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The 12 Best Running Trails in America, According to Professional Runners

There are many things to love about running, from the challenging workout it provides to the rush of endorphins it can give you. It tones your body, reduces the risk of numerous diseases, improves your cardiovascular function, elevates your mood, and burns calories to help you maintain a healthy weight. Running also can be a fun social activity or allow you to enjoy the quiet of your own thoughts. Another fantastic benefit of running is its versatility. No matter where you live in the world, you almost always can find an accessible road, track, treadmill, park, or path for your workout. In that vein, running allows you to step outside the confines of your office or home and enjoy some fresh air and the open road while you exercise.

While pounding the pavement around your neighborhood or through your town is a perfectly valid way to enjoy your run, there’s something to be said about veering off the crowded sidewalks, ditching the endless miles of asphalt, or abandoning the concrete grid of your city route and heading for the trails. Trail running allows you to connect more deeply with nature, reset your mind, and take on a physically challenging form of running. Trails offer a softer surface, a break from road noise, and perhaps most importantly, an excellent avenue to explore some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Indeed, one of the amazing benefits of running is that it’s a sport that allows you to see parts of the world under the power of your heart, lungs, and your own two feet. So, whether you’re planning a trip or just looking to diversify your running routine by heading out to some local running trails, trail running will expose you to some of America’s best vistas and landscapes.

Looking for some inspiration for next trail run? Keep reading to discover some of the best running trails in the United States.

Deschutes River Trail

Bend, Oregon

It’s safe to say that Jesse Thomas, CEO of Picky Bars, and professional triathlete has seen his fair share of America’s best running trails. After all, he hails from Bend, Oregon, one of the country’s prime trail running meccas. Thomas said 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,” he said.

  • Length: 13.5 miles
  • Who: Jesse Thomas, a professional triathlete
  • Start: Lava Island Trailhead

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Doudy Draw Trailhead to Eldorado Canyon State Park

Boulder, Colorado

Biomechanical researh engineer Dan Feeney loves this 6.7-mile loop for its diverse views and terrain coupled with its proximity to Boulder. It has some more technical footing in some areas, but rewards your efforts with stunning views. “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,” Feeney said.

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

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Skyline Traverse

Boulder, Colorado

Ascent Protein athlete Rea Kolbl is a big fan of the Skyline Traverse trail, and as the Spartan Ultra World Champion and frequent mountain runner, trail running is the bread and butter of training. The trail isn’t for the faint of heart: you’ll climb nearly 6,000 feet over the gnarly 17-mile dirt track, traversing plenty of 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.”

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

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Barn Bluff Trail

Red Wing, Minnesota

Don’t worry; if you don’t live in Colorado, there are still many gorgeous running trails to explore. Brian Hall stakes us to Minnesota for his favorite route. “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.”

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

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Double Dipsea

Marin County, California

Professional ultrarunner Dylan Bowman is a big proponent of the classic Double Dipsea in Northern California . “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!”

  • Length: 15 miles
  • Who: Dylan Bowman, runner
  • Start: Dipsea Trailhead, Stinson Beach

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Coastal Trail

Marin County, California

Julia Stamps Mallon varies her mileage but most prefer 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.”

  • 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)

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Charles River Bike Path

Boston, Massachusetts

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.”

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

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Trav’s Trail at Maudsley State Park

Newburyport, Massachusetts

Brian Moore, the Chief Product Officer at Tracksmith, is inspired by the legacy of his favorite running 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.”

  • Length: 3.1 miles
  • Who: Brian Moore, CPO of Tracksmith
  • Start: Across Maudsley State Park’s headquarters

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Tiger Mountain State Forest

Seattle, Washington

Nuun Hydration’s CEO (Chief Eternal Optimist) enjoys a number of trail runs 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.”

  • Length: 0.8-12.8 miles
  • Who: Kevin Rutherford, CEO of Nuun Hydration
  • Start: Field adjacent to Issaquah-Hobart Road

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Mill D. North Trail

Salt Lake City, Utah

Chase Hartman, a brand ambassador at Backcountry, love the challenge of the out-and-back Mill D. Trail run nestled in the heart of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The terrain is varies, keeping you on your toes, and you’ll power through an impressive elevation gain of 1,988 vertical feet. 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.”

  • Length:  7.7 miles
  • Who: Chase Hartman, Backcountry
  • Start: North Fork Trailhead

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Memorial Park Loop

Houston, Texas

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.

  • Length: 3 miles
  • Start: Memorial Park Tennis Center

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Flagstaff

Arizona

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.”

  • Who: Cody Reed, runner

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