Every runner knows the best spots to log miles: Runyon Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, Central Park in NYC, and along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Chicago, to name a few. But times change, and so do the running hot spots.
Runners are flocking to new places around the country, and cities continue to up their game by building new parks and trails. The following 10 not-so-well-known running destinations will help you freshen up your runs.
Big Bear Lake, California
Nestled at the base of Big Bear Mountain—one of the go-to ski resorts outside L.A.—is Big Bear Lake, which is home to a maze of 10 running trails. Short trails that follow the shoreline of the lake are perfect for beginners or for runners looking to train on flat ground. Advanced runners can branch off onto trails that carve through the forest and/or climb the mountain. But no matter which trail you choose, the scenery will keep your mind occupied. For those up for a challenge, Big Bear hosts the Kodiak 100, a 50- or 100-mile ultramarathon.
Columbus might be best known for the Ohio State Buckeyes, but its running community is on the rise. Trails such as the Scioto mile and the Olentangy Greenway Trail follow Columbus’s two major rivers, and the city is surrounded by a Metro Parks system with miles of trails. Many neighborhoods built in the last 10 years were planned from the start to include trails. And for the mud heads out there, a brand new permanent obstacle course recently opened at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park.
Elite runners flock to Boulder because of the training benefits—the mountainous landscape and altitude are the perfect combination for runners to prepare for a race. One of the most popular running trails is Magnolia Road, a 10-mile stretch of hilly road where you’ll find world-class athletes training. But Boulder isn’t just for hardcore runners—anyone can enjoy the hundreds of miles of trails set on the edge of the Rockies.
Running near water is always better—that is, unless it’s raining. That’s why Austin’s Lady Bird Lake and Lake Austin trails are hot spots for the running community. You can also take advantage of Austin’s natural setting on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, a 7.2–mile trail through what is considered an “urban oasis.”
Washington, D.C. is home to over 800 miles of trails, the most obvious of which is the National Mall. Two and a half miles of groomed and nearly flat paths are ideal for running while soaking up the capitol ambiance. Plus, who doesn’t like running by our beautiful national monuments? D.C. also has a virtually endless number of paths in and around federal buildings and embassies, or you can follow the course of the annual Cherry Blossom 10-miler. For a less-crowded run, head to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail, which follows the Potomac River into Maryland.
Tucson’s recently completed Rillito River Path is a fully serviced 10-mile trail that includes water fountains, restrooms and even exercise stations. Just outside the city, you have access to trails in Catalina State Park or ones that follow the Sabino Canyon—two picturesque settings in which to log miles.
The Windy City’s winding lakefront trail along the North Shore provides spectacular views during the summer and character-building blasts of cold wind in the winter. Run to the Shedd Aquarium on a warm day and look back at the city skyline; the view is breathtaking. The Chicago Marathon is one of the five World Marathon Majors, and ranks among the flattest and fastest courses in the U.S.
The Big Dig is finally finished, and a beautiful 1.5-mile greenway now winds through where a hideous highway once stood. The park runs through the heart of Boston’s financial district, flanked by the city on one side and Boston Harbor on the other. Runners can also head over to the Boston Esplanade for a run along the Charles River, or cross over into Cambridge and link up with the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, a 10-mile paved trail into the suburbs that follows a path similar to the route Paul Revere took to alert his fellow colonists of the British invasion. And of course, you can run on sections of the Boston Marathon course.
Consistently nominated one of the fittest cities in the country, Minneapolis is a runner’s hot spot—even if it’s freezing part of the year. The city boasts miles of paved trails that follow the Mississippi River and pedestrian bridges over major roads. You can also take a run around the lakes found within the city limits, or hit the Midtown Greenway Trail, a 5.5 mile paved route that formerly hosted railroad tracks.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Another southwestern running destination, Santa Fe is an ideal spot because of its dry climate and high altitude. The popular Dale Ball Trails feature 22 miles of desert trails carving through the foothills of the picturesque Sangre de Cristo Mountains.