Hiking has tons of health benefits. According to the Stanford researchers, it can even boost your mood and improve mental health. This is one of the many reasons why people want to live in parts of the world where they can get a city like experience, but also access the outdoors easily. While some may be looking to live in cities with the best shopping locations, and others want to be as far away from others as possible, there is a growing number of people searching for cities that are affordable, have shopping, groceries, great food, culture, music, and amazing access to the outdoors.
In this article, we highlight the best cites in the world to live in if you love hiking or backpacking. These cities have amazing access to the outdoors, and other fantastic qualities that enabled us to put them on the list.
Below, we list some of the best cities to live in if you love hiking. They range from Portland, with its stunning Tualatin Mountains and Columbia river, to Kathmandu, featuring the Amitabha Monastery Hike and the breathtaking views of the high Himalayas.
Criteria For This List
We chose cities that were above 200,000 in population. There are simply too many amazing places to highlight less than this. Other than this criteria, the cities had to have great city features. Things like public transportation, food, music, art, and other cultural aspects were taken into account. Of course, each city also needs to have easy access to beautiful hiking. Our list is subjective, by no means all inclusive, and we will continuously add cities to this list as time goes on.
We also broke this list into U.S. Cities, and International Cities.
Here is our list of top cities to visit for those who want to experience some of the best hikes on the planet:
The Best U.S. Cities For Hiking
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Portland is placed at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. With stunning views of the Tualatin Mountains and Columbia river, hiking opportunities are plentiful.
The city sits in the rain shadow of the actively volcanic Cascade Range, which means it receives an average of just 36 inches of rainfall each year. Summers in Portland are warm, dry, and sunny.
This makes Portland an ideal city for those who love hiking, and the outdoors in general.
There are plenty of great hikes within a short drive of Portland. One of our favorites is the Eagle Creek Trail, which features waterfalls, old growth forest, and stunning views of the Columbia river gorge.
Seattle is another gorgeous city for hiking enthusiasts. It is located in the Pacific Northwest and is surrounded by mountains, forests, and lakes.
The city sits between Puget Sound and Lake Washington. It is known for its rainy weather but features a mild climate that is perfect for hiking all year round.
There are numerous hiking trails in Seattle, ranging from short walks to multi-day treks. The most popular hike is the Discovery Park Loop. This 3-mile round-trip hike features several lookouts with views of Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, and downtown Seattle. In addition to hiking right in the city limits, Seattle sits only a short drive away from some incredible hiking opportunities.
Despite its reputation for being rainy, Seattle actually receives less rainfall than many other major cities in the United States. So, if you do not mind a little rain, Seattle is an excellent place to enjoy some of the best hikes in the USA.
Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii, is located on the island of Oahu and is a popular tourist destination. The city is home to Diamond Head State Monument, a volcanic tuff cone that offers stunning views of the city and Waikiki Beach.
Another popular hiking spot is the Koko Head Crater, which features a one-mile trail that leads to the top of the crater. The hike is challenging but rewards hikers with panoramic views of Honolulu and the Pacific Ocean.
If you are looking for a more leisurely hike, the Manoa Falls Trail is a good option. It is a short, 1.7-mile out-and-back trail through a lush Hawaiian tropical rainforest. In addition to just a few trails mentioned here, there are endless hikes only a short distance outside of Honolulu. Adventures get incredible weather, easy access to the ocean, stunning views, and tons of wildlife diversity.
Fresno is the fifth-largest city in California and is located in the San Joaquin Valley. The city is situated between Los Angeles and San Francisco, making it a great place to live for those who want easy access to both cities.
Fresno is also an excellent place for hiking. It sits at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains and is close to Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National park, and tons of other amazing hiking areas. There are numerous hiking trails in the area, ranging from easy walks to strenuous multi-day backpacking trips.
Fresno offers some of the best access to mountains while still being a large city in California. The central location makes this an incredible basecamp for long weekends. Fresno is just one of the many California cities that could easily make this list.
Denver is the capital and most populous city of Colorado. It is located just east of the Rocky Mountains and is known for its dry climate and nearly 300 days of sunshine per year.
The city is a great place to live for those who love the outdoors.
Denver has easy access to some of the most incredible hiking in the United States year round, and sits only about 90 minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and within an hour of countless other incredible hiking options. For weekend warriors, Denver is an incredibly effective adventure hub.
Boise sits at the foot of the mountains just like the other cities. There are incredible hiking opportunities only a few minutes away, and within an hour, there are too many options to mention. Boise has a university, great food, great cultural attractions, music, and all the social amenities of a big city, yet incredible access to recreation.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Salt Lake City is an incredible city with amazing food, great public transportation, stunning mountains, incredible skiing, and easy access to every sport you could imagine. Within an hour there are 9 ski resorts, and tons of incredible hiking. This city has a small city feel, with tons of amenities, and some of the best access to the outdoors you could possible have.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Most people would never expect that Las Vegas would be on this list. But if you are a lover of incredibly unique landscape, Vegas is certainly an amazing place. Within an hour, there are some really awesome hills, red rocks, and dramatic canyons that make or incredible hiking. Vegas is only 2 hours away from one of the most beautifully unique places on the planet, Zion National Park. Vegas has just about everything, including one of the most vibrant night life’s of all cities in the world.
San Diego, California
San Diego is a fun place to live. You have just about every type of cultural and social possibility at your doorstep, multiple boroughs/neighborhoods to choose from, and you are within an hour to a few hours of some of the most beautiful places in the U.S. San Diego puts adventurers in a place where they can be in the mountains on the weekends, surfing after work, and having multisport days 365 days a year.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Sitting at the base of Pikes Peak, a Colorado 14,000 footer, Colorado Springs has endless nearby hiking opportunities. Garden of the Gods, The Manitou incline, are just a couple of the amazing locations located only a short drive outside the center of the springs. Colorado Springs has great food, tons of social amenities, it is in close proximity to Denver, and is an incredible home base for those that love outdoor sports year round.
Phoenix has tons of incredible access for outdoor lovers. It may be blistering hot in the summer months, but all other seasons are an absolute dream for outdoor lovers. Phoenix has incredibly unique landscape surrounding it and sits in the middle of a flat but incredible looking valley.
Best International Cities For Hiking
We wanted to also highlight some of the best international cities for outdoorsy people. These cities are well known, and have it all. This list isn’t even touching 1% of all of the great cities out there either.
Zurich is one of the safest and most liveable cities in the world. It is also an excellent place for hiking, with a large number of trails located nearby.
The most popular hiking destination is the Uetliberg, a mountain that offers panoramic views of Zurich and the surrounding area. Other popular trails include the Adlisberg and the Albis. With only a short drive, tons of other destinations are right in reach as well. On top of this, Zurich has incredibly good public transportation.
In addition to its many hiking trails, Zurich also features a number of other outdoor activities, such as swimming and kayaking. With its stunning scenery and diverse range of activities, it is no wonder Zurich is often ranked as one of the best places to live.
Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is known for its rugged cliffs and steep mountain slopes, the perfect locations for amazing hikes. It is home to various hiking trails, such as the Tai Mo Shan Hiking Trail, which features four waterfalls and the highest peak in Hong Kong with a height of 957 metres.
This all-around great city is rich in culture and history as well as bustling with great attractions. For instance, one can enjoy hiking on Lantau Island and taking a trip to Tai O, a fishing village located on this island.
London, The United Kingdom
London is one of the best cities to live in if you love hiking but do not want to give up your city life. It offers a vast number of hiking trails nearby, from those leading through the city’s parks and gardens to slightly more challenging hill routes outside of the town.
One of London’s most popular hiking locations is Hampstead Heath, featuring numerous trails. This area also includes Parliament Hill, where the view over London is protected by law.
In addition, there are numerous green spaces around London, including Richmond Park, Epping Forest, and Wimbledon Common. Each of these areas has its own unique charm and includes a variety of trails for all skill levels.
Residents can also travel short distances to places like South Downs National Park and others where simple but extremely beautiful hiking trails are. London isn’t an area for lots of elevation gain and loss like most of the cities on this list, but if you love walking and more level trails, this can be a great option.
Barcelona is a popular tourist destination thanks to its stunning architecture and rich culture. However, it is also an excellent place to live if you love hiking. The city is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Serra de Collserola mountain range, offering a variety of hiking trails.
The most popular trail is the Tibidabo Hike, which offers stunning views of Barcelona and the surrounding area. Other popular tracks include the Montserrat Hike and the Sant Jeroni Summit Loop. The hiking certainly doesn’t end here, there are many natural areas with incredible hiking within a close drive. Even the Pyrenees mountains aren’t too far!
In addition to its many hiking trails, Barcelona also offers several other outdoor activities, such as swimming at one of its many beaches or cycling through the city’s parks. With its mild climate and diverse range of activities, Barcelona is an excellent place to live if you enjoy spending time outdoors.
Auckland, New Zealand
Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and one of the best cities to live in if you love hiking. It features a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy beginners’ walks to more challenging routes. The best-known hiking location in Auckland is the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, including more than 16,000 hectares of native rainforest and coastline.
It is home to several magnificent walks, such as the challenging Hillary Trail, a four-day tramp along the Waitakere Ranges. The park has plenty of trails, so you can pick the one that best suits your hiking preferences.
Cape Town, South Africa
The city of Cape Town is located on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean, with a mountainous backdrop. It is home to Table Mountain and Lion’s Head hikes. Being one of the best places in the world for hiking, it is also an excellent spot for other outdoor activities, such as rock climbing and surfing.
Due to its mild climate and well-developed infrastructure, Cape Town is perfect for spending time outdoors. The city lies near some of the best hikes in South Africa, including a walk up Platteklip Gorge — a demanding trail that features a lot of upward walking and dizzying views.
Hiking in Cape Town is not only an exciting activity but also a great way to explore some of the most beautiful sights of the city. From its beaches to mountains, this place has something for everyone!
Vienna is a popular tourist destination, in part due to the numerous hiking opportunities it provides. The city is located between the Danube river and the Austrian Alps, offering a variety of hiking trails.
The Wienerwald Hiking Trail enjoys the highest popularity. Still, the Hohe Wand Hiking Trail and the Donauinsel Hiking Trail are excellent alternatives — each offering unique experiences you will find nowhere else.
Vancouver is located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia and is the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. But, it does not prevent it from being one of the most memorable hiking spots in the world.
The city is situated near the North Shore Mountains, providing ample opportunities for hiking and other outdoor activities. There are numerous hiking trails in Vancouver, ranging from easy to complex. If you are up for an adventure, we suggest visiting the Capilano River Regional Park, which features a suspension bridge that crosses the Capilano River.
If you are into hiking year round, including in winter, or skiing in the winter, this is one of the best places in the world.
Kathmandu is located in the Kathmandu Valley at an elevation of 1,400 metres and boasts a mild climate throughout the year. It is known for its stunning views of Everest and other Himalayan peaks. The city’s diverse scenery is an excellent way to keep the mood upbeat and your body active.
Kathmandu features a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy to strenuous. The most popular one is the Amitabha Monastery Hike. It offers stunning views of several peaks along the way.
The Kakani Hike is another popular option, featuring a route through the alpine forests. Although the trail is 25 kilometres long, it has a very slight incline, making it ideal for beginners. This area is also home to some of the most serious climbs in the world in relative close proximity to Kathmandu.
The Bottom Line
Hiking is an exceptional way to spend your free time and get in touch with Mother Nature, but many people want to be able to experience the mountains, and hiking, while still having the convenience and fun associated with city living. In this list, we have highlighted some fantastic cities around the world. Let us know what cities we should add to the list.
Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about