7 City Escapes And The Day Hikes To Go With Them

From museums to mountains in a single weekend

Feeling torn between a bustling city visit or rugged outdoors adventure? You don't have to choose! While the pulse of a city is exciting it can also be exhausting. A day hike is a great respite that won’t distract from your itinerary of restaurants, sights and shopping. Here are seven awesome and doable day hikes from some of our favorite cities:


1. Ebey's Landing (Whidbey Island) - From Seattle

Start: End Of Cook Road To The Prairie Overlook Trailhead (map)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: Up to 5.6 miles roundtrip
Distance From City: 1 hr 50 min

Whidbey provides an island and nature day escape all in one! This rugged island with rocky coastline beaches and pastoral terrain is a short ferry ride from Seattle across Puget Sound. Pull up your jaw after the stunning trip; there are more majestic views on the way. Perched on the western shore of the island with views of the Olympic Mountains and Strait of San Juan de Fuca, Ebey’s Landing contains trails that pass high along the bluff, and offers spectacular views of wildlife, including seals and sealions. The light at sunset and early morning makes this hike especially beautiful (though any time is really beautiful).

Tip: March-May is when the Orca whales migrate past Washington, and you might even catch whale sightings from the ferry ride, or along Ebey’s Landing, as they feed on fresh salmon.

Ron Clausen

2. Baker Preserver Trail (Lummi Island) - From Seattle

Start: End of Seacrest Drive (about 2.3 miles from the ferry dock) to the Baker Preserve Trailhead (map)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: Up to 3.6 miles roundtrip
Distance From City: 2 hrs 28 min

Lummi Island is an island with an otherworldly beauty. From Seattle, it is the most accessible of the San Juan Islands. The Baker Preserve Trail zigzags its way upward, partly through the Douglas Fir Forest, to a west-facing promontory (ideal for a sunset hike!) at 1050 ft above the glistening waters of Rosario Strait. From the promontory, on a clear day, the outline of nearby Orcas Island is visible against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains. Since the hike is fairly short, you’ll have the rest of the day to explore Lummi’s charms: go bike riding along the shoreline of Nugent Road, or perhaps treat yourself to an epic tasting menu of Pacific Northwest fare at the elegant Willows Inn (included on NYT Travel list of 10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride).


3. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and National Park (Judean Desert) - From Jerusalem

Start: David Stream/Wadi David Entrance to the Ein Gedi Park (map)
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.1 Miles
Distance from City: 1 Hr 22 Minutes. Buses from Jerusalem are also available

Israel is roughly the size (and shape) of New Jersey. Therefore, many places of natural and ancient beauty are within easy reach. A short drive south of Jerusalem in the Judean Desert, lies the desert oasis of Ein Gedi. While a desert oasis, this preserve of red rocks and waterfalls provides the perfect 'city oasis' with pleasant and easy hikes. You can also visit the botanical gardens of nearby Kibbutz Ein Gedito learn about the accomplishment of Israel’s desert agriculture and botany. If you like archaeological hikes, the ruins of Mt. Masada are also nearby (map), and manageable as a day activity.

Tip: The Dead Sea is also not too far from Ein Gedi, and in the same direction as Masada; You can relax after your hike with salt-water swim (or float!) and a mud-mask, or spend the night at one of the Dead Sea’s resorts!


4. Les Forests of Fontainebleu - From Paris

Start: Noisy-sur-École - 77 - Seine-et-Marne (MAP)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 5 Miles
Distance From City: 60 Minutes by Car, 1 Hour 20 Min by Train (From Paris Gare de Lyon)

Fontainebleau is 34.5 miles southeast of Paris, known for the opulent Fontainebleau Palace, a residence of French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III. It is also known- to a lesser extent- for the Forest of Fontainebleau, a deciduous forest with a diverse range of flora, birds peculiar rock formations. The rocks are a popular training spot boulderers and rock climbers preparing for high-endurance climbs in the French Alps. Try the Sentier des Belvédères route, which is a very manageable trail for an afternoon hike, leaving you enough time to explore the palace and make it back to Paris for dinner. Moderate in difficulty, it should take you roughly 3- 3.5 hours to complete and is a looped route, bringing you right back to the starting point. It will lead you over a course of hills with beautiful aerial views of large boulder and dense forest.

Tip: A visit in the fall is especially beautiful when the mostly deciduous forest is canopied in fall foliage.


5. Anthony's Nose (Hudson Valley) - From NYC

Start: Anthony's Nose II- Trailhead, Cortland, NY (Map)
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate
Length: 2.6 mi, roundtrip
Distance from City: 90 minutes by car; 1 hour on train (get off at Peekskill and take a taxi or uber for $11)

If you're new to New York or a visitor to the city, a day trip through the Hudson Valley will be ripe with hiking trails, organic farmland and crafts fairs. The Hudson Valley is a mountainous region that stretches from Westchester County, through the Catskill Mountains and up to Albany. Two words reign supreme in this valley: "organic" and "artisan." The trail to the summit head of Anthony’s Nose is short, but steep. From the summit, you can look out onto the winding Hudson River, The Bear Mountain Bridge and the surrounding Taconic Mountains. The trail also partially intersects with the historic Appalachian Trail, making the summit a fun meeting point for "day hikers" and "through hikers," sharing tales of their adventures.

Tip: If you're taking the train to and from Peekskill, leave time to stop for homemade ice cream at Hudson Creamery. Find additional Hudson Valley day hikes here.

READ MORE: 10 Things To Do Outdoors During A Long Weekend Or Day Trip In Westchester, NY


6. Blue Mountains National Park - From Sydney

Starting Point: The Blue Mountains National Park entry point at Katoomba (map)
Difficulty: Easy-moderate
Length: Depending on the trail, many average out to ~3.5 miles
Distance from City: 2 hrs 28 min by car, 2 hrs 45 min by train (involves connections)

Call the Blue Mountains Sydney’s easily accessible backyard. The UNESCO-protected site lies on the Great Dividing Range of the Australian continent, and is the closest mountain escape to Sydney’s greater metropolitan area. The park offers majestic scenery, such as the iconic Three Sisters Sandstone Rock Formations and the cascading Wentworth Falls. Stop at the Three Sisters to see their floodlit colors change throughout the day, the shifting sunlight magnifies the geometrical oddities. Wentworth Falls will stun you with grand valley views of lookouts and waterfalls. If you plan on driving, the park is easily navigable and parking is generally not a problem. The Great Western Highway (A32) crosses the Mountains east to west, and the main attractions can be found along this road. There’s also a hop-on, hop-off bus that loops around the park, if you plan on visiting by way of public transit.

Hal 1945

7. Royal National Park's Coastal Walk - From Sydney

Starting Point: Bundeena (map)
Difficulty: Moderate (Bushwalking, can be be very steep at points)
Length: 16.1 miles, Time suggested (2 days)
Distance from City: 1 hr

If you enjoy the challenge of long distance walks, coupled with alternating beach-forested scenery, this hike is not to be missed! It’s a coastal hike in Sydney’s Royal National Park, connecting the seaside cities of Bundeena and Otford. Peppered along the trail are epic coastal lookouts, swimming spots, seasonal wildflowers and whale watching.

Best experienced over 2 days (though you can opt to just do a section of it for 1 day), the northern section of the walk covers around 9 miles from Bundeena to North Era. Allow yourself enough time - to take in the sand-swept beauty of the coastline, as well as scenic stops, such as Little Marley Beach, Wattamolla, Curracurrang Cove near Eagle Rock lookout, and Garie Beach. The North Era campground provides the perfect stopping point (Make reservations well in advance)

The 1-day Option: If you're opting for the 1-day alternative, the southern section of the walk, between North Era and Otford lookout, covers 4.9 miles and takes around 3hrs. You'll pass several heritage shacks at South Era, and travel through coastal rainforest of burning palms and palm jungle.

Extra Tips: Download the interactive Royal National Park map app from Avenza;

Plan your walk during whale watching season, May to October, for a chance to spot migrating humpback whales!

If Sri Lanka isn't on your travel bucket list, it will be once you read about its stunning natural scenery and world-famous hikes.  

Elyse is a creative storyteller and freelance copywriter who is addicted to anything that involves being outside, followed by a good meal and a glass of wine. She writes across a variety of industries, including travel, 'green beauty', health and international development. Elyse currently lives in New York. She believes that travel, no matter how near or far, awakens the consciousness and heightens the urge to be present. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.