Urban Hiking: Trade Hiking Trails for Sidewalks and Energy Bars for Dive Bars!

A couple enjoys the sunset view from the top of Dolores Park in San Francisco [photo via Wikimedia Commons, by Almonroth]

Have you ever been wandering around a city and discovered something truly amazing? I did. While exploring San Francisco’s Mission district, I found an incredible view of the city from the hill at Dolores Park — and that’s where I also discovered my new-found love of Urban Hiking.

What is Urban Hiking?

By definition urban hiking is nothing more than hiking in an urban environment. Sound lame, when you put it that way.

But there is more to Urban hiking than just walking around your city – it’s all about exploration, connecting with locals, and finding new and interesting locations. Hiking in nature is great, but we can’t always make it to up to the mountains every weekend. So trade your hiking trails for sidewalks, water breaks for coffee shops, and energy bars for dive bars!

Here are a couple of reasons why you should give urban hiking a try!


We all know that we need to exercise. I personally don’t enjoy running or going to exercise classes, but I can walk for hours with the right shoes. Studies show that walking at least 30 minutes a day can greatly improve your health. It’s easy, and it’s what the human body was built to do. We are originally a migrating hunter-gathering species who would walk for miles each day to find food. It’s not a part of our nature to sit still all day at the office or in the car.

So stop sitting and start walking again and enjoy the benefits. Taking long leisurely strolls while enjoying great conversations with an Urban Hiking buddy can be a great way to spend your afternoon. No need for huffing and puffing along the way, just take it easy, enjoy yourself, and…

A hike across the Golden Gate Bridge links urban explorers with a more natural vista. [photo via wikimedia commons, by Hispalois]

Explore Your City!

City exploration isn’t something that locals do often. I usually avoided the National Mall like the plague when I lived in Washington DC, and I still haven’t been up the National Monument or taken a White House tour. And it’s not just me. Almost everyone I’ve talked to who lives in a major city has a list of tourist destinations that they have never been to. This is where Urban Hiking is ideal. It gives you a good excuse to get out and explore your city, because sometimes you need to dork out and be a tourist.

I regret never taking advantage of my time in DC to discover the city through Urban Hiking. Now that I’m living in San Francisco, I treat every day like a visit to Paris or Tokyo.

All you need is a great pair of (fashionable!) walking shoes, some layers, and your GPS-enabled smart phone (unless you like to get lost). I love real, paper maps but it’s just easier to bring the iPhone and use the walking directions. When you feel like taking a break, you can use your smartphone to find something interesting nearby on the fly!

Connect with Your City

I first started hiking on the weekends with my husband. It was our way of “interviewing” all the SF neighborhoods for potential places to live. This took us all over the city, to parts we never would have discovered otherwise.

One of the wonderful benefits of walking is that you really see the city, up close and personal. Everything you pass while walking is something you would have missed if you were underground on the BART train or speeding by in a car. Urban Hiking truly gives you the opportunity to meet new people and discover the hidden gems of the city. As a result I have a list of shops and restaurants I’ve discovered, as well as great views to show friends when they visit.

In addition it also allowed us a chance to get to know our new city and figure out how to get around. I am now almost at the point where we don’t need Google maps anymore, but getting lost can be half the fun!

Now Saturdays and Sundays are filled with urban hiking. It’s great time to spend with your significant other, friends, or out of town visitors. Most of our friends think we’re pretty crazy, who walks 2 hrs for a coffee? I do, and I love it. And I think you will too.

About Amanda Hibbert

Amanda Hibbert is a former Aerospace Engineer, turned Photographer, pursuing her life’s dream in San Francisco. Committed to photographing the world while traveling she is an avid urban hiker, an adoring fan of good food, drink and friends, she is always thinking about her next destination.