Urban hiking is a self explanatory term which implies that instead of hiking in remote, or not so remote, bushland you instead take the opportunity to hike through your local urban areas. Depending on where you live this may be through totally built-up town or city infrastructure with hardly a tree or shrub in sight through to areas that include local parkland or if you are lucky enough, through areas that include adjacent bushland.
But is this ‘real’ hiking or just a poor alternative? In the following article we discuss some key considerations of urban hiking as well as identifying how to get the best out of your urban experience.
Tuggeranong Town Centre on the Canberra Centenary Trail. This 145 km trail spends as much time in Canberra’s urban heart as it does in parkland, rural land and bushland.
As I write this article we are yet again in COVID lockdown and this time our local national park and reserve system is closed to public access and in addition, we are limited to the time we are allowed to exercise outdoors. Given these limitations to accessing hikes in bushland, urban hiking is our only choice. Now while this is just one reason for urban hiking, forced on many of us by the circumstances of the time, sometimes you just don’t feel like spending time driving to a trail. What can be easier that walking out your front door and starting an urban hike?
Many of us live in our towns and cities for years and never bother to explore past our regular path. Home to work, home to the shops, and every so often into the local entertainment precinct or sports stadium. In most towns and cities I have lived in there have been large areas that I have never bothered to visit. This is typical for most of us. Urban hiking is the opportunity to truly explore and get to know your, town or your city.
Urban hiking on the Canberra Centenary Trail
Urban hiking can take so many forms and unless you are following marked trails this is a real ‘choose your own adventure’ option with no limitation on what you will see or do. You can walk out your front door and do a loop of your suburb or you can do something much more challenging. How about walking the length of your city, summiting all the major hills, or walking through the connecting green spaces? The choice is limitless and you can even turnaround and do the same walk over and over again but changing which way you turn, even once, will provide a whole new experience.
Map from the National Capital Open Space Report for Canberra city – the green areas designate open space and most are accessible to hikers. If you plan well you can potentially walk within the confines of the city and still stay in the ‘bush’. Every city will have similar areas spread throughout the city limits if you just know where to look
Bondi to Manly Walk located in Sydney. This walk takes in part of the city’s green belt but also walks through the suburbs taking in beaches and native bushland
From a logistical perspective urban hikes have the potential to be just as complex from a planning perspective as going into remote bushland. However, the opposite can also apply. Doing hikes within the confines of a city even long complex ones, changes the logistical dynamics.
When doing an urban hike you have a couple of options if you are doing a multi-day adventure:
Osprey Talon 33 Pack, my pack of choice for longer and more complex urban walks
Any type of hiking has it’s pros and cons and urban hiking is no different.
Hiking through urban areas brings a whole new set of things to keep an eye out for. While snakes are often the biggest worry for hikers when out bush, hiking through urban areas brings with it a whole new set of things to keep an eye on:
Dog poo disposed of in a plastic bag as it’s supposed to be but not left in a tree! The urban hiker who did this should have taken the bags home and disposed of them properly. Environmentally this is about as bad as it gets! If taking a dog with you, do the right thing
For me hiking is hiking and while I love to get out into remote bushland and get away from noise, technology and people I’m not such a purist that I’ll miss out just because I can’t go, or don’t want to go bush. Urban hiking has the potential to allow you to see parts of your town or city, that you may have lived in for many years, that you didn’t know existed.
While you may not always get the panoramic scenic views or the abundant wildlife, urban hiking brings with it its own unique experiences and provides the opportunity to stay fit, spend tine with friends and family and discover your town or city.
To answer the question, urban hikes are real hikes so don’t dismiss them out of hand. You never know, you may become a fan!