The physical health benefits of hiking are well known: It strengthens muscles and bones, improves heart health, and decreases the risk of certain respiratory ailments.
Hiking in nature has additional mental health benefits, according to a 2015 study by researchers at Stanford University. They concluded that people who take a 90-minute walk in nature, away from suburban sprawls and concrete jungles, show measurable decreased activity in the brain associated with depression.
To compile a list of the best American cities for hiking in 2022, 24/7 Tempo reviewed a ranking formulated by LawnStarter, a lawn care start-up that frequently conducts research into city and state amenities. The ranking considers the largest 200 cities in the U.S. by population, and is based on 13 differently weighted metrics in five categories – hiking access, hiking quality, hiking supplies access, climate, and safety.
LawnStarter sourced data from eight governmental and non-governmental sources, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and AllTrails. Scores for the five categories indicate each city’s place out of the 200 cities considered. Overall scores, averaged across the 13 weighted metrics, are out of a possible 100 points.
While it’s relatively easy to commune in nature almost anywhere in the country, it turns out that most of the best U.S. cities for hiking are located west of the Mississippi River, especially along the geologically and environmentally diverse West Coast and amid the spectacular mountain and desert vistas of the American Southwest. (These are America’s 50 most active cities.)
Among the cities with the top ten overall ratings, three are in California and two are in Arizona. Eight other Western states – Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Idaho, Colorado, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii – each have a high-ranking city for hiking, too. Outliers are found in Alabama, Florida, Texas, and Virginia. (Check out the best summer destination for outdoor fun in every state.)