Hiking has always been a popular outdoor activity, and recently it has become even more so. As many people learned in 2020, getting out into the fresh air and experiencing the serene settings of the natural world can greatly improve mental health and quality of life. During the extreme isolation of the pandemic, hiking became a crucial outlet for many Americans. According to the American Hiking Society, 2020 saw a 200% increase in trail usage compared to 2019.
Using a ranking formulated by LawnStarter, a lawn care start-up that frequently conducts research into city and state amenities, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of the 50 best U.S. cities for hiking. The ranking is based on 11 weighted metrics including number of hiking routes, number of camping stores, sunshine, monthly precipitation, and air quality. (Hiking isn’t the only enjoyable outdoor activity, of course. Here’s a list of the best summer destination for outdoor fun in every state.)
Nearly all of the best cities for hiking are in the West. The region tends to have more trails, more camping stores, and a better climate than most of the eastern part of the country. Half the top cities are in California, in fact, which scored well not only for its trails and suppliers of camping equipment but also for its generally mild climate.
Actually, though, Californian cities don’t actually have the most access to hiking trails. The cities with the most hiking routes are, in this order, Phoenix, Tucson, Colorado Springs, Portland (Ore.), and Salt Lake City.
Many of the hiking trails in or near these cities and elsewhere are in regional or national parks, national forests, or nature preserves. Here are the National Parks that have grown the most in popularity since 1980.