12 Places to Take a Walk for Free

Where do you go to get a good walk? Whether you’re power walking for fitness or strolling for some gentle cardio, walking is one of the simplest ways to get a good cardio workout.

But you need a place to do it. It’s not like you can always just go outside your home and take a walk, right?

Sometimes it rains. Or it’s dark at any of the times of day when you could do it. Maybe your neighborhood lacks sidewalks or is otherwise somehow unsafe.

Walking trail through trees in park

So where can you go to get a good walk? Obviously there is the treadmill at the gym. But you can always get a workout without going to the gym.

I’ve been an avid walker all my life, and I haven’t always lived in a neighborhood that was great or safe for walking. There are a lot of other options, especially if you have transportation to get somewhere.

Free Places to Take a Walk

There are a few other places where you can get a good walk for free. And the more you mix up different walking routines, the more benefit you’ll get.

1. Malls

If the local mall near you hasn’t shut down completely, you can take a walk inside it. Most malls have special hours before or after closing, just for walkers.

That way you can power walk and wear what you like without having to deal with the shopping crowds. But if you can’t make it during those hours, consider going during shopping hours anyway.

If you feel self-conscious, put on some casual clothes that let you move but don’t scream “exercise wear” and keep telling yourself, “I have a very important sale to get to” as you go speeding around the mall.

Another reason you may feel self-conscious with mall walking is that it’s popular with older people. But this isn’t a social occasion. You’re getting a walk for your health.

2. Strip Malls

Shopping centers, or strip malls, usually have plenty of sidewalk for outdoor walkers. They can be crowded by both people and cars, but you can often find a center near you that’s nice for walking at least during some hours.

3. State Parks, City and County Parks

If there are any parks near you, and the weather is permitting, these can be great places for walking. Many have dedicated walking trails that include scenic areas.

Be aware that not all parks are safe, especially after dark. Sometimes lone criminals haunt parks. Sometimes it’s a place where local gangs meet. I used to walk in a park in a major city. Gangs met there because it was well patrolled by police, which greatly reduced the chances of violence. I did try to avoid the park when they were there, however.

If you can stick to daylight hours or go with groups of people, that increases your safety. If those aren’t options, then take basic safety precautions: don’t put in earbuds and pay attention to your surroundings.

4. Inside Your Apartment Building

Sometimes your own apartment building and complex hides opportunities for a good walk. Got seven flights of steps in your building? Unless they’re right against someone’s bedroom wall and it’s 3 am, chances are good this is a great place to get some exercise. 

Hallways are another option. Anywhere that’s well-lit, such as a courtyard or a track around tennis courts, can work.

5. School Running Tracks

If you can access the track at a local public school, this can be a great place to walk. This is less common than it was years ago, due to increased security around schools.

6. University Campuses

College campuses sometimes also have tight security. But if you can park close to a local college and then walk onto the grounds, you can walk all over the ground and get a very good work out.

One of my favorite places to walk, ever, was a very hilly local university. 

7. Your Work Neighborhood

If your home isn’t a great neighborhood for walking, what about work? Just a half-hour during your lunch break provides a decent cardio workout.

If you’re concerned about getting sweaty, you don’t have to power walk every time. Even a little stroll gets your blood pumping and gives your body a break from the usual sitting or standing of a workday.

8. Office Parking Lots

Busy parking lots make a terrible and dangerous place to walk. But office parking lots tend to be pretty quiet during the workday.

I’ve seen many people walking or jogging around the edges of the parking lots of offices, and I’ve also done it myself. Just watch out for the odd car here and there.

9. Urban Centers

Busy cities can provide safety in numbers for outdoor walkers, even at night. Areas frequented by tourists often have nice wide sidewalks and lots of spaces to walk.

10. Beaches

If you’re lucky enough to live near a beach, you have a great way to get some exercise! Walking on the beach can be very therapeutic.

Your beach may also have a pier or boardwalks if you prefer not to walk on sand. I used to do this on lunch hours when I was lucky enough to work within 3 minutes’ walking distance of a beach.

11. Nature Reserves

These often have walking paths and offer a chance to see some wildlife and beautiful scenery. You may find great nature trails near you that take you by waterfalls, ponds and other local nature attractions.

12. Botanical Gardens

If you have a botanical garden nearby, these usually aren’t free. However, some of them offer free days, especially for seniors or students. And season passes can be very affordable.

If you’re allergic to plants, remember that anything calling itself a garden will be absolutely pollen infested during certain parts of the year.