12 Best Running Trails in America, According to People Who Run for a Living

From miles of mystic forest to a gnarly peak-to-peak ridgeline, these are the best running trails and routes around the United States, according to professional athletes and high-ranking executives at some of your favorite running gear brands.

Time to lace up.

Deschutes River Trail

  • Where: Bend, Oregon
  • Length: 13.5 miles
  • Who: Jesse Thomas, runner
  • Start: Lava Island Trailhead

Roka athlete Jesse Thomas (husband to running legend Lauren Fleshman) says his favorite run is a 13.5-mile out-and-back in Oregon that goes from Bend from the Big Eddy trailhead to the Benham Falls trailhead. “You’re next to the beautiful Deschutes river the entire time. The trail winds from mostly pine trees and hard-packed dirt through a couple of deciduous sections, around groves, meadows, and past a few class-four rapids. The turnaround is Benham Falls, an impressive high-intensity waterfall. It’s rolling gradual up on the way out and opposite coming back down. The trail is windy enough that you’re not going to do real speed work but open enough that you can get going without too much worry of breaking an ankle,” Thomas explains.

Doudy Draw Trailhead to Eldorado Canyon State Park

  • Where: Boulder, Colorado
  • Length: 6.7 miles
  • Who: Dan Feeney, biomechanics research engineer for Boa Technology
  • Start: Doudy Draw Trailhead

Dan Feeney loves this 6.7-mile loop for its diverse views and terrain coupled with its proximity to Boulder. “It starts out with a gradual grade in a meadow on a double-track, crushed-rock trail. After reaching the top of a mesa, you run single track through a beautiful pine forest. From here, you run along a wide dirt trail or cross a bridge for some more single track before entering Fowler trail, which is a great, rocky single-track area that leads you into Eldorado Canyon. Catch sweeping views of the famous rock walls in Eldorado while the dirt changes to mostly crushed sandstone mixed with gravel.. On warm days, climbers abound [by] the walls. Once you finish the single track, you run down the dirt road through Eldorado Canyon State Park next to a creek that is usually rushing in the summer,” says Feeney

Skyline Traverse

  • Where: Boulder, Colorado
  • Length: 17 miles
  • Who: Rea Kolbl, runner
  • Start: South Mesa Trailhead

Ascent Protein athlete Rea Kolbl gets high on the Skyline Traverse. With 6,000 feet of gain, the gnarly 17-mile dirt track is pure fun with a few steep and technical sections. “Skyline Traverse is my favorite long run in Boulder, and it could just as well be called The Grand Tour. There are five peaks lining the sky above Boulder: South Boulder Peak, Bear Peak, Green Mountain, Flagstaff, and Mount Sanitas. This run hits them all, connecting them via a ridgeline with breathtaking views for almost the entirety of the run.”

Barn Bluff Trail

  • Where: Red Wing, Minnesota
  • Length: 3.5-6 miles
  • Who: Brian Hall, director of product development for Vasque Footwear
  • Start: Barn Bluff Trail Head

Brian Hall says his lunchtime loop is absolutely epic. “Barn Bluff is a flat top butte that rises several hundred feet out of the Mississippi River. A rocky trail winds its way around the bluff and traverses the top as well, for plenty of variation from rolling, high prairie, to technical trail cutting into the side of a very steep, wooded slope, demanding your full attention. You most likely will see bald eagles, red fox, and great views of the Mississippi River Valley. The trail also traverses under the sport climbing area on the south end of the bluff. Easy to get 3.5 to 6 miles in over lunch of steep, technical trail running with great views.”

Double Dipsea

  • Where: Marin County, California
  • Length: 15 miles
  • Who: Dylan Bowman, runner
  • Start: Dipsea Trailhead, Stinson Beach

Red Bull ultrarunner Dylan Bowman names the classic Double Dipsea in Northern California as his favorite route. “The trail connects Mill Valley and Stinson Beach,  two of the most charming towns in Marin County. Doing this run in out-and-back fashion makes it a relentlessly hilly 15-mile outing with about 4,500 feet of climbing and descending. The difficulty of the run is made worthwhile by the incredible Pacific Ocean views and redwood tree-lined single track.” Keep in mind, you can do a “Single Dipsea” one-way trip and cut the distance to 7.5 miles. Bowman adds, “I’d recommend going in the Mill Valley to Stinson Beach direction in order to finish with an ocean swim!”

Coastal Trail

  • Where: Marin County, California
  • Length: 1-60 miles
  • Who: Julia Stamps Mallon, partnerships director for The Outbound Pursuit Series
  • Start: Muir Beach Trailhead for a longer hike (there are several trailheads along the Coastal Trail)

Julia Stamps Mallon varies her mileage but most prefers to log miles at the meditative Coastal Trail in Marin. “The rugged coastal trail has sharp edges and strong currents from the ocean. The smell of the sea and the dirt trail winds up, down, and around the coast. By far one of the best trials to do the simple thing of running and reflecting.”

Charles River Bike Path

  • Where: Boston, Massachusetts
  • Length: 1-80 miles
  • Who: The Tracksmith team
  • Start: Boston Museum of Science; look for Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path

The entire team at running brand Tracksmith agrees the Charles River Bike Path is a must-run route. The Charles River itself winds along for 80 miles, but the running paths only connect to form a round trip of about 20 to 25 miles. The Charles River begins in Hopkinton and ends in Boston, so find any stretch between one and the full 80 miles. “The Charles is the recreational heart of the city. From sunrise to sunset, athletes of all persuasions — runners and rowers, cyclists and sailors, novices and Olympians — flock to its shores to train. With more than 20 miles of mostly flat paths stretching from beyond the Watertown Dam to the Boston Harbor, the river offers a welcome respite from the rolling hills of the Marathon course and provides ample mileage from everything from long runs to speed work on soft surfaces. As the main artery for the city’s vibrant running community, it’s one of the few places in the world where amateurs routinely share a training ground with gold medalists.”

Trav’s Trail at Maudsley State Park

  • Where: Newburyport, Massachusetts
  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Who: Brian Moore, COO of Tracksmith

Brian Moore provides some serious inspiration with his favorite route, Trav’s Trail. “It’s named for Travis Landreth, a local runner who was decent in high school but then became a top US XC and distance runner at UConn and performed post-collegiate competition for the Farm Team in Palo Alto. Sadly, he passed away while running at the age of 24. The course goes through Maudsley, a beautiful state park, and is roughly 5k (3.1 miles), although you can easily get 10 miles in without hitting the same trail twice. Every athlete who runs cross country there is told about Trav — how his success was attributed entirely to his work ethic. And the trail itself is awesome.”

Tiger Mountain State Forest

  • Where: Seattle, Washington
  • Length: 0.8-12.8 miles
  • Who: Kevin Rutherford, CEO of Nuun Hydration

Nuun Hydration’s CEO (Chief Eternal Optimist) laces up for a number of routes at his favorite running spot. “Tiger Mountain is a steady switchback climb with a great look back at the city when you reach the top. The Pacific Northwest rainforests make the air so pure and clean, while the energy that you feel from the magnificent tall trees is invigorating.”

Mill D. North Trail

  • Where: Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Length:  7.7 miles
  • Who: Chase Hartman, Backcountry
  • Start: North Fork Trailhead

Chase Hartman swears the out-and-back Mill D. Trailhead run nestled in the heart of Big Cottonwood Canyon is one of the best trails in the country. Lightly trafficked with an elevation change of 1,988 vertical feet (yup, vertical), this trail is “complete with some easier technical sections, hardpack, and ever-changing scenery,” Hartman elaborates. “While a 2,000-foot climb to start a run may seem daunting, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how manageable the 3.85 miles to the turnaround point is. Upon getting to the top, Lake Desolation is a great place to catch your breath, take in the scenery, and get your legs ready for the amazing decent ahead. Allowing gravity to take you, the second half allows you to fly down the trail around corners and over fallen trees. I get the same thrill as I do when I’m out skiing.”

Memorial Park Loop

  • Where: Houston, Texas
  • Length: 3 miles

Houston’s Memorial Park Loop cuts through one of the largest urban parks in the country and passes the epic 64-story Williams Tower. Data from MapMyRun shows this is the most popular running route in America, so it’s perfect for social butterflies who like the motivation of passing the person ahead.

Flagstaff

  • Where: Arizona
  • Who: Cody Reed, runner

Cody Reed, a professional trail runner for Under Armour, says he has a favorite city to run, not just a trail. “I can’t imagine a better place than Flagstaff to train. You’re surrounded by everything you would need as a professional runner. There are amazing local trails and roads to train on, living at 7,000 feet, and a great community of other professional athletes. Because I’m a trail runner, I frequently go to the Grand Canyon to train, which is only an hour and a half away.”

Editors' Recommendations