When we think of hiking our mind conjures up images of pristine lakes, mountains, forests and other nature images that we associate with the activity. We might want to incorporate more hiking into our workout, but sometimes getting away from the city isn’t quite as easy. Which is why Urban Hiking is the perfect solution to your hiking needs.
What is Urban Hiking?
Urban hiking was first popularised by Dan Koeppel when he documented his hike around Los Angeles where he designed an elaborate almost 5,000 step urban trek around the city. Now it’s a thriving movement that has taken root all over the world. Most cities offer urban hiking routes and if they don’t, don’t be afraid to create your own,
The essence of urban hiking is basically substituting nature for the urban environment. It’s especially great if you can’t get away from the city into nature or if you want to explore your city. Since we’re substituting nature for buildings, the goal is to imitate the incline of a hill or mountain by taking as many stairs in the urban setting as possible. By urban hiking we are given the opportunity to explore and interact with the terrain that we live in. It can be as short as an hour or last all day. Many pro hikers do as much as 80 kilometres in a day. But if you’re just starting out, you can start with 25 kilometres which should take more or less five hours.
Urban Hiking over Nature Hiking
The good thing about an urban trek is that you only have to bring what you want, and not what you need - so you don’t have to lug around a heavy backpack filled with extra water and food. Since you’re in the city, if you feel hungry or thirsty, just stop at a nearby cafe. Need a bathroom break? Then pop into a toilet! Of course you won’t get the same feel good feeling of looking over the expanse of a beautiful lake in nature, but you do get the same comforts of being in the city, and looking out over a city skyline is also pretty awesome. But both give you an incredible workout. By the end of the hike you’ll be surprised what you discover about your city - even if you’ve been living there for years (or all your life).
What you need to Urban Hike
1. Wear the right gear
You might not need to walk through rough terrain, but you’re still going to be on your feet for a few hours at least, climbing up and down stairs, stomping on hard pavement etc. So be sure to have the right gear. By gear I mean the right shoes and socks, and maybe a towel. If you think it might rain, then a raincoat, or if it’s warm, a nice breathable, sweat absorbent top.
2. Pack well
You don’t really have to bring anything and just buy it along the way, but it’s still always a good idea to have some supplies packed away just in case you come across a long stretch without any shops. If your hike is going to be especially long, then make sure your phone batteries are fully charged, especially if you plan to use your phone GPS as a map. Bring along an external battery charger and a paper map, just in case - sometimes service can be spotty.
3. Stay strong
Being in the city, it’s far easier to hike a few hours and give up the trail. Busses, taxis and trains are easily available and sometimes you might just feel like throwing in the towel. Arguably it can be mentally tougher to stay on track during an urban hike - all the perks of hiking in the city are also the same things that can make you give up your hike. So stay strong! And keep on keeping.
4. Be safe
While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get lost in the wilderness of a bustling city, you’re faced with danger of a different kind. Cars, trucks, busy roads, maybe even getting robbed etc. Be sure to stay safe and let someone know where you’re going and how long you’re expected to be gone. If you’re hiking when the light is dim, wear clothing that is reflective so cars will notice you. A head lamp might sometimes be in order too!
5. Plan your route, a little
You might not want to plan down to the last detail, but a little bit of planning will help. Where you’re starting, where you will end. It will also allow someone to come looking for you if anything happens.
6. Have fun
Sure, you want to take as many stairs as possible, but you don’t always have to. Find your own way and explore your city. Another ‘rule’ of urban hiking is not to walk down the same road twice so that it mirrors a real hike, so looking for ways to get around a city without turning back and going down the same street can be fun and creative. At the end of the day, you want to have fun after all!