The Best Kept Secret - Urban Hiking Joy!

I read this spring that "hiking will be surpassing yoga in popularity as the newest health trend" and I think that is super news!  I see more people sharing hiking photos on social media and I see new resources for hiking: women hiking groups, local hiking websites, hiking apps.  It seems like the message of "getting out" and "nature is good for you" has been heard and it's wonderful to know that more people are appreciating the benefits of nature and choosing this activity for their weekend fitness outing.

What I'd love to see would be one small tweak to this - I'd love to see URBAN hiking becoming a trend!
hiking (ˈhaɪ.kɪŋ):  is an outdoor (sporting) activity which consists of long, vigorous walks in natural environments (on trails or footpaths), often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. (Link)
I cobbled this together from a couple of definitions.  Most used the word "countryside" to describe the environment.  One included "wooded areas".  Almost all indicated that it is a LONG walk or great distance, with two using strenuous or vigorous (Is this because some walks are uphill or because they are meant to be long and tiring?).  I wanted to include the word "sporting" due to the fact that hiking IS seen by many as a sport, whereas "walking" isn't - as one of the definitions confirms.

Wikipedia goes on to say that "walking is used for shorter, particularly urban walks" in Canada and the United States, whereas the term "walking" is acceptable to describe all forms (and distances) of walking in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland including our North American "hiking".

So if we take out "countryside" and consider that we can do a long vigorous walk in the city that can even offer us scenic terrain, urban hiking becomes an option.  And in many cities this can even be possible in natural environments if there are bike paths along rivers or lakes or in larger wooded areas.  Check out three examples of people who are doing some urban hiking on my Wild. Here. Walking Post from last month.

-- Beautiful scenery on an early morning urban hike.  --

So why is the Joy of Urban Hiking the best kept secret?  Here are 7 reasons:

You don't need all day to do it. No long drives, consulting confusing trail maps and looking for trailheads in unfamiliar areas.  Urban hiking can be done close to home and a two-hour hike can be done in two hours!

There are no busy parking lots. As countryside hiking becomes more popular and weekend warriors are looking for their next nature fix, you won't have to be fighting for the last parking spot for miles.

You won't encounter masses of people.  Yes, hiking is a great way to get away from it all and to escape the busy-ness of the city, but isn't it frustrating to go seek solitude and then find big groups of people in the parking lots, at the picnic ares and all vying for that one shot of the scenic view?  Yes, I have found many trails in the city that aren't busy and many greenspaces, where it's just me and the occasional dog walker.  It could just be Ottawa (does no one want to go outside here? Or maybe they are all going to Gatineau Park!) but you may be surprised to find less people on urban trails than you had anticipated!

Easily accessible peaceful spots - whenever you want, need or desire a visit.  Your favourite nature spots can be right here, close by in the city, rather than a two hour drive away that are only accessible on the weekend.  (Have you ever done a meditation where they ask you to imagine your favourite space in nature?  Well you don't have to imagine it - you can go visit it any time you want!)

-- Peaceful spot along the Ottawa River Parkway --

Your hike can be as strenuous or easy as you wish.  Urban hiking can offer paved, flat trails; stone dust paths along large rivers and even boardwalk "hikes" through marshes.  Some even offer benches where you can rest and enjoy the view.  What's not to like about that?  This is especially beneficial for those who have mobility challenges, as they can still enjoy longer walks at their speed and easy access to nature (in the city) thanks to paved paths, scenic spots and lots of benches.

Transit-accessible nature. If you don't have a car, hiking in the city is a great options and you get to contribute less greenhouse gas emissions (compared to the emissions to drive outside the city to go for a hike).

Train your mind to accept distractions. This is one of the biggest arguments people have about wanting to connect with nature outside the city.  They are seeking pristine nature far outside the city that can offer them that opportunity to escape, to get away from noise, to find peace & quiet.  I equate urban hiking to practicing yoga off the mat, or to what those at meditation retreats are reminded of: the real practice begins at home when you get back to the real world.  I find the more that I can enjoy nature wherever it is, the more peaceful my daily life in the city can be.

BONUS: The probability of your favourite coffee shop, juice bar or eatery being close by is higher!  Enjoy a super treat right after your hike - it's well deserved and we all enjoy a sweet, tasty reward every once in awhile right?


Read these Six Tips to Make Your Urban Nature Hiking Outing More Enjoyable (found at the bottom of the Wild. Here. April Walking post).

And read this Urban Wild Exploring Three Part series that will help you find urban green spaces to explore in your own city - start here: Urban Wild Exploring - Finding New Places - Part One.

All photos by Viliam Glazduri (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributing Creative to Wild. Here.

-- You never know what you will find! --


  1. I love urban hiking. Even if the route is completely urbanized, a nice long walk in a new area is always a good time.

  2. That makes me so happy to read! So super - another urban hiker! Yes - there are lots of places to explore in the city! : )

    Thanks so much Kathryn for your comment - enjoy your outings!

  3. Sending this on to my sister, she loves hiking but sometimes can't make the trip out to where she usually goes. This will be good news for her!

    1. I'm so happy to hear that! Yes the trip can be a deterrent if you don't have a lot of time!

      If I'm with a friend or family members I even like to explore some unofficial paths that have been created by dog walkers and/or fishermen in greenspaces and/or along rivers. These are guaranteed to be quieter and can feel "wild" as they are not explored by many people. As long as I'm not alone, it's fun to explore these spaces as there can be some great finds - such as fern "valleys", lovely vistas, beautiful veteran trees and other neat discoveries.

      Thanks so much for sharing Kathleen!