I love living in the city, but when fall rolls around, something inside me causes an irresistible draw to the outdoors. As soon as the first leaf turns, I'm ready for mountains, lakes and trails. Fortunately, plenty of my favorite cities (including my home, New York) have trails that are easily accessible for that hiking nut-turned-city slicker.
New England natives have a pretty easy time escaping Beantown on a crisp fall day. The Blue Hills Reservation is just minutes from downtown Boston, and stretches more than 7,000 acres from Quincy to Dedham and Milton to Randolph. Head here for a hike up Great Blue Hill, the highest of the 22 in the chain, where you can see the entire metropolitan area.
For a more intense hike, head over to Middlesex Fells Reservation and try the Skyline Trail. This 7-mile trail makes you feel like you're in the depths of wooded New Hampshire, but is just about five miles north of Boston. If you like to stop frequently to enjoy the gorgeous New England autumnal scenery, this hike could very well take you all day.
New York City
If you thought getting from Brooklyn to Midtown was a hike, you've never set out to the nearby hills and mountains around the Big Apple! Of course, New Yorkers can head to Central Park or even Long Island to escape from the everyday hustle and bustle of the City that Never Sleeps, but if you're looking for an actual hiking experience, head north to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. This gorgeous open space is more than three times the size of Central Park and located on the water, so it's perfect for those looking for both the ocean and woods in their hike. This amazing spot has miles of hiking trails that will lead you past Orchard Beach and the Bartow-Pell Mansion, with plenty of opportunities to delve into the serene nature or history of the area.
Another option is Van Cortlandt Park, which has more than a thousand acres. There are opportunities here for bird watching, biking and hanging out around Van Cortlandt Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the borough, if you get tired of walking.
If you're sick of being blown around by the Windy City, step out into the vast nearby wilderness of the Lake Michigan area. If you're looking for a relaxing day in nature (I think we could all use one!) head over to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, less than an hour's drive from the city. Try the Cowles Bog Loop, a 4.2-mile trail that will bring you along the sandy lake shoreline, forested dunes, and, of course, boggy wetlands.
If you want even more of a trip, try Chain O'Lakes State Park, a 2,793-acre park with a 3,230-acre conservation area connected. While you unfortunately won't have time to cover all these acres, trekking through one of the four trail systems will certainly give you a good glimpse.