It doesn’t matter whether you call it rambling, roaming, tramping, bushwhacking, or exploring: hiking is just a fancy term for walking. And, we can walk anywhere we want. While alpine views and wildflower-speckled meadows are nice, they aren’t the only way to get outside. In fact, we’re big believers that some of the best trails are the ones at the end of your street or even out your front door. Not only are these adventures more accessible, but they’re also a lot of fun to explore your community with fresh eyes.
We’ve rounded up five inventive ways for you and your family to log more trail time without leaving town. Grab your walking shoes; it’s time to reimagine the trails.
Get Creative on Google
The most popular hikes are often covered in guidebooks and online articles, but the internet knows even more–if you know where to look. Search for unique phrases like “sanctuary” or “nature walk” or “nature preserve” in your area. Often, these quiet green spaces are hidden in the middle of town, and frequently boast a number of paved and dirt walking paths, or even occasional boardwalks. Bonus: They’re always kid friendly and often include informational signs detailing fun facts about the region’s plant or wildlife.
What’s the difference between strolling down the street and city hiking? In a word, adventure. Hiking is about exploring the world, but we can do the same thing by pounding the pavement in our own urban areas. The secret: tackle the day’s hike with a plan. This can be a predetermined number of miles or time spent moving or even a goal of getting lost in a neighborhood you’ve never visited. Regardless of your family’s goal for the day, spend some time plotting your itinerary with a map (just like you would in the wilderness) and selecting a destination. It may not be a mountaintop or waterfall, but colorful street art exhibits or historic statues are equally rewarding. Pro tip: You’ll still want to carry snacks and gear, so don’t forget a day pack like this L.L.Bean Stowaway.
‘Shoe the City
Depending on where you live, a few inches of snow may be a common occurrence this winter. What better way to explore the newly-quieted landscape than by grabbing a pair of snowshoes for a pre-sunrise adventure out your front door? (We recommend the L.L.Bean Winter Walker Snowshoes for kids, women and men). The crux is to hike the wintry streets before the rest of the world awakens and ruins the pristine blanket of snow. Yes, it will be an early morning (or a very late night, depending on your personality) so consider this your urban dawn patrol. Don’t forget the hot cocoa.
Thru-Hike Your Neighborhood
If your family wants a challenge but isn’t quite ready for the Pacific Crest Trail, introduce the concept with a more accessible thru-hike of your community. Pioneered by Backpacker’s very own Liz Thomas, urban thru-hikes are still multi-day adventures but the terrain will look a little different. Instead of singletrack, you’ll wander sidewalks and rather than steep inclines, you’ll climb metal staircases. You can even opt for hotels and pillows instead of nylon tents and sleeping bags. Ultimately, the goals are the same: challenge your family with a little sweat equity and a lot of trail time.
Find Your Parks
With more than 400 national park sites covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands, there’s a national park close to your home. The National Park System includes more than the 63 “National Parks” we most often read about. It includes national battlefields and historical parks; national lakeshores and monuments; and national military parks and memorials. All of these parks are scattered across the country, waiting to be explored by a reimagined hiker like yourself. If you’re unsure as to which locations are in your region, head over to the National Park Foundation’s Find Your Park website and type in your location. Happy trails!
Since 1912, L.L.Bean has been helping people spend more time outside with high-quality outdoor gear and apparel that makes it easier to take longer walks, have deeper talks and never worry about the weather. Because being outside brings out the best in us.