City Parks: Connecting to the Outdoors

How City Parks Connect Us Outside

City parks have long been a forgotten asset in America's outdoor landscape.
National Parks and forest service spots take much of the attention.
Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains, even BLM land, all are seen as the primary place for outdoor recreation.
Yet, with a growing population of retired people, and a more urbanized nation, we are seeing a need to take shorter walks, shorter hikes, more often, and closer to home. And city parks serve that purpose. They are close, and are designed for accessibility. In fact, over 22,000 city parks exist within the United States alone. 69% of the America's large city population lives within a 10 minute walk of a park. Consider the walking to get there, part of your exercise. 1
In my hometown of Reno, Nevada, consistently, Rancho San Rafael Park comes up as one of the top visits not only for locals, but tourists alike. One of the best places for walking and hiking within the city. Littered with hiking trails in the neighboring foothills, and walking paths meandering through a series of soccer fields and high desert forests, this park offers several options for getting outdoors. It has a museum, events center, all surrounded by a nature arboretum highlighting trees of North America.  I can be in this park, and feel hours away from the surrounding city, with simply a 10 minute drive.
How much more can be said of the renowned parks of North America's major cities?
  • Stanley Park in Vancouver - Amazing views of downtown Vancouver's skyline, with easy access by bus transit. This historic park is a favorite travel spot in all of Canada's Brittish Columbia.
  • Golden Gate Park of San Francisco - So many activities, you could dedicate a whole day of your San Francisco visit to this beautiful park. Containing some of the City's best museums and family attractions. Our favorite spot: hike the strawberry hill trail - an island in the middle of a lake in the center of the park. Views, incline, and fun trek just a short walk from San Francisco's "locals" west Chinatown.
  • Central Park in New York City - Wow! What can we say? this is an essential item on anyone's New York trip. You can literally feel like you are far away . . . in upstate New York countryside, within 10 minute walk of a subway stop. Our favorite spot: Bow Bridge. Classic picture spot, with walks around the lake, and view of the amazing clash of parkway and urban skyline. 



  • The National Mall in Washington D.C. - Well organized, historic, and flat, the National Mall is not a shopping mall, but rather, a very large city park. There are straight trails leading from Capitol Hill on one side, and the Lincoln Memorial and its famous reflecting pool on the other side. All along, are lined with the city's top museum destinations. This is literally the center of Washington D.C. The city planners had it right; parks should be the center of great cities.
  • Finally, our favorite small-city park, which is a hidden hot spot: Bidwell Park in Chico, California - Huge. How did they fit this park, with all its incredible amenities in a small college town like this? Check it out for yourself.

Make a Plan:

1) Make a list of 3 of your favorite largest city parks nearby
2) Highlight the trails, paths, or walkways that make most sense for a doable hike
3) Make a goal: keep your routine fresh by alternating visits to a different park each time. Visit all parks each week.
A simple plan like this will kickstart a healthy walking regimen. By alternating parks, your exercise routines will stay interesting and fun. A weekly plan like this can lead to substantial weight-loss and cardio improvement during the year.
Try fun types of walks in the park that lead to more regular visits. Consider Reader's Digest Weight Loss Walking tips:
Exploring your local city parks should be an essential activity to keeping this year healthy.

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