10 Awesome Hikes from 10 Major Cities

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Ditch the concrete jungle and head out into your naturehood! Throw some supplies in a day pack, rendezvous with your nature-loving friends and get out to a trailhead for an outdoor adventure everyone will enjoy. Here are 10 places to hike a short distance from 10 major cities that offer great trail conditions, diverse landscapes, and spectacular views.

A short drive from major cities, these day-trip hikes can't be beat

Catoctin Mountain Park

Near Washington, DC

A rocky trail climbs uphill between skinny trees in the fall

Catoctin Mountain Park (Recreation.gov)

Easily accessible from Washington, DC and Baltimore, Catoctin Mountain Park has been a refreshing retreat from city life since the 1950s. The park provides a mix of family-friendly hikes and challenging climbs. The Chimney Rock-Wolf Rock-Visitor Center loop (orange blaze) is a popular but difficult hike with many steep ascents/descents. Pack a picnic and plenty of water to relax in the shade before or after your hike – you’re going to need the fuel!

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Near Chicago, IL

Wildflowers bloom in a restoration area of the prairie

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (Janet Lyons, Share the Experience)

Watch the high-rises give way to sprawling fields when you head south from Chicago to Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Park at the Hoff Road Trailhead and start along the Twin Oaks Trail until you meet up with the Bailey Bridge Trail, a 2.5-mile (4.0 km) choose-your-own-adventure path that transports you back in time to life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Interested in learning more about the history and culture of the Illinois prairie? Consider adding a stop along the Iron Bridge self-guided interpretive tour Midewin created and shared on the National Forest Explorer App.

Superstition Wilderness

Near Phoenix, AZ

Sunrise illuminates a rocky mountain ridgeline with a forest of cacti below

Tonto National Forest (Jordan Griffith, Share the Experience)

Superstition Wilderness, in the Tonto National Forest, is a starkly beautiful wilderness area. The area has a well-developed, well-marked trail system and is ideal for spring and fall hikes. Peralta Canyon Trail is a rocky, moderately difficult trail that features expansive views of classic southwestern landscapes. This hike is particularly vibrant in the spring when wildflowers are blooming, and temperatures are mild.

Like all wilderness hikes, this destination requires extra planning and safety measures. Before you go, check out these tips for exploring wilderness areas and other remote destinations.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area

Near Las Vegas, NV

A cloudy blue sky reflects on a desert lake

Lake Mead National Recreation Area (Stephanie Tanner, Share the Experience)

Lake Mead National Recreation Area is a spectacular getaway just minutes from Las Vegas. The recreation area offers every kind of hike you could wish for – from lake views and Mojave Desert landscapes to easy loops and strenuous climbs. With so many trails to choose from, you may wish to camp overnight to make the most of your trip.

Callville Bay Campground is close to the city, with lake views and vegetation offering some shade. The nearby Callville Summit Trail is a 2.7-mile (4.3 km) moderate hike that requires a short climb to a spectacular view of Lake Mead, Fortification Hill, the Hemenway Valley and the River Mountains. The best time to visit is October – April, but it’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast for abnormally high temperatures or storms.

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Near Seattle, WA

A turquoise blue lake surrounded by green coniferous trees on a blue-sky day

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (US Forest Service)

Just a few hours northeast of Seattle, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest offers adventures for every person in your group. For a family-friendly outing, check out Gold Creek Pond Trail 1250, a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) paved accessible trail with interpretive signage, picnic tables, and fire grates. Ira Spring (Mason Lake) Trail 1038 is a 6.8-mile (10.9 km) trail to the summit of Bendera Mountain, with an excellent view of Mt. Rainier. Snow may be present on the trail through late spring and be on the lookout for wildflowers through the summer.

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

Near Sacramento, CA

A woman walks through a field of pink wildflowers

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument (Bob Wick, Bureau of Land Management)

Co-managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Mendocino National Forest, Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument is a convenient getaway from the Sacramento metro area. Whether you’re day hiking, backpacking, or camping, endless opportunities await at this unique destination. Stebbins Blue Ridge Loop (5 mi / 8.05 km) is challenging but beautiful with fields of wildflowers and views of Lake Berryessa. If you’re in it for the long haul, Berryessa Peak Trail (14.5 mi / 23.3 km) is a difficult but rewarding hike with stunning views of surrounding peaks. On a clear day, be on the lookout for downtown Sacramento, Shasta, and the Sierra Nevada.

Pro Tip: this guide (PDF) is a great resource for planning your trip.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Near New York, NY

A full, multi-tiered waterfall cascades down a rockface in a green forest

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (National Park Service)

Ditch the big city and head for the hills to this outdoor playground between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. With access to over 150 miles (241.4 km) of trails for all ability levels, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area offers year-round hiking with each season offering its own reward. Hidden Lake Trail (1.9 mi / 3 km) offers an easy loop around a quiet, scenic lake in the Central Pennsylvania district. For a tough but rewarding challenge, Pahaquarry Trail (Blue Blaze) is one of two trails that lead to the outstanding view looking into the Delaware Water Gap. Plan ahead – parking lots for the most popular trailheads are usually full by 9:00 AM on the weekend, so have a backup plan in mind if one of these trails is your destination!

Pro Tip: Check the table on the agency’s website for a helpful snapshot of trail closures, difficulty ratings, lengths, and additional details.

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Near Minneapolis, MI

A ground-level shot of a still river in the fall

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (National Park Service)

Just an hour drive from bustling Minneapolis, explore Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway for outdoor adventures and wildlife viewing opportunities along this Congressionally-designated river. Sandrock Cliffs Trail (5 mi / 8.05 km) comprises four loops of easy to moderate hiking. The highlight of this trail is the river’s sandstone cliffs, which originated 600 million years ago and were finally shaped by the end of the last ice age. Parking is available at the trailhead.

Big Thicket National Preserve

Near Houston, TX

A hiker kneels on a wooden footbridge with her two dogs

Big Thicket National Preserve (Max Harper, National Park Service)

Just under two hours from Houston, Big Thicket National Preserve protects nine different southeast Texas ecosystems. Approximately 40 miles (64.4 km) of hiking trails wind through Big Thicket, and vary in length from 0.3 miles to 18 miles (0.5 to 29 km) roundtrip. Keep an eye out for a variety of carnivorous plants on the eponymous Pitcher Plant and Sundew Trails. Park rangers lead free guided tours of the carnivorous plants on the Pitcher Plant Trail in spring and summer.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge

Near Jacksonville, FL

A wooden boardwalk cuts through a section of scrub-grass swamp

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Whether you bring your friends, kids, or go solo (with a plan), Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has a variety of trails to suit your group’s needs. Most of the refuge’s trails are less than one mile (1.6 km) in length and are rated easy, so you can mix and match trails to make the most of your day. There are also two fully accessible trails under one mile (1.6 km) offering great birdwatching opportunities and scenic views of wetland prairies. Wildlife – including waterfowl, gopher tortoises, and alligators – abound in this refuge, so if you bring your dog, check which trails permit pets. Take lots of pictures and bring home a story!

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