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Urban Hiking

view from twin peaks, san francisco

view from twin peaks, san francisco

What an absolute gift it is to have a day off in the middle of the work week.  Disrupting the usual cadence of work week/weekend, a mid-week day off feels a little bit like suspended reality (it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to my dream of freezing time, ala Evie in that old show Out of This World).  It’s a day set aside for one thing: leisure.   And for my family today, that leisure was an urban hike.

Ever since living in New York City in my 20s, I’ve loved urban hiking, but look forward to it even more now that we’re not city dwellers.  Good old off-the-beaten path hiking is great too (and if you’re into that, check out this list of 43 Hidden Hikes to Try This Summer), but urban hikes feel adventurous.  Cool.  Unexpected.  Hip and fit at the same time.  Navigating gritty sidewalks, people of all shapes and sizes, and pungent smells…delighting in delicious surprises and beautiful vistas en route…and seeing a familiar place with fresh eyes, urban hiking helps you feel like a tourist in your own backyard.

Today we hiked along the Bay in San Francisco, checking out the America’s Cup staging area, stopping to play in the sand at the beach, starting at our reflections near the Palace of Fine Arts, talking about the varied architecture, smelling the flowers, and stopping for ice cream along the way.  San Francisco offers endless routes of challenging and easy hiking punctuated with hidden ge,s like the Seward Street Slides and Baker Beach and the wildness of Glen Park Canyon and the swings and staircases that appear out of nowhere.

San Francisco is urban hiking mecca (I read a great story about LA a few months ago too), but I’m sure there are beautiful options across the country.  And here are a few simple reasons to give it a shot:

  • No gear required (we bring a backpack for our 3-year-old, but that’s it)
  • It’s free (unless you get lost and need to use mass transit or a taxi)
  • It’s environmentally friendly (if you live relatively close to a city)
  • It’s social (you can visit people along the way)
  • It’s yummy (goodbye trail mix, hello crepes)

What do you like most about urban hiking?  Do you have a favorite hike to share?

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