtown Portland, OR
A sunset overlooking the Columbia River Gorge should be on everyone’s bucket list, and, at 2.4 miles, with easy slopes, Angel's Rest delivers the goods. The area was burned in two fires decades ago, and today, plants and wildflowers sprout from blackened snags and vistas are unobscured by trees. Two waterfalls along the trail feel like icing on the cake.
Location: 18 minutes from downtown Nashville, TN
Want to rub elbows with Mother Nature before getting wild in Nashville? The 1,300-acre Radnor Lake State Park opens at 6 a.m. and includes eight miles of hiking terrain and cycling on the Otter Creek Road Trail. All-terrain wheelchairs will have no problem on the waterfront Lake Trail. On quiet mornings you have a chance at spotting owls, herons, ducks, mink and even otters.
Morse Mountain to Seawall Beach
Location: 1 hour from Portland, ME
This 3.8-mile hike’s charm is that it traverses a range of landscapes –– salt marshes, a serene river flanked by grass, and the 180-foot Morse Mountain, which offers lovely views of the Atlantic Ocean. From there, descend to Seawall Beach in Popham Beach State Park for the classic rugged Maine coastline, soft sand, salty air and driftwood.