Americans have gotten accustomed to navigating through urban areas by car, and the interstates and arterials running around and through our cities may give potential walkers pause.
But there are discoveries to be made on foot — call it urban hiking, urban walking or just going for a stroll. Paths and trails that have been created over the years, and are still being created, are being discovered as portals to urban epiphanies.
Some urban walks can seem almost pastoral. On the trails overlooking downtown Portland, Ore., it’s easy to forget that you are in city limits. You walk through stands of Douglas fir trees and hardwoods dripping with rainforest moss.
With its miles and miles of trails curling through forests on the West Hills and other areas, verdant Portland is an urban hiker’s paradise.
“When we talk to people in the community, the No. 1 thing they want is opportunities to walk — paths and trails,” said Mike Abbate, director of Portland Parks and Recreation.
One of the latest Portland efforts is something called the 4T trail, a tour that incorporates light-rail trains, trolleys, forest trails and even a sky tram that gives spectacular views of downtown and the surrounding countryside.
In some cities, including Seattle. once-forgotten public stairways are becoming an integral part of an urban walk. Many were built decades ago, sometimes connecting hilly neighborhoods with trolley lines or with other neighborhoods.
Seattle residents Jake and Cathy Jaramillo wrote a book, “Seattle Stairway Walks,” about the estimated 650 public stairways in this hilly city. The walks range from strolls around obscure public gardens to spectacular views of Seattle, Lake Washington and distant mountains.
Walkers also are rewarded with fresh perspectives on the city’s history and architecture.
“You meet people along the way. They tell you stories and what they know. There is a social element as you get immersed in the neighborhoods,” Jake Jaramillo said.
You can also download maps of Seattle walks at www.feetfirst.org.