A few years ago, I discovered that my husband and I have wildly different ideas of the “perfect” hike. My version involves wilderness, seclusion, the sounds of nature, and breathtaking views. His is a medley of sidewalks, window shopping, outdoor cafés, and stunning architecture. Mine requires hiking boots; his can be done in a good pair of flip-flops. I pack water, snacks, and a first aid kit; he relies on his intuition and a bit of luck to find everything we’ll need along the way. And Ty and Buster are happy either way, as long as we’re sharing the goodies with them!
You might imagine that such disparate theories on one of our favorite activities would cause conflict in our small, packed-to-the-point-of-combustion household … but you’d be wrong. Compromise is the foundation of a happy marriage, and we’ve been lucky enough to find cities where there’s middle ground. So, lace up your sneakers, and check out the top 10 cities for dog friendly urban hiking!
Accessible from anywhere in downtown Austin, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail is a gravel-covered, 10-mile loop around Ladybird Lake, and offers an enchanting way to experience the city. Bikers, walkers, runners, and dogs on leash all enjoy this tree-lined gem, and it connects some of our favorite parts of the city – from Zilker Park to the Rainey Street Historic District. And jumping off the trail onto the city streets to find something to eat or drink along the way is a cinch.
Boston’s The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile route that leads you past 16 Colonial and Revolutionary historical sites, including Boston Common, Paul Revere’s house, the Old North Church and Faneuil Hall. This trail is laid out on the city sidewalks with red bricks, so it easy to follow, and passes by some of Boston’s best eateries along the way. While it can be quite crowded on the weekends, you and your dogs will be able to avoid much of the foot traffic if you follow the red brick path from the opposite side of the street (it’s easy to see).
Lake Michigan is one of Chicago’s main attractions, and the 18-mile Lakefront Trail is the perfect way for you and your dog to enjoy it! This paved path runs along the beaches and parks that separate the city from the lakeshore. Don’t miss Navy Pier, where leashed dogs are welcome at most of the restaurant patios, and Montrose Dog Beach, if your pup likes to swim.
Los Angeles, California
At over 4,000 acres, LA’s Griffith Park is the largest municipal park and urban wilderness area in the United States. Though you’re technically in the city, there are over 50 miles of trails, bridal paths, and fire roads for you and your dog to explore together. If that’s not enough, head over to Runyon Canyon Park where dogs are welcome off-leash on 90 of the 160 aces, and celebrities are often seen walking their dogs in the shadow of the Hollywood sign.
The Oak Leaf Trail is the crowning glory of the Milwaukee County park system, and runs though one of our favorite cities. Utilizing paved paths and city streets, the Oak Leaf connects all of the county’s major parks, with nearly a quarter of its 115 miles hugging the shores of Lake Michigan. For the best urban hiking experience, start with the section that winds through Milwaukee’s East Side neighborhood and follow it down to the 3rd Ward.
Minneapolis has two spectacular options for urban hiking. The first is the 12-mile interconnected web of trails surrounding Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, Lake Calhoun, and Lake Harriet – otherwise known as the Chain of Lakes. Here you can experience spectacular views, quiet overlooks, and woodsy ambiance in the middle of a major metropolitan area. The second opportunity is at the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, which protects a 72-mile stretch of the iconic river that separates the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
New York, New York
Of all the urban hiking we’ve done, nowhere is the contrast between metropolis and wilderness as striking as New York’s Central Park. This park covers 843 acres in middle- to upper-Manhattan, and is one of the most visited urban parks in the country. Luckily, most people stick to the edges, leaving the vast middle for exploring with your dog! The streets through Central Park are closed to vehicle traffic on the weekends, and it takes an entire day to meander from one end of the park to the other and back.
Portland is an urban hiker’s dream with the Eastside Esplanade running along the Willamette River and serving up some great shots of the city, the path through Waterfront Park following the west bank of the river, and Forest Park flanking the hills on the west side of the city and boasting more than 70 miles of hiking and walking trails. And if that weren’t enough, Portland’s Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden and International Rose Test Garden also welcome your dog to join you for a stroll.
San Diego, California
At 1,200 acres, San Diego’s Balboa Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and it’s the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use. In addition to open expansive spaces, the park has gardens and walking paths, and it contains museums, several theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Vendors and food trucks are scattered around the park so you’re never far from snacks and drinks.
Washington, District of Columbia
The National Mall in Washington, DC stretches for two miles and is home to some of our country’s most famous buildings, structures, and memorials, include the US Capital, the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War memorials, and the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Of course, dogs are not allowed inside the buildings, but there’s so much that you can enjoy together, you’d couldn’t cover it all in a weekend.