Grab your hiking boots and go trekking — in the city?

A Scout hike likely conjures up images of journeying by a pristine lake, hiking staff in hand, surrounded by tall trees with a view of snowcapped mountains in the distance.

Or for one Ohio Scout, it could mean touring the streets of downtown Manhattan.

Our eagle-eyed mailburro Pedro spotted this great reminder in a letter from Brendan Hobe, a Boy Scout who wrote him to compliment a backpacking article in our September edition of Boys’ Life. Brendan also pointed out that hikes can be done in the city, and that doing so has its advantages.

He fulfilled his 10-mile hikes requirement for the Hiking merit badge in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and completed his 20-mile hike in Manhattan, New York.

“You don’t really need a backpack for anything unless you don’t want to spend $5 for a small bottle of water, but even then, you could carry a water bottle,” Brendan says.

We’d recommend carrying water with you, but we understand Brendan’s sentiment that you can afford to pack a little lighter in the city because of the nearby resources. The Hiking merit badge pamphlet devotes a page to urban hiking and says to prepare for such a hike as you would for a hike in the wilderness. Take along food, water and rain gear, also carry a cell phone and money for a bus or taxi if you need to get home in a hurry.

Teach Scouts that the principles of Leave No Trace still apply to urban hiking. And always remember to use the buddy system.


The Hiking merit badge, which is a required Eagle Scout rank option, was introduced in 1921. Hiking has been part of rank advancement since 1911. Below are the most recent requirements:

Hiking merit badge

4. Take the five following hikes, each on a different day, and each of continuous miles. These hikes MUST be taken in the following order:

  • One 5-mile hike
  • Three 10-mile hikes
  • One 15-mile hike

You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, during each hike, but not for an extended period (example: overnight). Prepare a written hike plan before each hike and share it with your Scoutmaster or a designee. Include map routes, a clothing and equipment list, and a list of items for a trail lunch.*

*The required hikes for this badge may be used in fulfilling hiking requirements for rank advancement. However, these hikes cannot be used to fulfill requirements of other merit badges. 

5. Take a hike of 20 continuous miles in one day following a hike plan you have prepared. You may stop for as many short rest periods as needed, as well as one meal, but not for an extended period (example: overnight).


5c. Explain the rules of safe hiking, both on the highway and cross-country, during the day and at night.

Second class

3b. Using a compass and map together, take a 5-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.

3c. Describe some hazards or injuries that you might encounter on your hike and what you can do to help prevent them.

About Michael Freeman 442 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.