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5 Places where you can enjoy nature in major U.S. cities

By: The Outbound Collective + Save to a List

Who said you can’t be outdoorsy in the city? If you need of a breath of fresh air and a place to get your steps in outdoors, even in the middle of an urban jungle, check out these unique walking adventures in major cities across the U.S.!

From converted railroads to trails on the outskirts of busier main streets, getting outside and enjoying nature has not only become more accessible in cities but is also a unique opportunity to experience beautiful vistas, art, history, and culture.

1. The High Line – New York, NY

New York City buildings viewed from the Highline Trail.
Photo by Margo Schmiederer

Located on the west side of Manhattan, the High Line is a 1.47-mile elevated linear greenway, once a New York Central Railroad. It's an idyllic walking, people-watching, and photography spot. Raised above the bustling sidewalks and traffic-ridden streets, you might find a unique sense of peace among colorful flowers, lush green plants, shrubs, grass, and trees. There’s nothing quite like strolling alongside blooming flora AND stunning New York City architecture and wall art. Come during sunset for magical views. Check out these additional ideas for getting outside in NYC!

2. The 606 – Chicago, IL

Photo: Benjamin Rascoe

On the northwest side of Chicago lies the longest greenway project of a former rail line in the entire Western Hemisphere and the second longest in the world. On the 606 trail, you can access 2.7 miles of elevated linear park running from east to west. It’s an excellent spot for bikers and runners to get their move on. Look out for fun events from yoga, dance, or singing performances to enjoy at parks along the route. Bring your pup and stop at the east side so they can run off-leash at the dog park! The trail is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Check out "12 Places to hike, bike, and camp near Chicago" for more ways to get outside near the Windy City!

3. The BeltLine – Atlanta, GA

Photo: Matthew Koehnemann

Atlanta is home to this incredible 22-mile strip of multi-use trail and light rail transit system on a former railway. You can bike, walk, run, or skate around the heart of Atlanta on your own. But, if you prefer getting active in a group, try one of the free fitness classes or biking/walking tours.  Runners can find community with the Thursday night BeltLine Run Club. You also don’t need to stop in a gallery or museum to admire breathtaking artwork from local and global artists! You’ll find impressive sculptures, murals, photography, and nods to fashion, theater, and music in the fresh air along the BeltLine! For those who love fresh food, there’s also a farm stand where the BeltLine crosses Allene Ave. Here you can find a fresh supply of organic produce, fruit, and flowers.

4. Lands End Trail – San Francisco, CA

A sunset over the ocean. There are rocks jutting into the water and a person is standing on one rock while gazing out at the water.
Image by Julien Bacal.

This 4-mile loop trail is in the Sutro District of San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It’s open year-round and is a dog-friendly adventure, so bring your pups! Before heading out on the trail, walk down to the Sutro Baths first– part of a former public bathhouse developed by Adolf Sutro, a self-made millionaire, which fills with ocean water. It's an ideal spot to sit and watch the sunset. While on the trail, you’ll get the chance to take in beautiful ocean views, the remains of Mile Rock Lighthouse, and glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge through green foliage. Be sure to stop at Land’s Point End, an area with the best bridge views! Afterward, head down to Mile Rock Beach to relax in the sand or have a picnic while soaking in the views.

5. The Hike-and-Bike Trail – Austin, TX

The view from under a bridge on a lake. There is another bridge in the background and a city skyline. The water is calm and reflects the surroundings.
Image by Erin Newman-Mitchell.

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is a 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake in the heart of Austin. It's great for runners, bikers, walkers, and families alike. You’ll pass by skyscrapers, ball fields, and notable cultural landmarks (like the Stevie Ray Vaughan statue) while enjoying the beauty of the city. You’ll encounter a vibrant mix of people, making it the perfect place for some good people-watching. Find a nice shaded spot under a tree to lay back and relax or spend the afternoon with your nose in a good book. During the hot summer months, take a dip in Barton Springs or Deep Eddy Pool, spring-fed pools on either side of the lake. The best part? It's all free!

Urban hubs are great for trying new dining spots, shopping, or catching a show. But, you don’t need to travel far to enjoy green space and get your body moving! We’re happy to see more nature among man-made development! 

Planning a road trip that brings you through some major cities? Read our tips for planning an epic road tripDownload the Outbound Collective app to see these and more adventures like hikes, bikes, waterfalls, and vistas near you!

Cover Photo: Yogendra Singh

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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