5 Surprising Places to Live in the U.S. If You Love Hiking

published Feb 25, 2019
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For some people, a big backyard is a priority—as in a backyard that boasts hundreds of miles of trails perfect for weekends spent hiking and exploring.

You know of the biggies like the Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon and The Narrows in Zion National Park. But there are several, lesser-known destinations throughout the United States where hiking is spectacular, thanks in part to preservation efforts, volunteers who groom the trails, and good ole’ Mother Nature.

These five destinations in the United States are unexpected hiking gems:

Ouray, Colorado

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Median home price: $364,600

Nicknamed the “Switzerland of America,” Ouray is a quaint old mining town that’s tucked in a narrow valley in Southwest Colorado, points out Brittany Panter, the co-publisher of West of 105, a travel and lifestyle magazine focusing on Colorado destinations west of Denver.

“Sitting pretty at nearly 8,000 feet and right in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, Ouray offers plenty of hiking trails that start right in town,” Panter says.

Plus, if you live in Ouray, a prime amenity is the 750,000-gallon mineral hot springs pool that’s perfect for après-hike soaking, she points out.

Hike you’ll like

Panter loves the 6.5-mile Perimeter Trail, which wraps around Ouray, starting and ending at the visitors’ center.

“The views of the town below and the surrounding mountains are nothing short of spectacular,” Panter says.

Bellingham, Washington

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Median home price: $424,400

Bellingham is a base camp for outdoor activities. Here, you get a choose-your-own-adventure each weekend: Hike trails that braid the Chuckanut Mountains and show off views of Puget Sound or walk on flatter grounds that trace Padilla Bay, where birdwatching is great.

Other options include staying in the city, which boasts an extensive trail system in its parks and greenways. Or, venture out for hikes in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades National Park. Plus, the Washington Trails Association is a local hero, lobbying for trail and wilderness funding and dispatching volunteers for trail-maintenance projects year-round.

Hike you’ll like

To earn your unofficial Bellingham resident badge, the five-mile round-trip Oyster Dome hike is a must-do. The 1,050-foot elevation gain will reward you with panoramic views of Puget Sound. Plus, there are big boulders to play on!

Scottsdale, Arizona

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Median home price: $477,500

You may already associate Scottsdale with lots of great things like Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and baseball spring training. But, this cactus-studded city also loves hiking.

With more than 30,000 acres of protected Sonoran Desert land, Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve is the largest urban preserve in the country. Within the preserve are 195 miles of well-maintained trails to explore. (You’ll need to get up super-early, but seeing the sunrise over the desert in the summer is so worthwhile).

Plus, the desert landscape is fascinating. For example, the saguaro cacti grow one foot every decade and are pollinated by bats—a fun fact courtesy of Denny Brua, a guide with Active Outdoor Adventures.

Hike you’ll like

You’ll need some warming up before you attempt to tackle Camelback Mountain. Start out easy with the five-mile Lost Dog Wash hike that has a slight elevation gain and will give you a glimpse of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.

Brevard, North Carolina

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Hike you’ll like

Rainbows and waterfalls make for a magical combination. The three-mile Rainbow Falls hike is a fun one because the Horsepasture River comes crashing down a 125-foot drop, creating a mist that gives a rainbow sparkle when the sunlight hits it.

The Greater Twin Cities-Area, Minnesota

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Median home price: $268,100

Sure, Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But, with more than 1,000 miles of trails weaving throughout the state and night-time hikes that reward you with a glimpse of the Northern Lights, Minnesota is also a great state for hikers.

One of the crown jewels outside of the Twin Cities is the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) is a 310-mile trail that runs along the shore line of Great Lake Superior. Also, the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) that runs through Minnesota stretches all the way from North Dakota to New York.

Hike you’ll like

Explore the trails in Minneapolis-St.Paul’s Hidden Falls Regional Park, which gets its namesake from a small, spring-fed waterfall.

If you’re thinking about moving, we’ve got two words for you: Happy Trails!