Do you ever get sick of that morning run through your suburban neighborhood or that congested evening jog through your rush hour cramped city block? Next time you get a few days off of that nine-to-five grind, you might want to consider ditching those drunken spring break plans and take a trip somewhere where you can beat feet and ease the mind. America is filled with innumerable beautiful running trails, offering any geography you could imagine, from ocean vistas to secluded mountain passes. We sifted through the vast natural beauty of our great nation to find the 10 Most Scenic Running Trails in the US.
No. 10 - Trail of Tears National Historic Trail
Miles: 2,200 mi.
Location: Southern US
Though this historic trail was established to pay tribute to Native Americans forced from their homes, one can still appreciate its immense beauty. More topographically diverse than many trails, running the Trail of Tears from end to end would bring you through rolling mountains, lush forests, and upland plains. The trail spans six states: Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, so you have ample options for where to jump on.
No. 9 - Central Park
Miles: 2.5 mi.
While much of the focus on this list is given to trails nestled in natural hideaways, there are a number of great trails built into urban areas thanks to slick city planning. While the beauty of mountain and valley trails comes from their unaltered natural beauty, there is something to be said for the well-manicured and curated urban trails. Central Park is one of the largest and most meticulously constructed of them all. This is also probably the only park on the list where you can catch Shakespeare, opera and street performance. Just be prepared to dodge tourists, especially on weekends.
No. 8 - McKenzie River Trail
Miles: 25 mi.
This trail has about as much diverse beauty as Middle Earth. Running the trail involves crossing log bridges, negotiating former lava fields, running under fallen trees and taking in the beauty of hot springs and blue pools. This is all the more amazing when you consider that the serpentine trail is only twenty-five miles long. That doesn’t stop stalwart runners from holding a 50K race every September, in which participants run from the ranger’s station to the end of the trail and back. Mountain bikers are also all about the Mckenzie, as it has been dubbed the number one trail for mountain biking.
No. 7 - Appalachian Trail
Miles: 2,185 mi.
At over two thousand miles, this trail might be a little long for even the most stalwart runner to tackle, but any number of stretches on the trail, from Maine to Georgia, are worth exploring. From the river fords of Maine to the rolling hills of Virginia, there are innumerable beautiful landscapes in this mountain chain. For you aspiring ultra-runners out there, some athletes have conquered the whole thing in as little as forty-seven days. If you aren’t worn out after two thousand miles, Candian extensions of another several thousand miles have been added if you are feeling international.
No. 6 - Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Miles: 87 mi.
Bring Along: A Jacket
Home to old growth northern hardwood spanning more than 31,000 acres, the Porcupine Mountains fade into a breathtaking patchwork of fall colors in autumn. The Park is great for hikers and runners alike, providing numerous backcountry trails with ample cabins and campsites. Perhaps the greatest draw of the park is the Lake of Clouds, a mammoth lake known for the haze that often spreads itself across the water.
No. 5 - The Flume Trail / The Tahoe Rim Trail, Lake Tahoe
Miles: 165 mi.
Mark Twain once referred to Lake Tahoe as “The Jewel of the Sierra” and it is easy to see why. The Lake, which straddles California and Nevada, has non-stop breathtaking scenery. The Flume Trail follows a logging waterway constructed in the 1800s, while the Rim Trail circles the lake basin. While the trail is not the easiest to get to, runners report it is well worth the effort. The crushed granite of the trail makes it feel like “running on an old cinder track”.
No. 4 - Colorado Trail
Miles: 500 mi.
Prior to the referendum in early November, this was how the citizens of Colorado legally got high. Two segments of this trail pass below Colorado’s two highest peaks, Mt. Elbert and the aptly named Mt. Massive. If sheer altitude isn’t your speed, luckily there are still twenty-six other trail segments, offering a variety of sights, from old mining towns and dilapidated railroad tunnels to lush fields of wildflowers. In its five hundred mile span, this trail manages to cover seven national forests. So yeah, it is a pleasant run.
No. 3 - Poison Spider Mesa
Miles: 13 mi. (Portal Trail)
Location: Moab, Utah
Best Season: Spring / Fall
Bring Along: Your Jeep
While you might have to contend with mountain bikers, off-roading jeeps and intense heat, Moab is worth the hassle. Runners love the freedom of the Poison Spider Mesa, where you can drop your map, pick any trail and get your jog on. For the film buffs out there, you might recognize the rugged terrain as the backdrop of your favorite old Western. For the less cinematically sophisticated, you might remember the Moab from a portion of Austin Powers: Goldmember or Joe Dirt.
No. 2 - Kalalau Trail
Miles: 11 mi.
Location: Kauai, HI
Best Season: Year Round (Crowded in Spring / Summer)
Bring Along: Required Permit
You’ll be just as shocked to hear that Hawaii has one of the most beautiful running trails in the country as you were when you heard your high school’s homecoming queen now works at Wal-Mart. That being said, those who have experienced the Kalalau Trail in person say that postcards and photos don’t do justice to this paradise. The run won’t be a cakewalk, however, as the cliffs, waterfalls and sandy beaches don’t make for the easiest running. Though most of you will appreciate the varied wildlife, from wild goats to sea turtles, those of you who are afraid of heights might just want to keep your eyes on the trail, as the sheer cliffs might be heard the bear.
No. 1 - The Grand Canyon
Miles: 42 mi.
Best Season: Fall
Bring Along: Water
Those adventurous enough to have run the Grand Canyon rim to rim report nothing short of a transformative experience. Though the round trip is only a little over forty miles, it is as grueling as it is breathtaking. The elevation changes rapidly, so those of you with medical conditions, be careful. As the canyon is in the desert, you might also want to hydrate a bit. For those hitting up the other trails that the canyon has to offer, we have been told to remember that the mules have the right of way. You have been warned.