For many people, running is a way to escape the stresses of life, an activity to take them far away from their troubles and help them focus on the positive parts of life. A good run can transport your body and soul from stressed and anxious to calm and carefree. Add amazing views and an inspiring environment to your sweat session, and you’re on the road to a transformative total body experience.
These 10 running routes will provide the incredible views, physical challenge and inspiration in myriad forms to lift your mind, body and soul like never before.
MOUNT SANITAS LOOP, BOULDER, COLORADO
Distance: 3.1 miles
This trail run will leave you breathless with its steady rise in altitude and the tremendous views at the top. While the steep trail is not for the faint of heart, the scenery will be well worth the heart-pumping climb. Or slow it down and hike it for a more leisurely trek to take in a view of the city of Boulder below.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE RUN, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
Distance: 6.5 or 11 miles
This route gives you the perfect dose of San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Crissy Field (with a view of Alcatraz Island) all in one route. Venture across the iconic landmark bridge for some pretty spectacular views of the water and city, and then find yourself back on solid ground to take in the buzzy surroundings of the bay.
KELLY DRIVE, PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
Distance: 3.3 miles
If you’ve seen “Rocky,” there’s a decent chance you’ve at least imagined yourself atop the “Rocky Steps” — aka The Philadelphia Museum of Art stairs — with hands raised in triumph, à la the namesake boxer in the popular movie series. This route along the Schuylkill River offers just that opportunity, ending within walking distance of the iconic location and allowing you to celebrate your accomplishments (running or otherwise) with the same physical display of triumph as Rocky in the film. Go ahead, celebrate yourself a little.
WASHINGTON PARK, DENVER, COLORADO
Distance: 2.4 miles
This 2.4-mile shady park route will no doubt uplift your spirit and entire body — after all, you’re running in the Mile High City, putting you at 5,280 feet above sea level. Besides the physical lift your body will feel, the views of the Rocky Mountains, hundreds of lush trees and the Smith and Grasmere lakes will refresh your soul and mind. You’ll reap inspiration from the many runners of all abilities pushing themselves to their best at this popular running spot on the Front Range, and there’s always something going on in the park to keep your attention during those runs where you just need to zone out.
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CENTRAL PARK, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK
Distance: 2.1 miles
Central Park is a hot spot for runners (and walkers and cyclists) of all kinds, so there’s no shortage of things to keep your mind busy while you run. A full loop of the park is a little more than 6 miles, but this route offers a nice, short (but challenging) jaunt during lunch or anytime you’re short on free time. You’ll begin at 97th Street and head south, passing the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, finishing at the south end of the park. Turn around for a 4.2-mile out-and-back or continue on the full route to get in some additional miles (and people-watching time).
BLACK MESA, KENTON, OKLAHOMA
Distance: 11.04 miles
The state of Oklahoma isn’t necessarily known for mountainous terrain, but if you’re looking for some hillwork, Black Mesa is the place to go. This trail will take you to the highest point in Oklahoma (4,973 feet) — and offers some killer views to boot. After a technical climb to the top of the mesa, you’ll be treated to spectacular panoramic views of Oklahoma (and New Mexico, too!) and may even see a desert creature or two.
TIMBER LAKES, HEBER, UTAH
Distance: 5.1 miles
This high-elevation run in the mountains of Utah is no stroll in the park. You’ll start at 7,300 feet and rise to more than 7,600 feet over about 2 1/2 miles of paved and dirt roads. Pause for a moment at the top to take in the scenery — and maybe a moose or two — before descending back to the starting point to catch your breath. The hills will challenge you, but the experience will inspire you.
BLACKWATER FALLS STATE PARK, DAVIS, WEST VIRGINIA
Distance: 5 miles
With more than 20 miles of trail in this state park, there are plenty of opportunities to go longer or shorter with this option. Views include endless spruce trees, rocky overhangs and, of course, the namesake 57-foot waterfall named for the color of the water, naturally tinted by hemlock and red spruce needles.
PAIGNTON COAST, DEVON, ENGLAND
Distance: 4.3 miles
You’ll want to get up early to see the sunrise on this route in between two beach fronts (Preston and Paignton Beach) on the coast of Tor Bay in Devon, England. Luckily, the route is mainly flat, but your breath will be taken away with sights of daybreak over the water. If there’s a better way to start your day, we’re not aware of it!
SOUTH MOUNTAIN PARK, PHOENIX, ARIZONA
Distance: 7.9 miles
This hilly, challenging desert road will test your tenacity (and maybe your sanity if you choose a summer day for this run). The route winds through South Mountain Park, where you might see another runner or two training on the hilly asphalt roads that are closed to traffic. You’ll end your run at a lookout where you can view downtown Phoenix which looks “like a bunch of wayward ships in an endless sea,” according to one regular runner.