There are a lot of different ways to get in shape while out in nature: from the most scenic bike trails across America to the best hiking trails in America, the country offers a whole lot of exercise sites that make for just-as-exciting sightseeing destinations. Included on that list? The best running trails in America, offering a workout in the midst of some of the most scenic parks and beautiful skylines in the country. Who knows? You might be able to sign up for the best half marathons in America after running all of these trails.
Best running trails in America
As one of the largest urban parks in North America, Griffith Park has plenty of trails to hike or run in its 4,301 acres (53-miles worth, to be exact), but for a brisk, challenging jog we recommend this loop. Though the trail is only 3.8-miles, the 809-foot elevation can make even hikers taking it slow break a good sweat as they appreciate the stellar views of the Los Angeles Basin and iconic Griffith Observatory. Southern California’s sunny-all-year-round climate makes this run accessible every season, but be forewarned: on particularly hot days in the summer, snakes (including rattlesnakes) can occasionally be spotted on the dirt path.
It’s worth braving the crowds of the Charles River Esplanade for this run full of both natural and historic beauty. The 17-mile path goes over various bridges in Boston and Cambridge and past the Hatch Shell, where the Boston Pops play every 4th of July, and the Museum of Science. Along the way, appreciate views of Beacon Hill, Back Bay and Fenway. The bridges make it easy to shorten the route to fit an individual’s needs. This run is best in the spring and fall when the temperature is mild—go in the evening for an excellent sunset.
Take a run through history and nature on this 18-mile trail, which was originally built in the 1890s by George Vanderbilt to connect his extravagant Biltmore Estate in Asheville and his hunting lodge up the Mt. Pisgah Ridge at Buck Spring. Today, portions of the trail are used frequently for short day hikes and by runners who do the full single-track, rocky course. The run is particularly popular in the fall, when the crisp air in the Blue Ridge Mountains is exceedingly pleasant even when the exercise is strenuous.
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Jus' Running
Rock Creek Park may forever hold the distinction of being the third national park in the United States, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be dealing with Yellowstone-level tourism. This 2,000-acre park is usually low on out-of-towners, with plenty of Washingtonians calling the many trails a regular part of their workout routine. While the paved Rock Creek Trail is best for beginners, it is also the most likely to face some crowds coming off the National Zoo or families pushing strollers. For a more scenic route, try the more heavily-wooded Valley Trail, which traces its way along the Maryland border and Rock Creek, or the Western Ridge Trail, which also has great views of the water. Beware if you choose Western Ridge Trail, though: expect to bump into equestrians riding horses while here.
Considering how famous this route is, it’s only natural that many runners include a trip around the reservoir on their New York to-do list. This run in Manhattan’s glorious, sprawling 19th-century park was made famous by such movies as Marathon Man and Hannah and Her Sisters and includes a 1.5-mile dirt track around the reservoir. If you’re looking for a longer workout, opt for the six-mile outer loop that goes through the entire park.