2022’s Best Cities for Hiking

Man and woman hike in the woods

Take a hike – seriously. Not only is it good to bask in the sun, but hiking will also help you clear your mind and steal some time back from the screen.

But where are the best places to slow down and take the scenic route? 

LawnStarter ranked 2022’s Best Cities for Hiking to mark National Trails Day on June 4.

We looked at 13 hiker-friendly factors, ranging from hiking access and quality to trail difficulty to natural hazards index. 

Explore our ranking, highlights, lowlights, and expert commentary below before stepping out the door in your hiking boots. 

Contents

City Rankings

See how each city fared in our ranking:

Overall Rank (1=Best)CityOverall ScoreHiking Access RankHiking Quality RankSupplies Access RankClimate RankSafety Rank
1Portland, OR68.3754914529
2Tucson, AZ67.6230306097
3Phoenix, AZ67.251818184171
4Colorado Springs, CO67.0133696969
5Oakland, CA66.01712115987
6Salt Lake City, UT64.574191185173
7Los Angeles, CA63.2410142530152
8Boise, ID63.05817216243
9Las Vegas, NV62620849166
10San Diego, CA61.4613434581
11Santa Rosa, CA60.3286711184
12San Francisco, CA60.1831295911
13San Jose, CA59.061725449110
14Honolulu, HI58.912526132197
15Escondido, CA57.691834136581
16Santa Ana, CA57.281391711698
17Albuquerque, NM56.399524461115
18El Paso, TX56.25512133486
19Pomona, CA56.19108113616165
20Fremont, CA56.173832115944
21Oxnard, CA56.0612911584193
22Irvine, CA56.036918821645
23Corona, CA56.0233108231123
24Salinas, CA55.796451363194
25Santa Clarita, CA55.7261241151633
26Palmdale, CA55.657791151696
27Reno, NV55.2912351863175
28Glendale, CA55.21731311516101
29Scottsdale, AZ54.64151566184128
30Austin, TX54.3211631198100
31Rancho Cucamonga, CA53.8565161153193
32Hialeah, FL52.71187113610128
33Hayward, CA52.684854158966
34Moreno Valley, CA52.59402315831142
35Orange, CA52.1172441151663
36San Antonio, TX52.062461511218
37San Bernardino, CA51.88602213631146
38Oceanside, CA51.691143995589
39Fontana, CA51.1759471583154
40Anaheim, CA50.84764511516108
41Chula Vista, CA50.431136695546
42Eugene, OR49.982762447173
43Garland, TX49.8314278212664
44Arlington, VA49.68141121367974
45Huntsville, AL49.64262857169168
46Fullerton, CA49.6186551581698
47Anchorage, AK49.37164213100200
48Henderson, NV49.2455505749120
49Bellevue, WA49.163977825630
50Pasadena, CA49.121034615816140
51Raleigh, NC48.263073369650
52Riverside, CA47.63201149531156
53Chattanooga, TN47.62473136175135
54New York, NY47.6243811614021
55Frisco, TX47.37153371581268
56Fort Collins, CO47.2519793678167
57Huntington Beach, CA47.113187571677
58Mesa, AZ46.9235933184132
59Ontario, CA46.8179279531112
60Louisville, KY46.5857704415223
61Seattle, WA46.553215825655
62Dallas, TX46.4152652712678
63Durham, NC46.31291071159170
64Glendale, AZ46.2112511136184159
65Fort Worth, TX46.1982562212662
66Birmingham, AL46.02455166177126
67Philadelphia, PA46.0141717111375
68Lancaster, CA45.921497113616130
69Knoxville, TN45.934785712386
70Bridgeport, CT45.883871588213
71Tulsa, OK45.71112333617985
72Naperville, IL45.49182761361931
73Spokane, WA45.49361035764143
74Cary, NC45.4816075187962
75McKinney, TX45.33124741361264
76Fresno, CA45.289686647150
77Baltimore, MD44.8996537112592
78Greensboro, NC44.6385578287131
79Atlanta, GA44.53461053694109
80Pittsburgh, PA44.25211314418252
81Cleveland, OH44568611518147
82Laredo, TX43.91198391589079
83Providence, RI43.77926915814157
84Springfield, MA43.72686418783183
85Boston, MA43.588780448490
86Grand Rapids, MI43.57781185716710
87Clarksville, TN43.4414637136155137
88Sunnyvale, CA43.389516495981
89Peoria, AZ43.0614741136184107
90Long Beach, CA43.021201349515157
91Sioux Falls, SD42.971714771120133
92Houston, TX42.8966845198121
93Virginia Beach, VA42.8294124306541
94Plano, TX42.741271085712622
95Syracuse, NY42.551058313616451
96Nashville, TN42.53915827172172
97Buffalo, NY42.371031219515115
98Denver, CO42.09351573115138
99Charlotte, NC42.06541272277168
100Torrance, CA41.961431479516125
100Washington, DC41.965810011579181
102Brownsville, TX41.92168871367638
103Pembroke Pines, FL41.921798711510132
104Lakewood, CO41.79749895115153
105Arlington, TX41.761001099512668
106Newport News, VA41.711199515865160
107Des Moines, IA41.68095115124149
108Richmond, VA41.5116607195189
109Omaha, NE41.471326695122164
110Dayton, OH41.458412218715737
111Bakersfield, CA41.38751414440175
111Thornton, CO41.389987158115127
113Tallahassee, FL41.184210195178185
114Corpus Christi, TX41.1818497717491
115Indianapolis, IN40.996212057174113
116Springfield, MO40.839310471153136
117Orlando, FL40.81371429108186
118Kansas City, MO40.81621438214676
119St. Paul, MN40.7910611115813779
120Madison, WI40.76811325717059
121Lincoln, NE40.7412810682110111
122Detroit, MI40.691978713611459
123Overland Park, KS40.54162879514665
124Minneapolis, MN40.521231373613740
125Fort Wayne, IN40.511011467110735
126Little Rock, AR40.389710244158161
127St. Louis, MO40.311185115180118
128Columbus, OH40.261071552516316
129Modesto, CA40.261618713644192
130Akron, OH40.24916913615461
131Olathe, KS39.8411512618714627
132Miami, FL39.831661341610171
133Vancouver, WA39.7253174824567
134Jacksonville, FL39.494416733119116
135Tacoma, WA39.44981653656118
135Salem, OR39.44711669559122
137Stockton, CA39.411371397138186
138Rochester, NY39.366714095111168
139Tampa, FL39.347018122727
140Joliet, IL39.3119411615819314
141Port St. Lucie, FL39.211501451587526
142St. Petersburg, FL39.0310912511572177
143Fort Lauderdale, FL38.9117211666101123
144Columbus, GA38.81651159589139
145Amarillo, TX38.61921139570162
146Cincinnati, OH38.572214444200144
147Memphis, TN38.338813830166155
148Yonkers, NY38.281401721151613
149Chicago, IL38.271331521519348
150Tempe, AZ38.241518282184174
151Lexington, KY38.21541339512188
152Milwaukee, WI38.1511015915814539
153Aurora, IL37.961991471151935
154Oklahoma City, OK37.8514813027142147
155Macon, GA37.76164119136109158
156Rockford, IL37.7315512815816071
157Garden Grove, CA37.621351891581695
158Augusta, GA37.5912112866168148
159Elk Grove, CA37.411741891584112
160Lubbock, TX37.221961603643154
161North Las Vegas, NV37.0816316315849145
162Winston-Salem, NC37.031261711589924
163Wichita, KS36.971561684414435
164Worcester, MA36.9650170158159151
165Shreveport, LA36.5616998115176188
166Chandler, AZ36.4717513471184114
167Norfolk, VA36.2316614715865178
168Aurora, CO35.87901808211542
169Alexandria, VA35.861221568279182
170Fayetteville, NC35.851831534486163
171Killeen, TX35.8110216015892179
172Toledo, OH34.8715717315814355
173Sacramento, CA34.67169183184134
174Irving, TX34.5214117413612657
175Murfreesboro, TN34.43134154115172180
176McAllen, TX34.2918518995939
177Denton, TX34.28137147115126190
178Mesquite, TX34.1215217418712653
179Mobile, AL33.8117611044197199
180Savannah, GA33.511731478288196
181Hollywood, FL33.2218017418710181
182Newark, NJ33.1914418918715619
183Kansas City, KS33.12118162187146191
184Midland, TX32.91195183823920
185Jackson, MS32.67199123158183195
186Miramar, FL32.5518518915810125
187Cape Coral, FL32.5211718311513917
188Sunrise Manor, NV31.818818918749102
188Spring Valley, NV31.818818918749102
188Enterprise, NV31.818818918749102
188Paradise, NV31.818818918749102
192Grand Prairie, TX31.3413618315812631
193Montgomery, AL30.37193174136171133
194Gilbert, AZ30.1217818913618448
195Chesapeake, VA29.9414518813665106
196Jersey City, NJ29.0415818918716194
197New Orleans, LA28.415918395165128
198Pasadena, TX27.54177182158198116
199Baton Rouge, LA27.4718117444192198
200Paterson, NJ24.32130189187150141
2022's Best Cities for Hiking Infographic based on on number of hiking routes, difficulty, consumer ratings, and more!
Note: Although we ranked 200 cities for each metric displayed above, the lowest ranking position may not be 200 for some metrics due to a number of ties among cities. For presentation purposes, not all cities in a multi-way tie may be displayed.

Highlights and Lowlights

Keep Portland Wild

There are many offbeat trails where you can stroll and smell the roses in Portland, our No. 1 hiking destination. Rose City climbed to the top, thanks to abundant hiking supply shops and rugged routes to explore.  

Hikers have plenty of terrain to cover in Portland, which is home to the Tualatin Mountains, Boring Lava Field, and Willamette and Columbia rivers. On a clear day, you could even see four neighboring mountains, such as Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens. 

The city’s many trails can lead to waterfalls, widely acclaimed gardens, and a historic mansion

Local Tips:

• Watch out for bobcats, porcupines, and elk while hiking through Forest Park, one of the country’s largest urban forests.

Golden Peaks

From the Sierra Nevada to the Sonoran Desert to the Great Basin Ranges, California is one of our most geologically diverse states. It’s no wonder why Cali cities make up more than half of our top 50 Best Cities for Hiking. 

Some Golden State cities — such as Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Diego — even waltzed into our top 10. Access to quality trails to roam and pleasant environmental conditions sent these cities to the top. 

Local Tips:

  • Oakland: Gaze up at the historic coastal redwood trees while hiking through Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park. Look out for “Old Survivor,” a tree that’s been standing tall since the 1500s. 
  • Los Angeles: There are more than 4,000 acres of land to get some fresh air at Griffith Park, where you can find caves, the historic Griffith Observatory, and the famous Hollywood sign. 
  • San Diego: Hike around acres of oceanside overlooks and trails filled with the nation’s rarest pine tree, Pinus torreyana, at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Climbing Through Southwest Canyons

You’ll spot canyons and cacti while hiking in and around many of our top-ranking Southwest cities. 

Brave the heat in Arizona, where Tucson (No. 2) and Phoenix (No. 3) dominate the charts in Hiking Access and also fare well in Hiking Quality and Supplies Access. The Valley of the Sun has a particularly challenging Climate (No. 184), so pack extra water before trekking through. 

Go cowboy camping after wandering through the canyons of Las Vegas (No. 9), Albuquerque, New Mexico (No. 17), or El Paso, Texas (No. 18). Sin City and Burque have plenty of highly rated routes, while El Paso got a boost from Safety (No. 6). 

Local Tips:

  • Tucson: Hike Bear Canyon and count not one but seven waterfalls along the way on Seven Falls Trail, one of the city’s most iconic hikes.
  • Phoenix: You have three mountain ranges to choose from when hiking at South Mountain Park, one of the largest urban parks in the U.S.
  • Las Vegas: After hitting up the Las Vegas Strip, venture out to Red Rock Canyon and hike the sandstone trails — you might even spy an 800-year-old petroglyph wall.

Greenless Garden State

New Jersey cities trip to the bottom of our ranking, lacking the green space required for happy hiking. Paterson (No. 200) hit rock-bottom, with Jersey City (No. 196) and Newark (No. 182) trailing not too far behind. 

These cities earned poor scores across the board, with the exception of Safety in Newark (No. 19). Thankfully New Jerseyans with car access can take a break from strolling the city streets and get some fresh air by taking a day trip to Sourland Mountain Preserve or Wharton State Forest.

Ask The Experts

While anyone can set out on a trail, hiking can be more complicated than you might expect. Our panel of outdoor experts can help boost your confidence. 

Below, you’ll find answers to some of LawnStarter’s questions on topics like hiking safety and unequal access to green spaces.

  1. According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?
  2. Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?
  3. What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?
Christopher P. Morley, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Vice Chair for Research, Department of Family Medicine, Professor of Public Health, Family Medicine,& Psychiatry
Merry Moiseichik, Re.D, J.D.
Professor
Dale Larsen
Professor of Practice & Honors Faculty, Director of Community Relations & Engagement, College of Public Service and Community Solutions, School of Community Resources and Development
Mitch Hoffman
Director of Outdoor Programs, University Recreation and Wellness
Rick Gage, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment
Brian Forist, Ph.D.
Lecturer and Program Coordinator: Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Human Ecology
Aaron Edgley
Adjunct Instructor
Jerome Gabriel
Assistant Professor, Recreation and Sport Management
Kelly Goonan
Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism
Andrew J. Bobilya, Ph. D.
Professor and Program Director of Experiential and Outdoor Education (M.S.), Professor of Parks and Recreation Management (B.S.)
Shawn Ladda
Professor
Shital Poudyal, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Plants, Soils & Climate
Melinda Lynch, AIFD, CFD
Floral Design Lecturer, Cal Poly Plant Shop Floral & Event Sales Cal Poly Floral Team Advisor & Coach, College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences Horticulture & Crop Science Department
Christopher P. Morley, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Public Health & Preventive Medicine, Vice Chair for Research, Department of Family Medicine, Professor of Public Health, Family Medicine,& Psychiatry
SUNY Upstate Medical University

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

Almost by definition, as population density goes up, the amount of green space goes down, so it makes sense that many people live in areas with little access to green space.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Local governments would be well advised to stress outdoor activities for their residents and actively promote opportunities to hike. 

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

As a semi-novice hiker myself, the first thing I recommend is to find decent shoes, and secondly, make sure you stretch! Hiking is more than walking –  rougher terrain, inclines and declines, and loose soil or gravel all introduce new challenges beyond simply walking through the neighborhood.

Additionally, consider any health issues you have, and check with your primary care physician if you have any condition that might impact your ability to engage in hiking or other physical activities.

Also, start slowly, and find someplace that is a) easier to traverse for a beginner, and b) aesthetically beautiful. Exposure to green space is not only a safer way to interact during the pandemic; there is a growing body of literature that exposure to green space and “forest bathing” are measurably beneficial for the relief of stress. (See our paper, “The relationship between self-reported exposure to greenspace and human stress in Baltimore, MD”.) 

Merry Moiseichik, Re.D, J.D.
Professor
University of Arkansas

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

The cost of land and the lack of foresight by city governments to put in some sort of ordinance that requires developers to put aside a section of parkland.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Market the trails and provide on-line maps of the various trails in the area.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

1. Get some good hiking shoes.

2. Find a comfortable way to carry water.

3. Use a hiking stick. It really helps for going up and down steep areas.

Dale Larsen
Professor of Practice & Honors Faculty, Director of Community Relations & Engagement, College of Public Service and Community Solutions, School of Community Resources and Development
Arizona State University

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

Phoenix, Arizona, Maricopa County specifically, and Arizona in general are blessed with hundreds of miles of accessible public hiking and park-friendly walking trails for outdoor enthusiasts. Phoenix alone has over 40,000 acres of public parks, mountain parks, and trails — most within walking, biking, or a short driving distance of neighborhoods.

Urban planners need to be acutely aware of the need for accessible (able-bodied as well as disabled populations) public park and nature-driven trails: hiking, biking, and walking. Hiking replaced golf as the most popular outdoor recreational pursuit.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Local park and recreation agencies need to be up to date with websites and social media outlets in order to provide positive messaging to users. Locally elected and appointed officials can be engaged to help promote safe and healthy lifestyles in parks and trails.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

This is important.

1. Remind and enforce new hikers to “stay on marked trails” and not venture into fragile natural areas.

2. “Leave no trace” practices must be practiced.

3. Dogs must be kept on a leash so as to maximize the safety of other hikers, wildlife, and fauna.

4. Respect and be courteous to other hikers, bikers, and walkers to ensure a quality and healthy experience.

5. Nature does not close!

Mitch Hoffman
Director of Outdoor Programs, University Recreation and Wellness
University of Minnesota

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

 It’s well documented that there is a gap in the access to outdoor recreation in general that falls strongly along both socioeconomic lines. 

Not only is the physical access to spaces limiting equal access, but also many other factors. These same groups often see limited financial resources to purchase the equipment required for so many outdoor recreation activities. 

We also know there is a gap in the free time that different groups have to participate in outdoor recreation. There is a ton of discussion and work being done by the greater outdoor industry to better diversify the outdoors and to make the outdoors for everyone. Getting the benefits of being outside doesn’t require a backpack or a mountain bike or a national park. 

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors? 

We need to better define the “the outdoors.” In many ways, the pandemic has done that for many — possibly without them knowing it. 

As I said, it doesn’t have to be a week-long backpacking trip. People are walking around their neighborhoods and gathering in their yards around a fire. There are a lot of green spaces in our communities that we have just driven by all these years. Grab a water bottle, and go see what you can find. 

You can also hike under the moon, put on a headlamp, walk in the rain, walk in the snow. Try something different. Communities can also provide education on the spaces they have available but also ideas of how residents can use those spaces. Geocaching, hiking, picnic shelters, bike/walking paths — they all get people outside.   

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

1. Learn to turn it off and simplify, even if for only 20 minutes. Put your phone away, take off your headphones, and let your mind relax and wander. 

2. Absorb the little sensory experiences happening all around you, even in your neighborhood.  Smell wood burning from a home, or hear a child playing in the yard, the leaves under your feet, birds in the trees.

If you go out to a state park, try to do all of this for a few hours. So few of us put our normal life on the shelf for a few hours and just unwind.

3. Explore a small park near your home.

4. Walk to the store instead of driving. 

5. While on a hike, don’t let it be about the speed or the distance or any metric at all. It’s not about checking the box — it’s about being outside. Stop and sit by a stream or even take a nap on the ground.

6. Lose track of time if you can. If you can get there, you are truly reaping the benefits of the outdoors.

Rick Gage, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Natural Resources and the Environment
Marshall University

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

This is a really complex problem with a lot of contributing factors, but I think one major issue is the lack of funding and support for public parks and recreation. For decades, budgets have been cut for these services while demand and usage levels have continued to rise. 

Agencies are constantly being asked to do more with less, which has put a strain on local, state, and federal management agencies as well as non-profit organizations that manage land for outdoor recreation. This has led to enormous maintenance backlogs, reductions in staff and programs, fewer new projects, and even park closings and/or privatizations. 

Often, these things disproportionately impact people at the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum who are most in need of these services. Agencies are forced to focus their limited resources in areas where they are likely to have the biggest impact (i.e. redirecting funding from outdoor spaces to a high-traffic community center, focusing more on sports facilities and playgrounds that serve a wide audience rather than hiking trails and wildlife viewing areas that attract a smaller crowd). 

I think a lot of this stems from how we tend to view outdoor recreation and parks. When compared to other public services like police departments, schools, roads, and public health, recreation is not viewed as an essential service. However, studies have consistently shown that well-managed parks and outdoor spaces contribute positively to physical and mental health in the community, enhance the local economy, reduce crime and delinquent behavior, promote sustainability and responsible living, and a wide range of other benefits. 

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Local parks and recreation agencies need to provide opportunities for a wide range of recreational experiences and to inform the public about what is available. 

I think there’s a misconception that hiking is for a particular type of person. However, agencies often have facilities that provide a range of options for all sorts of different users. Here in Huntington, West Virginia, for example, Ritter Park has a fantastic jogging/biking path that is well maintained and accessible to people of all ability levels. It’s very popular among fitness enthusiasts (running, jogging, biking, etc.) but also attracts casual walkers, wildlife viewers, dog walkers, and many other users. This is a great resource, but it is very much a front-country trail. 

However, there are also lots of more rugged trails through the forests and hills behind the more developed part of the park. I’m always shocked at how few people know about these other trails that are available. Huntington residents looking for more of a backcountry experience may think that they have to leave town to find it, but we have a great resource right in our own backyard.

I think the local parks department could do a better job of informing people about the whole range of opportunities available. There’s something for everyone if you just know where to look.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

1. If you’re new to hiking, start slow, and don’t be intimidated. There’s no way to do it wrong. It’s an activity that just about anyone can do and enjoy. 

2. Many cities even have specially designed trails for people with limited mobility or other disabilities. In Huntington, there is an accessible nature trail behind the Huntington Museum of Art and miles of ADA-compliant walking paths throughout the city. 

3. Prepare for your trip ahead of time, and make sure that you bring everything you’ll need for the trip (water, snacks, rain protection, etc.).

4. If your first experience is not positive, try something else. Don’t give up. Not all trails are the same. Look for something you’ll enjoy. 

5. If you want to see wildlife, consider hiking in an area where there are fewer people. If you’re uncomfortable being alone in the woods, look for a trail through a more developed park or neighborhood.

6. Be sure to pay attention to trail difficulty before setting out. If you are not prepared mentally or physically for a difficult hike, you’re likely to have a bad experience. Begin with something you know you can handle and work up from there. 

7. Finally, hiking can be a great social activity. It’s an excellent way to bond with friends or family members while getting some exercise and fresh air.

Brian Forist, Ph.D.
Lecturer and Program Coordinator: Outdoor Recreation, Parks, and Human Ecology
Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington, Department of Health & Wellness Design

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

This is a challenging question with many answers, none of them particularly easy to discern.

That said, it essentially comes down to systemic inequities in the United States. Many of the “1 in 4” who do not live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation site are people of color and/or those in lower-income categories. This is likely a result of systemic racism in the United States, whether it is overt as was common in the past or a result of poor or insufficient infrastructure and an inadequate tax base to support the establishment of parks and outdoor recreation sites in those disenfranchised communities.

Even if there are parks that are accessible, people of color and those in lower-income categories are less prone to visit parks than those in the dominant group (white, well-educated, higher income). Barriers include costs of an overall visit, perceptions regarding safety, and an expressed sense of not feeling welcome.

These inequities must be addressed through partnership, cultural competence, and literally changing the face of park professionals. Representation matters.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Local governments need to understand that the health and social benefits of hiking, spending time outdoors is part of their long-term public health strategy. Therefore, they need to abandon concerns of short-term gain afforded by less desirable activities.

Creating parks and providing equitable access to them is an investment in a healthy future for community residents and guests. This cannot be done alone. Local governments need to work in close and open partnership with local medical facilities and organizations, local outdoor industries, colleges and universities, K-12 schools, communities of faith, neighborhood organizations, citizen activists, and others to ensure equitable creation of and access to parks.

Local governments need to understand that these partnerships require them to do a lot of listening rather than prescriptive action.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

There are many organizations currently creating safe spaces for marginalized individuals in the world of hiking and the outdoors. There is an amazing social media presence for many of these groups, particularly on Instagram.

I encourage folks interested in getting involved to find an affinity group. Some of my favorite examples are:

  • Unlikely Hikers
  • Outdoor Afro
  • Latino Outdoors
  • Disabled Hikers
  • Brown Girl Outdoor World
  • LGBT Outdoors
Aaron Edgley
Adjunct Instructor
Dixie State University

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

I’m not sure if I agree with this. If you are hoping to exercise, everyone is within walking distance. The City of St. George/Washington does a great job providing schools and parks to recreate.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

As an avid hiker, the government aka park services do a fantastic job providing trails, maps and education for residents to take advantage of the outdoors. Fees could be a barrier to entry, but my opinion is that the population is sufficiently motivated.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

1. Bring water and snacks.

2. Take your time — enjoy the path.

3. Don’t be overly ambitious: Start with shorter hikes then progress to longer ones.

4. Wear appropriate clothing and shoes.

5. Go with someone.

Jerome Gabriel
Assistant Professor, Recreation and Sport Management
St. Francis College of Arts & Sciences

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

In general, the lack of access to parks or other outdoor recreation space is centered in the history of land development. 

For a long time, parks and other recreation spaces simply weren’t valued by developers and therefore were overlooked as essential to the well-being of a community. Luckily in the last few decades, public green spaces have a resurgence in importance and are now being developed in many communities that did not have them before. 

Community parks and recreation programs are now recognizing areas where access to places may be limited and are often doing outreach programs to these areas to try to develop relationships with the residents in order to help develop these spaces.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

The biggest way local governments can help their residents to explore the outdoors is to educate them on the opportunities that exist. Local governments at the town or county level often manage many of the outdoor spaces available to the residents.

Highlighting these spaces through social media campaigns is a great way to inform local residents about the many places that might be just around the corner from them. With the expansion of photo-based social media on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, individuals are often found taking photos of the places they are exploring and sharing them. Local land management agencies can leverage these photographers, giving them a place to showcase their work while also utilizing that work to promote and educate about these outdoor spaces.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

For those going out to hike for the first time, there are some basic tips that will make sure your first experience hiking isn’t your last. 

1. Dress for the weather. Layers are your best friend to help you be comfortable while hiking. A few different layers with a wind- and waterproof jacket over the top will let you mix and match as you hike, to keep yourself at a comfortable temperature rather than relying on a heavy jacket to keep you warm but leaving you freezing if you feel the need to take it off. 

2. Bring water and snacks. Hiking, depending on where you are going, can be much more strenuous than your typical walk around the block. Bring a couple of bottles of water and some easily portable snacks such as granola bars or some trail mix with you to keep yourself hydrated and keep your energy up. 

3. Make sure you let someone know where you are going. Having a cell phone with you is always a helpful tool, but you also want to make sure that you inform someone else where you are going just for safety. Even as someone who has been going into the outdoors regularly for almost two decades now, I never go out without telling someone where I am going to be. So far it hasn’t been a backup plan I’ve had to use, but I always want it to be there just in case.

Kelly Goonan
Assistant Professor of Outdoor Recreation in Parks and Tourism
Southern Utah University

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

In urban areas, parks and green spaces may be spread out such that not all residents live within a reasonable walking distance (say, a 10-minute walk). In suburban and rural areas, while parks and recreation areas might be available communities may not be “walkable.” For example, many rural and suburban communities do not have sidewalks and walking to a park might mean walking along the side of a busy road.

Common barriers to access to outdoor recreation and green space include physical barriers such as infrastructure and community planning; lack of transportation (either personal or public); limited financial resources; and social influences including lack of awareness/education, history of exclusion from outdoor spaces, or not having experienced family or friends to introduce you to outdoor activities.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Funding recreation and leisure departments and providing facilities like parks and trails is a great way for local governments to facilitate outdoor experiences for their residents.

Local governments can also partner with other community organizations like schools, non-profits, and state and federal agencies to promote outdoor recreation. Recent campaigns like “Find Your Park” and “Opt Outside” have helped people get out and explore local parks and recreation areas. The national ParkRx organization provides a blueprint for local communities to engage healthcare providers and others in promoting outdoor recreation for health.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

1. Do your research. Know what trail you’re going to do (and have a back-up option, just in case), local conditions and regulations — like trail closures, if you need a permit, etc. — and the weather forecast. Planning ahead and being prepared will help you stay safe and make the most of your time outside.

2. Commit to minimizing your impact. With so many people heading outside right now, we want to do our best to take care of our parks and recreation areas. Check out resources from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for simple ways you can protect these special places while having a good time.

3. Start out by exploring your local parks and trails, and build up from there. Staying close to home reduces travel time, making it easier to fit outdoor time into your schedule and giving you more time on the trail to build your experience. Check out your community’s parks and recreation department website to find information about local parks, trails, and recreation areas.

4. Enjoy the journey. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about the destination, but hiking is all about the experiences you have along the way. Take time to notice the little things. Unplug and engage all your senses along the trail. Hiking gives you the chance to rejuvenate your mind and body and reconnect with nature.

Andrew J. Bobilya, Ph. D.
Professor and Program Director of Experiential and Outdoor Education (M.S.), Professor of Parks and Recreation Management (B.S.)
Western Carolina University

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

There are many factors that impact geographic access to parks and other outdoor recreation spaces. The “urban sprawl” that the United States has experienced in recent decades has resulted in greater distances between one’s place of residence and outdoor recreation spaces.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Currently, the issue is not a lack of outdoor exploration and recreation but overuse in many public areas. Local governments can continue to educate residents and visitors about the variety of public outdoor recreation resources nearby, appropriate safety protocols, and minimum impact practices like those shared through the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics and their recent COVID-19 related research project. 

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

See the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics resources for getting outdoors during the pandemic. Also:

1. Conduct basic research into the area(s) you plan to visit

2. Consider local protocols for minimizing environmental and aesthetic impacts.

3. Be conservative in your route selection (distance and terrain).

4. Be sure you are prepared (see the Day Hikers Ten Essentials).

Shawn Ladda
Professor
Manhattan College

According to the American Hiking Society, “1 in 4 people don’t live within walking distance of a park or other outdoor recreation space.” What accounts for this outsized lack of access?

I would suspect this mirrors the number of people who live in cory and rural areas. One trend that has helped access one to a recreation space is the rail trail movement-converting deserted railroad tracks to recreational paths. The High Line in New York City is a great example.

Considering the health and social benefits of hiking, how can local governments encourage more of their residents to explore the outdoors?

Local governments along with the collaborations of the private sector to develop places to hike as well as educational programs impact the sheer numbers of people taking advantage of hiking for exercise and health.

What are some of your best tips for novice hikers?

1. There is a lot more information that can be accessed on the internet, including descriptions of trails, the location of trail headers, and trail maps. Study your route.

2. Hike in small groups.

3. Bring your bear spray.

4. Water is critical.

5. Make sure you are dressed in layers and prepared for many variables.

Shital Poudyal, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Department of Plants, Soils & Climate
Utah State University

What are the top three reasons consumers should buy local flowers?

There are numerous reasons to shop locally, but below are my top three reasons:

1. Support the local economy

Around 70–80% of cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported. Buying local flowers incentivizes local growers to invest and produce flowers locally, thus reducing the import of cut flowers. It will also boost the local economy by creating more local jobs.

2. Longer flower life and larger variations in flower types

Locally grown flowers can be immediately sold to customers and can stay fresh longer. In addition, flowers that are delicate to handle and have a short life can still be grown and sold locally; therefore, consumers can enjoy more variation in flower types if shopped locally.

3. Support sustainability — less environmental footprint

Climate change and increasing global warming are challenging issues of this century. Most of the flowers sold to the U.S. are from South America and Europe. These flowers need to be packed, stored in cool chambers, and shipped thousands of miles away. 

If we buy locally, we would minimize the use of fuels and resources and thus contribute to lowering the environmental footprint of our actions. 

How can consumers ensure they’re buying the freshest flowers from their local florist?

Local florists often sell their flowers in local farmer’s markets or local floral shops. Local flowers sold also tend to be seasonal. 

When buying flowers, observe petals (colorful outside part of a flower) for turgidity and firmness. Avoid flowers with petals that are wilted, rustic, and have brown spots. If available, buy flowers that are just beginning to open and still in the bud phase. Those flowers tend to be fresh and last longer. 

When flowers are not shipped or handled appropriately, buds will be soft. A fresh flower will have tight and firm buds that can easily be felt with a gentle touch. Inspect sepals (green part of a flower) and leaves; if the leaves are wilted, saggy, brown, or rustic, the flowers in that bunch might not be fresh. 

Also, avoid stems that are slimy or swollen. After purchasing flowers, cut 1 inch of the lower part of the stem and immediately put the flower in water; alternatively, you can also cut the stem underwater. This action will remove air pockets from the stems and facilitate water and sugar uptake, making flowers last longer.

What are some places to avoid buying flowers from and why?

There aren’t any specified places to avoid buying flowers. However, flowers sold in big chain stores generally are not handled as needed. 

These big stores usually sell thousands of goods, and flowers are just another commodity. Hence, they do not have appropriate flower storage temperatures, employees might neglect watering, and flowers may be stored in higher temperatures and sometimes under direct heat or sunlight. 

Additionally, most of the flowers sold by these big bulk stores are of lower quality and are usually imported from very long distances. However, these issues are location-specific; therefore, do your research before buying flowers from these stores.

When online floral retailers advertise discounts on flowers, are consumers actually getting a good deal compared with buying local? Why or why not?

In my opinion, buying local is always a great deal. Let me explain why: 

When you buy flowers online, there are two primary ways to deliver your purchase. The first and standard process is where the online sales agent, who generally does not have any flower experience, takes your order. The agent then contacts your local flower growers and arranges flower delivery between you and your local grower, for which they charge a hefty commission. 

Because the grower has to pay the online agent (middleman) a share of their profit, the price of flowers on an online store is usually higher, even with discounts. However, online stores sometimes have lower prices, and that is usually when local growers are selling unsold inventory, which is about to go bad, for a lower price. Therefore, buying local will, in most cases, save you money. In addition, you get to see and feel fresh flowers before you buy.

The second way to deliver your purchase is by online store themselves. Online stores sometimes buy a huge inventory of flowers and do the shipping, handling, and delivery. In this case, although the price of the flower may be lower, they charge additional fees for shipping, handling, and accessories, spiking final costs at the end. 

In addition, you do not know if the flower will be on time and what the flower’s condition will be. Therefore, you might get a good deal on flowers but get a flower that will only stay fresh for the next two days. Also, think about the hidden cost of online delivery, such as packaging and carbon emissions. Buying locally is more climate-friendly.

What are examples of local flowers that are truly associated with a city or region?

Growers always aim toward growing flowers that are high in demand, and Utah growers are no different. Local growers in Utah commonly grow peonies, snapdragons, dahlias, zinnias, sage, yarrow, cosmos, tulips, daffodils, lilies, and many more. These flowers are either grown in high tunnels or on the field. 

Melinda Lynch, AIFD, CFD
Floral Design Lecturer, Cal Poly Plant Shop Floral & Event Sales Cal Poly Floral Team Advisor & Coach, College of Agriculture, Food & Environmental Sciences Horticulture & Crop Science Department
Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo

What are the top three reasons consumers should buy local flowers? 

  1. For personal enjoyment. 
  2. For a gift. 
  3. For an event or celebration.

How can consumers ensure they’re buying the freshest flowers from their local florist? 

They need to beware of what fresh flowers look like vs. older ones. Make sure they get a photo of the arrangement that was sent.

What are some places to avoid buying flowers from and why? 

Grocery stores, because they don’t always have a good turnover rate and the flowers will sit there until they are not fresh.

When online floral retailers advertise discounts on flowers, are consumers getting a good deal compared with buying local? Why or why not? 

Great question, I would have to say there is probably some sort of fee from the online vendor they are paying, and that extra fee usually will need to be paid out of somewhere. It’s hard to find out because you must trust that they are doing what they said they will do. Local is always the best way to go.

What are three examples of local flowers that are truly associated with a city or region? 

In San Luis Obispo county:

  1. Farmers markets: they must be locally grown by the vendors in the area. (examples: sweet peas, ranunculus, roses, sunflowers, Iris, and foxglove just to name a few)
  2. Flower growers who don’t go to farmers markets but sell to the local florists. (roses and  dahlias)
  3. At Cal Poly we grow gerbera daisies, hydrangeas, orchids, alstroemeria, roses, statice, and strawflowers, just to name a few.

Methodology

We ranked the 200 biggest U.S. cities from best (No. 1) to worst (No. 200) for hiking based on their overall scores (out of 100 possible points), averaged across all of the weighted metrics listed below.

MetricWeightingMin. ValueMax. ValueBest
Hiking Access
Number of Hiking Routes40225Max. Value
Number of Camping Sites1185Max. Value
Hiking Quality
Average Consumer Rating for Hiking Trails34.05Max. Value
Share of "Moderately Difficult" and "Hard" Hiking Trails20%100%Max. Value
Supplies Access
Number of Outdoor Gear Stores0.5044Max. Value
Climate
Historical Annual Average Number of Extremely Cold Days10192Min. Value
Historical Annual Average Number of Extremely Hot Days12169Min. Value
Historical Monthly Average Percentage of Sunshine10%85%Max. Value
Historical Monthly Average Inches of Precipitation10.455.44Min. Value
Median Air Quality Index125101Min. Value
Safety
Natural Hazards Index1920Min. Value
Natural/Environmental Death Rate10.11.8Min. Value
Crime Index1085Max. Value

Sources: AllTrails, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NeighborhoodScout, ReserveAmerica.com, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Yelp

Final Thoughts: Get Outside 

Fresh air, budding trees, and blooming wildflowers — getting out in the Great Outdoors does wonders for your body and mind. One Stanford University study found that even a 90-minute walk in a natural setting can decrease depression and improve mental health.

So, get off your couch and get out there. For inspiration, here are more top U.S. hiking destinations to add to your bucket list:

New Mexico

Reach the sky in the Land of Enchantment by hiking Wheeler Peak, the state’s tallest summit.

New York

Explore an actual castle in the clouds after reaching the top of Whiteface Mountain, one of 46 peaks in the Adirondacks. 

Texas

Stay on the lookout for black bears, mountain lions, and skunks if you climb one of four of the Lone Star State’s highest peaks at Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Virginia

Shenandoah National Park has more than 200 miles of woodland trails to explore in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Washington

Trek through rivers, forests, and meadows of wildflowers while escalating an active volcano with glaciated peaks at Mount Rainier National Park.

West Virginia

Hike the Mountain State, and explore more than 20 miles of trails and hundreds of years of American history at Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park.

Main photo credit: Shutterstock

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Sav Maive

Sav Maive is a writer and director based in San Antonio. Sav is a graduate of the University of Virginia and is a loving cat and plant mom.