Hiking in the United States is a great pastime all year round, but many would argue that autumn hikes are simply the best. Cooler temperatures, fewer insects, and, of course fall foliage can transform fun trails into truly memorable outings. Our list of the top five best U.S. cities for hiking could help readers find their next wonderful walk through nature.
Taking in beautiful views isn’t the only benefit of hiking. A brisk walk could help add 16 years to your life, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of Leicester have discovered a link between a person’s walking pace and the rate at which they age. Specifically, a lifetime of brisk walking leads to longer telomeres. These are the protective “caps” on the ends of your chromosomes — sort of like the plastic tabs on your shoelaces. Although they don’t carry genetic information, telomeres play a vital role in keeping DNA stable. In an analysis of over 400,000 British adults from the UK Biobank, scientists found that a faster walking pace throughout life could lead to a person being 16 years younger in terms of biological age by the time they reach midlife. Importantly, the team found brisk walking alone, regardless of how much physical activity that person engages in, leads to longer telomeres.
There’s also plenty of research showing how living near green spaces and enjoying nature can make you happier. Adding some water to the mix can make that effect even greater. New research shows that walking along a canal or riverbank can boost your mental health. The blend of both blue and green space eases anxiety and relieves stress, according to a team at King’s College London.
For those readers that are itching to stretch out their legs, our list of the top best five U.S. cities for hiking is perfect for traveling outdoor enthusiasts. Our trusted sources helped us rank out these terrific trails. Let us know your favorite cities for hiking in the comments below!
The List: Best U.S. Cities for Hiking, According to Travel Pros
1. Portland, Oregon
The pacific northwest boasts a fantastic combination of green and blue. Forests intercut with waterways are the home for many unique species of American trees and fantastic trails. The Manual calls Portland one of the best hiking cities in America. Why? “The number one spot just had to be in the Pacific Northwest. The city of Portland, Oregon… is an outdoor-lovers playground. The sheer volume of great hiking trails here — most within an easy drive — is dizzying and covers every possible terrain, from mountains to lava fields to the Willamette and Columbia Rivers.”
The Packable Life fondly raves, “The City of Roses is a smorgasbord of hiking options, with deep river gorges, coastal mountains, and volcanic peaks all situated within a short drive. Mild weather year-round means getting outside is always an option, with enough variety that you won’t ever get bored. My previous deep dive into Portland trails include the high alpine slopes of Mount Hood via Paradise Park, steep Columbia River Gorge trails like Dog Mountain, and relaxed strolls through the Wildwood Trail, the city’s crown jewel for exceptional urban hiking.”
Yahoo!Life also praises, “Portland is known for its green spaces and access to the great outdoors. The city is located near the Columbia River Gorge, which has over 90 miles of trails and is home to several impressive waterfalls. Other popular hiking destinations include Mount Hood, which is the highest peak in Oregon and has over 1,000 miles of trails. The Three Sisters Wilderness Area is known for its alpine meadows and crystal-clear lakes.”
2. Denver, Colorado
Denver is a city of many delights including professional sports, dining, skiing, hiking, and many other outdoor activities. This metro offers easy access to a great number of excellent trails. Advnture writes, “It should come as no surprise to you to find the Mile High City on this list, but if you’ve never been here before, you might also be surprised to discover that Denver is not actually up in the Rockies at all but on a very flat plain. Not to worry, however, because all you need to do is hop on 70 heading west and in about 25 minutes, you’ll be in the foothills town of Golden, where you can hike loads of great trails like North Table Mountain. Head a little further to Idaho Springs and hike St Mary’s Glacier, or you can hike a 14er – Mount Bierstadt is closest – with about an hour of driving.”
“Denver, Colorado, is a hiking hotspot thanks to its close proximity to the Rocky Mountains. The mountains are renowned for their stunning scenery and have some of the best hiking trails in the country. Denver is also home to the picturesque 2.5-mile Red Rocks Trail, located in Red Rocks Park, which provides hikers with breathtaking views of the city skyline… Consider a hiking adventure in Denver no matter your hiking skill level. Overall, Denver is a must-visit for any hiking enthusiast seeking dazzling natural landscapes and unforgettable hiking experiences,” favors Travel Noire.
Hiking & Fishing adds “The city is a great place to live for those who love the outdoors. Denver has easy access to some of the most incredible hiking in the United States year-round and sits only about 90 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and within an hour of countless other incredible hiking options. For weekend warriors, Denver is an incredibly effective adventure hub.”
3. Tucson, Arizona
The arid Arizona climate of Tucson hides a surprising wealth of plants and wildlife. The hiking trails of this region also offer a fascinating look into American natural history. Best Life offers, “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.”
HGTV chimes in with an affirmation that winter could be a great time for a Tucson hike: “Keep in mind that Saguaro National Park is separated into two sections – east and west – and there are plenty of hiking trails across both park units. A mild winter climate makes Tucson a windfall for hikers, though of course, summer days can be exceptionally hot, making waterfall hikes, like Seven Falls and Tanque Verde Falls, good choices on warm days. An early start is also a good idea.”
Fox News also lauds, “Tucson’s desert landscape allows for a slew of hiking trails. There are [over] 249 scenic routes in the Tuscon area, to be exact… Trails include canyon climbs such as Bear Canyon at Seven Falls Trail and dry riverbed rock scrambles at Tanque Verde Falls Trail in the Coronado National Forest.”
4. Boise, Idaho
Those in the know will attest that Idaho is home to some of the best nature that America has to offer. For those that are unaware, Boise is a great launch point for numerous outdoor adventure options. Landing explains, “Boise has a bit of everything, from mountain biking trails and kayaking right near the downtown area to easy access to hot springs and dark sky preserves a bit outside of town. Boise is one of the most rapidly growing destinations for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers seeking a bike-friendly city that’s also near skiing, hiking, kayaking, and camping destinations.”
The Manual briefly states, “Obvious potato-farming jokes aside, Idaho is a hiker’s paradise. Boise, in particular, boasts a modern city center with access to hundreds of miles of great hiking trails, most just a short drive away.”
The Packable Life revels in the remoteness of Boise’s best trails, “Mountain lakes dominate the top selection of hikes in the Sawtooth National Forest. Since you’ll be gaining plenty of elevation to get to them, a refreshing dip is usually in order. Or, if you’d rather go low than high, the Owyhee Canyon to the east of Boise is wild, pristine, and remote… The Owyhee region has been nicknamed the ‘Big Quiet’ for precisely that reason. If your favorite style of hiking includes no trails and no people, this is the place for you.”
5. Seattle, Washington
Seattle is another beautiful city of the Pacific Northwest. A great destination for food, sports, and culture; the hiking and outdoor fun is also top-notch. Yahoo! writes in with a great review: “Seattle is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise, with its stunning natural beauty that includes the Cascade Range and the Olympic Mountains. The city offers a variety of hiking options. One of the most popular trails is the Mount Si Trail, located 30 miles east of Seattle. The trail is a challenging 8-mile round-trip hike and rewards hikers with impressive views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.”
“You can hike Discovery Park without leaving the city limits, or head up to Snoqualmie Pass where loads of fantastic discoveries await, from Kendall Katwalk to Snow Lake. Snoqualmie Valley is home to Mount Si, less than 45 minutes away, if you want to train for hiking Rainier, and let’s not forget the other nearby National Parks of Olympic and North Cascades,” according to Advnture.
“Seattle is also a gateway to Mount Rainier National Park, offering over 260 miles of trails for hikers of all levels. Visitors to the park can marvel at the active volcano and its surrounding glaciers, waterfalls, and wildflower meadows. North Cascades National Park, known for its rugged beauty and alpine lakes, is also located near Seattle. Visitors can explore over 400 miles of trails, some of which are only accessible by boat,” opines Travel Noire.
You might also be interested in:
- Best Hiking Trails in the U.S.
- Best Hiking Boots for Women
- Best Men’s Hiking Boots
- Best Mountain Towns in America
- The Manual
- The Packable Life
- Travel Noire
- Hiking & Fishing
- Best Life
- Fox News
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.