One of the best parts of running is getting outside and experiencing the great outdoors. Instead of pounding away on a treadmill or sticking to the same old city-loop, try one of these 10 iconic trails that are destinations in themselves — and offer an excellent way to spice up your training routine, whether you run or walk.
Photo Credit: Matt Kemp
Beginning on Ke’e Beach, you’ll follow an 11-mile trail along the Na Pali Coast all the way to Kalalau Beach. Don’t be fooled, this trail is just as tough as it is scenic. You’ll head through five different valleys across some of the island’s most rugged coastline. The reward for your efforts is beautiful sea cliffs and lush valleys that are worthy of a few rest breaks for picture taking.
Photo Credit: JR P
Georgia to Maine
If you live along the East Coast, chances are the Appalachian Trail isn’t too far away. The 2,189-mile trail heads through 14 different states and is easily accessible from Knoxville, Tennessee; Roanoke, Virginia; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, among others. While we wouldn’t advise it, the record for completing the entire trail (which features a whopping 515,000 feet of elevation change) was broken in 2015 when ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek completed the route from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine, in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes.
Photo Credit: Mark Montri
SAG VALLEY TRAIL SYSTEM
Palos Park, Illinois
The up-and-down singletrack in Palos is uniquely secluded in forests and deep ravines that are just a short drive from many of Chicago’s suburbs. While there are several different loops to choose from among the 20 miles of unpaved trail, Maple Loop (12 miles) and Swallow Cliff Stairs (8.1 miles) through Cap Sauers Preserve are local favorites among runners.
Photo Credit: Jordan
MCKENZIE RIVER TRAIL
From steep climbs to log bridges and hot springs, this 27-mile trail in the Cascade Mountains has just about everything you could ask for. The path along the river is stunning and mostly downhill, so save some energy for the way back. This location is also a popular mountain biking spot and hosts the McKenzie River Trail Run 50K every September, which is Oregon’s oldest ultra-race.
Photo Credit: iamtimmo
There’s a reason many of the world’s top ultra-marathoners call Boulder home. While there are hundreds of miles of off-road trails to choose from, one of the most popular is the 7-mile Mesa Trail, which can be accessed from either the Chautauqua Park trailhead or at Eldorado Canyon from the south end. The trail features just over 3,000 feet of elevation change as you head through pine forests with plenty of boulders and streams to navigate.
Photo Credit: Turi Becker
TAHOE RIM TRAIL
Tahoe, Nevada and California
Circling Lake Tahoe, this 165-mile trail traverses three national forests and crosses into California. Though you’ll get stunning views of the crystal blue lake and alpine trees no matter where you enter the trail, of the nine different segments, the 12.2-mile Spooner Summit to Kingsbury Grade is one of the more popular routes for runners.
Photo Credit: vulgarartemis
THE LONG TRAIL
This 272-mile footpath follows the Green Mountains from the Vermont-Massachusetts state line all the way to Canada. During the trek, you’ll cross some of Vermont’s highest peaks, where the varied terrain you’ll encounter will included rugged peaks, clear ponds and plenty of lush forest. It’s also America’s oldest hiking trail and was first constructed in 1910.
Photo Credit: Alex Ford
ART LOEB TRAIL
Asheville, North Carolina
One of the most difficult trails in the Carolinas, the Art Loeb Trail is also one of most beautiful. Instead of traversing through valleys, the 30-mile route takes you along the ridges for plenty of stunning views below. The trail is broken up into four different sections that make it easy to tackle shorter out-and-back runs. Popular options include the Black Balsam Knob and Silvermine Bald.
Photo Credit: Stacey Kizer
The largest wooded city park in the U.S., Forest Park covers 5,000 acres and features a network of 70 miles of trails. The most popular of these is the Wildwood Trail, which zig zags 30 miles through the forest with occasional views of the Willamette River. You’ll see plenty of wildlife, too. Take advantage of the dozens of access points offered and enjoy the diverse terrain that is almost never flat.
Photo Credit: Eric
BEAR MOUNTAIN STATE PARK TRAIL
Tomkins Cove, New York
This network of trails has something for everyone. From beginners to expert hikers, there are plenty of sections of smooth, wide trails and rough singletrack to choose from in this 5,000-plus acre forested state park. It’s just 40 miles from downtown Manhattan and features several different short loops perfect for runners. If you’re looking for a longer route, start at the Appalachian Trail and head to Timp Torne then onto the Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail, which will eventually put you on the Cornell Mine Trail for a 16-mile trek.