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Backpacker Magazine – October 2009

Quick Escapes: 10 Trails Near Major Cities

The perfect metro-area trail: close, wild, uncrowded. Here are 10 major city options.

by: Adrienne Saia Isaac

Hohokam Petroglyphs, Phoenix's South Mountain (Jon Mancuso)
Hohokam Petroglyphs, Phoenix's South Mountain (Jon Mancuso)
San Diego, CA (Brett Holman)
San Diego, CA (Brett Holman)
Coastal Trail, Golden Gate Recreation Area (Ed Callaert)
Coastal Trail, Golden Gate Recreation Area (Ed Callaert)

The Wild Edge: Exploring Portland's Forest Park
When urban trails blend with raw wilderness, the sum is much greater than the parts. By Bill Donahue

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Phoenix | San Diego | San Francisco | Boston | New York | Philadelphia | Chicago | Seattle | Los Angeles | Austin

Phoenix, AZ
Desert rats don't have to travel far for a cactus-and-coyote fix.

Aficionados disagree about which city park is the country's largest. Some count state and federal parks located near (but not in) a city, in which case Anchorage's 490,125-acre Chugach State Park beats all comers. But when considering municipal parks that are within a city's physical, cultural, and civic boundaries, Phoenix's South Mountain Preserve takes the prize. At more than 16,000 acres, it's no exaggeration to say the park is big enough to get lost in. Best plan: Connect the Alta, Bajada, and National Trails, on the park's remote west side, for a challenging eight-mile loop. Most visitors stick to more accessible areas and smoother trails, so this route–steep, rocky, and rough in places–is perfect for solitude-seeking hikers. En route, you'll pass Sonoran highlights like towering saguaros and, in spring, blooming barrel cactus and prickly pear. Note: Start at the Alta trailhead the first weekend of every month; at other times, due to a road closure, park at the Ranger trailhead and add 4.2 miles (total). phoenix.gov/parks




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READERS COMMENTS

Eric
Nov 18, 2009

I think you forgot Portland.

gordon larson
Nov 12, 2009

that's the very area i like to hike when i'm in nyc after some appalachian tr hiking. get to nyc a day before your departure flight, the hostel's only a half mile from the park. a few blocks from the subway. perfect.

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