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5 Best Cities for Urban Hiking

The best way to explore the City of Brotherly Love is up close and personal.
The best way to explore the City of Brotherly Love is up close and personal.
David Zanziger/Getty Images

Urban hiking is as natural as soaking up history in Philadelphia. In many cities, most people get around by car or public transportation. In Philadelphia, many residents have known for years what the travel books and Web sites tell tourists: The best way to experience Philadelphia is to walk.

Many of the top tourist attractions are in the Old City downtown area, close enough together to make a great hike. If you haven't toured such attractions as the Liberty Bell Center, Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, various museums and the places where Benjamin Franklin lived and worked, be warned: Do in-depth sightseeing sometime other than when you really want to hike. You could easily spend a couple of hours at several of these destinations. Hiking is a different activity, but it can be a wonderful experience to trek past so much history. The streets form a grid, making it easy to find your way, and the city helps out with lots of pedestrian-friendly signs.

The refurbished Society Hill neighborhood, near the Delaware River, offers the opportunity to hike past historic homes where people still live. If you want more modern scenery, you can hike Rittenhouse Square Park and the several blocks of upscale restaurants and stores that surround it.

Rittenhouse Square is only one of 63 parks that make up the Fairmount Park system -- the 9,200 acres (3723.11 hectares) of city parks that help make Philadelphia one of the best urban hiking cities anywhere. There are at least 215 miles (346 kilometers) of trails in Fairmount Park, with park areas accessible to every part of the city. The trails cover the gamut from sidewalks to dirt paths through woods or along streams. The Wissahickon Gorge, with 57 miles (91.7 kilometers) of trails looping amid forests and wildlife, is a great escape from the city – within the city. Those who use the trails are required to get a yearly permit, which is free to city residents.