From the Atlantic to the Pacific, the U.S. is endowed with some of the most breathtaking running trails in the world. Sure, you can run the beaten path at your local park, but why not explore some of the gems this country has to offer? Deciding where to run isn’t easy in this great nation, so in no specific order, we’ve listed ten bucket-list destinations every trail runner should visit at least once.
1. Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park- King County, WA.
Avid hiker and American author Harvey Manning once described Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park as “A Great Big Green and Quiet Place.” Packed with four major trailheads that rove for 36 miles with babbling brooks, rolling streams, footbridges, and gorgeous wildlife, these trails are as fascinating as they are beautiful.
2. Shut-In Trail- Asheville, NC.
The great historic trail of Western North Carolina dates back to 1890 when it was carved out of the lush forests surrounding the famous Biltmore mansion. Along the 18 mile trail, elevation changes over 3,000 feet, drawing only the boldest and bravest runners in the world. Catch a breather over one of several immense valleys and gaze at the Appalachian Mountains towering in the vast blue horizon.
3. Tahoe Rim Trail.
This 165-mile monster circles Lake Tahoe and crosses through three national forests in two states. Loaded with forests of massive pines, ice-capped peaks, and vibrant meadows, the Tahoe Rim Trail is a runner’s Elysium. Run from Big Meadow through the rocky shores of Showers Lake to Echo Lake and catch awe-inspiring views of Lake Tahoe.
4. Laurel Highlands National Scenic Trail- Ohiopyle, PA.
Home of one of the oldest distance trail races in the nation, Laurel Highlands National Scenic Trail features 70 miles of open paths, making it both a gorgeous and relatively simple trail to run. Visit the trail in the fall and bask in autumnal reds and yellows surrounding the immense Youghiogheny River Gorge.
5. Ice Age National Scenic Trail- Door County, WI.
Forget Europe- head to the Midwest and give yourself a real history lesson at the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. A geologist’s paradise, this 600 mile trail has a slew of visible features left behind by glaciation, from marshes and gravel deposits to ice-walled lake plains. Run along an open trail where saber tooth cats and wooly mammoths once stomped.
6. McKenzie River Trail- Oregon.
Tucked away in what is technically classified as a temperate rain forest, the McKenzie River Trail is full of aromatic Douglas firs, sprawling moss, and of course, the sparkling McKenzie River. Though it’s America’s #1 mountain biking trail, the McKenzie River Trail is also a huge hotspot for runners, featuring 26 miles of log bridges, boiling springs, and stunning waterfalls.
7. Palo Duro Canyon State Park- Canyon, Texas.
It has the nation’s second largest canyon and an 11-mile trail seeping with Texas frontier history. Run through the old Southwest as you’ve always pictured it- burgundy cliffs against orange and pink skies, and cactuses alongside the path as clay dust rises in the trail behind you. Run this trail and you’ll never be the same.
8. The Long Trail- Vermont.
The poster-boy of Vermont runs 272 miles along the border of the Green Mountain State, all the way from Northwest Massachusetts to the Canadian border. Challenge yourself with the steep and rugged paths of the Long Trail, while navigating your way through Vermont’s highest peaks and most cerulean ponds and streams. Not for the weak or faint-hearted, running the Long Trail is nothing to sneeze at.
9. Alafia River State Park- Lithia, Florida.
Sure, it’s not in the Appalachians, but this trail is tough. From onyx swamps to lavish hardwood forests, the Alafia River State Park is easily the most topographically diverse trail in the U.S. It’s both runner and cyclist friendly, chock full of creeks, lush greenery and more gators than you’ll wish to see in a lifetime.
10. Appalachian Trail.
Spanning 14 states and 2,200 miles from the historic Springer Mountain of Georgia to Maine’s 5,200-foot Mt. Katahdin, the A.T. is the absolute epitome of the great American hiking trail. With a diverse variety of nearly 2,000 plant and animal species, the A.T. is a rustic, ecological paradise visited by millions of runners every year. Stop at one of over 250 shelters along the trail and experience “trail magic” at any one of the A.T.’s famous trail towns.
Steady hydration is a must if you want to conquer these trails, so stay refreshed with the Hydra Quiver Double Barrel hydration pack from Orange Mud. This handy hydration pack is worn between your shoulder blades and comes with two 24oz sports bottles for non-stop hydration even on the longest trails.
Designed with soft neoprene webbing, the Hydra Quiver offers some serious comfort and breathability no matter how long you run. Convenient and practical, it even comes with a zippered pocket on the back for your keys, phone, or other small valuables.
Did we forget any awesome trails? If so, post your favorite trail in the comments box below, or tell us about your running experience if you’ve been to any of the trails listed above.