I’m a man of extremes. I love urban living, but when I want to get out of the city I want to get way out of the city, skipping over all those suburbs. Ideally my best vacation spot is on a remote trail hiking up a mountain. Too bad that the best of both worlds is hard to find – cities with mountains. Most cities are built on a plain by a river, not mountainsides. Boston has some nice steep hills – and once had a three-peak hill the English called Trimountain (which was later torn down) – but nothing really mountainous. So on this hot summer day in the city I’m going to write a tribute to four cities I’ve visited that have mountains within their environs.
First up is Eugene, which technically doesn’t have a mountain but a butte, but a butte is close enough. I hiked up the trails of Spencer Butte on a visit in 1997 and it was a lovely escape from the city with a lot of typical public park ammenities with some added elevation. Spencer Butte tops out at 2055 feet (626 m) although oddly it felt the least “mountainous” of the four urban mountains I’ve climbed.
Here’s a view in all its black & white beauty:
To be honest I'm not sure if this photo is of Spencer Butte or from Spencer Butte, but you get the gist
The following year I visited Edinburgh, Scotland which I wrote about on the tenth anniversary of the visit. I was awed by Arthur’s Seat which may be the most urban of mountains with the city streets and buildings going right up to its foothills. Arthur’s Seat is only 823.5 ft (251 m) but I’m certain its elevation rises most dramatically around the surrounding territory of any of the mountains in cities I’ve seen.
I'm almost fell to my death trying to make this self-portrait.
Montreal, Quebec is actually named for its mountain Mont Royal. I climbed the mountain with Susan & Camille in May 1999 and a few days later rode my bike to the summit. Mont Royal gets bonus points for being in a park landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted and a spiff cross near the summit. Mont Royal stands at 764 ft (233 m) and is the lowest of the four “mountains.”
Taking in the view of Montreal in my bright yellow bicycling jacket.
Finally there is the city of Salzburg, Austria which Susan & I visited in 2003. Located in the Alps, Salzburg is surrounded by mountains but the closest to center city is Mönchsberg. This mountain is fortified with the ancient Hohensalzburg Fortress looming over the city but also felt the most wild, as if we may wander off into some primeval forest of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Mönchsberg may also be the steepest of the urban mountains I’ve visited including one section of sheer rockface with monk’s cells carved in the side. Mönchsberg is 1,771 feet (540 meters) high.
The monks' cells carved in the side of Mönchsberg.
So have you been to a good urban mountain? Does your city have a mountain of it’s very own? Share your stories below, I need some cool thoughts for these hot days!