Urban Hiking Trails

Some of the best nature hikes are in the middle of cities or very close to them and offer great wildlife, coastal scenery and summit views.

By Lisa Cheng

Western United States

Battery to Bluffs Trail, San Francisco

This coastal hike is just three miles long, but it’s one of the city’s prettiest. It wraps around the bluffs of Presidio, which started out as a Spanish fort in the 18th century and is now something of a quirky park. En route you can expect windswept turns, wooden walkways and a scattering of gun batteries built in the 1890s. Don’t miss Marshall’s Beach, off whose rocky shore you can spot dolphins, whales and brown pelicans.


Lighthouse Park, Vancouver

The popular Grouse Grind may be the steepest and most vigorous of Vancouver’s hikes, but Lighthouse Park is among its most scenic. The park’s network of trails loop through old-growth cedars and trace the craggy cliffs that hug Burrard Inlet. One of our favorite routes: the Valley of the Giants, filled with robust Douglas firs. For a break, you can stop by the park’s historic lighthouse, which sits atop a rocky inlet where bald eagles soar overhead.

Mont Royal Park, Montreal

Designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (of New York City’s Central Park fame), this iconic park’s serpentine paths wind past stone houses, sculptures and thick oak groves to scenic lookout points.


Bois du Boulogne, Paris

Emperor Napoleon III founded this parkland in the 19th century as a hunting ground. Today the 2,000-acre expanse is home to two main hiking routes: a petit and a grand. Parts of the park are thickly forested, while others are manicured and dotted with lakes, landscaped gardens and horseracing tracks. Most of the terrain is flat or on a gentle incline, making it an easy hike for people of almost all fitness levels.


Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro

Home to toucans and salamanders, the Tijuca Forest is an unexpected patch of mountainous wilderness nestled between the city’s bairros (districts). If offers several trails that traverse bridges, stone staircases and several peaks; the climb can be steep, but huffing and puffing your way to the summit yields views of the mountains and the sea—and the city’s Christ the Redeemer statue, which rises nearly 100 feet into the sky.


Dragon Back Trail, Hong Kong

This 30-mile-plus trail, which begins near To Tei Wan village and ends at D’Aguilar Peak, gets its name from the ridges of Shek O Country Park. The trail meanders over terrain that is at times smooth and at other times rocky. It culminates in a platform that affords a view of offshore islands and serves as a jumping-off point for kite flying and paragliding on nearby Big Wave Bay.

Battery to Bluffs Trail
San Francisco; presidio.gov 
Bois du Boulogne
Paris; 011-33-1-53-92-82-82; paris.fr
Dragon Back Trail
Hong Kong; discoverhongkong.com 
Lighthouse Park
West Vancouver; lighthousepark.ca
Mont Royal Park
1260 Remembrance Rd., Montreal; 514-84308240; montreal.com
Tijuca Forest
850 Cascade Rd., Rio de Janeiro; 011-21-2491-1700; parquedatijuca.com.br
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: November 2015