Find Nature In The City With These 10 Tips

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City living has its perks, but with the hustle and bustle it is hard to feel in tune with nature. I moved to Minneapolis from a small town in Iowa where I was used to heading out the door and being in open country. Now, thanks to new friends and a lot of exploring, I’ve been able to find “wilderness” inside the city-limits. Here are a few tricks.

#1 – Find Hidden Trails—Minneapolis has a great trail system that connects much of the city to the surrounding suburbs. But because it’s so great, it’s also really popular. Get away from the people and go find new, hidden routes. Some of my favorite trails in the city are just off the beaten path. I love the sound barrier that the trees provide as I ride and run just a few yards away from a busy path.

Many of the other major cities I’ve visited have these vague trails in the woods, that are just asking to be explored. Take the time to seek them out.

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The author biking on a hidden trail in in the heart of the city; photo by Patrick Murphy

#2 – Ride Your Bike To Work—One of the easiest ways to get outdoors everyday, and in touch with the weather and rhythms of seasons is to commute by bike. Many large cities like Minneapolis and Portland have bike infrastructure that makes it easy to navigate the city via bike. I love the time I get to spend riding outdoors before and after work everyday.

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#3 – Run Off The Pavement—Many of the cities that I’ve run in like Minneapolis and Denver have great trails in and around the urban jungle. I hit the trails when I’m looking for some peace and quiet. I’d trade in the sound of my feet hitting the pavement for the sound of running on dirt any day.

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Hit the trails to get in a quite run and a taste of nature; photo by: Paul Vincent

#4 – Drink Coffee Outside—One of my favorite parts about camping is waking up and drinking coffee in the early hours of the morning. To recreate the feeling, some friends and I like to meet up before work and drink coffee outside. It’s a great way to start the day in the middle of the workweek.

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Coffee outside is a great way to start the day; photo by Lucas Winzenburg/Bunyan Velo

#5 – Use Public Transportation— If you don’t have a car, or want to beat traffic, you can take public transportation to the outskirts of town. Plus, something about public transport lends itself to random adventures and unexpected long walks outside.

I love taking the light rail in Minneapolis to the end of the line near the Mississippi River. From there, I can hop on a bike, or toss on some trail running shoes and go for miles without hearing so much as the honk of a car horn.

In Denver, you can hop on the RTD to Golden, where there are miles of trails within an easy jog or ride from the end of the rail.

Portland’s Max Line offers transportation to thousands of acres of parks and natural resources around the city.

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On the light rail, heading towards the river; photo by Lucas Winzenburg/Bunyan Velo

#6 – Bring The Gear— To get the most out of the day, I hardly ever leave home without a backpack filled with gear. No matter the season, I always make sure to have bike lights, a lock, my water bottle and light rain jacket. In the summer time, I always bring a swimsuit and bug spray, too. With the right gear in my pack, I’m always prepared for a spontaneous adventure.

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Spring rains make for excellent swimming conditions on Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Creek

#7 – Plant Something—Gardening and urban living aren’t as mutually exclusive as you might think. Urban gardens, which are popping up all over cities from New York to Seattle are the perfect place to get in touch with nature and grow something delicious, too.

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A backyard garden brings a little nature (and nutrition) into a daily routine

#8 – Go Geocaching—A great way to get outdoors and explore new parts of the city is geocaching. This is real-world, outdoor treasure hunt gives participants a specific set of GPS coordinates that must be used to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. There are millions of caches hidden all around the world.



#9 – Embrace The Winter—No matter the weather, I try to get outside everyday. Winters can be a challenging time to get outdoors, especially in Minnesota when the temperatures often drop below zero for months at time. Since moving here, I’ve grown to embrace the cold. I love that once everything is snow-covered and frozen, the city becomes a playground for fat biking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and igloo building.

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Some of the best adventures happen in the winter; photo (right) by Lucas Winzenburg/Bunyan Velo

#10 – Don’t Spend All Day Planning—Finding nature in the city doesn’t have to be a chore. Some of the best adventures I’ve had in Minneapolis have happened spur-of-the-moment. You don’t have to spend the day planning just to get outside. Grab a bike, or a pair of shoes, find some dirt and get rad.

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Get rad!; photo by Lucas Winzenburg/Bunyan Velo