A new trend is hitting our cities in the form of thousands of pairs of hiking boots and trainers, and with them, people who've decided to give urban hiking a go. These people could be seasoned hikers, fitness buffs, or even people who want to get active and who realise that the cityscape provides an excellent backdrop for walking outdoors, while enjoying the many benefits cities have to offer. With open landscapes by rivers, tall imposing buildings, wide boulevards and narrow winding passages, a fusion of ancient and modern awaits the explorer of the urban environment.
To maximise what you'll get out of the experience, a certain amount of planning is necessary. Working out a route and knowing how far you'll be hiking is just as important as on a rural hike, especially if you're building up your fitness levels. Despite planning however, it's still possible to get lost, particularly if navigating a complicated network of roads. Don't let this phase you, as in a city you're never far from civilisation and a rescue plan in the form of a bus or an overground or underground train system. Or even a taxi as a last resort.
Experienced hikers understand the need for comfortable, robust footwear and clothing for every weather scenario, even when the forecast is stable. Everyone knows how exercise raises your body temperature, but equally, when you slow down it can become chilly. Shivering will ruin your enjoyment as much as overheating, so clothing layers are recommended as well as a waterproof outer shell. You probably won't need heavy duty hiking boots as ordinary trainers or trail shoes will be enough to help you spring up flights of steps and cushion the urban jungle's concrete.
To add an extra twist of interest, you can read about the history of your hiking route before you go. Nearly all towns and cities have a long and fascinating history that you can observe on the way, such as the beautiful features of buildings, statues and plaques to commemorate famous people who've stood in the same spot as you. It'll all get your imagination racing and your heart pumping and potentially as much mental stimulation can be derived as physical exercise. A town or city is really a giant adventure playground just waiting to be explored and there's something for everyone, young or old.
There are some distinct advantages to urban hiking that you don't get in the rambling countryside in quite the same way. Cafes, restaurants and various pit stops will be dotted along your route and provide a welcome break and refuelling point, especially on longer hikes. Research of these before you set off will enable you to plan your sampling of some of the culinary delights every town and city has to offer. One word of caution though - save a heavy meal for the end of your hike as a treat, otherwise a long break and large meal will bring on 'cafe legs syndrome', making it hard to get started again!
However, there's no doubt you'll continue to have a hunger for further urban hiking adventures once you've whetted your appetite!
Have you ever been on an urban hike?