by Matt Forsman a.k.a Marathon Matt, SportMe Run Trainer
It’s likely that wherever you are, there is some kind of trail network nearby that you can leverage. If you’re not sure where to begin, we can help. Below are ten cities and a trail (or two) for each of them. So, lace up your trail kicks and prepare to get dirty!
Boulder is a veritable mecca for trail runners. The high altitude, the amazing views, and the endless miles of trails attracts some of the best runners (road or trail) on the planet. If you’re looking for wide, fire roads or technical, rocky ascends, you can find it in Boulder.
If you’re just getting into trail running, the Flatirons Vista Loop has fairly gentle terrain with some slight hills. If you’re looking to develop some strength and endurance, give Mount Sanitas a look. This small mountain provides plenty of tough climbing.
Nestled within the Presidio is the largest trail network in San Francisco. From Julius Kahn Park you can follow Ecology Trail deep into the heart of the Presidio. Alternatively, you can follow the trail across Arguello, connect with Bay Area Ridge Trail and make your way to one of the best views in the entire city, Immigrant Point Overlook.
Most of the trails in the Presidio are friendly to beginners with little technical terrain and few major climbs. If you’re looking for something tougher, head north across the Golden Gate Bridge into the Marin Headlands where you’ll find some of the best trail running in the Bay Area.
Portland is a trail runner’s paradise. Many of the trails in Portland are surrounded by dense forests with heavy canopies that keep runners relatively dry. Back Creek Canyon is a popular spot and well suited to beginner trail runners. The trails are relatively flat and pass by a number of points of interest including some of Portland’s largest Douglas Fir Trees.
For a more challenging jaunt, tackle the North Wildwood Trail that follows the contour of ridge that Forest Park covers. You can expect gently rolling hills, old-growth trees, and bubbling streams. You can also expect no shortage of peace and solitude.
Central Park is your best bet if you’re in or around Manhattan. If you’re looking to get your trail fix, the Bridle Path Loops are likely your best bet. Both loops are on soft packed dirt. With no technical terrain and no substantive climbing, the Bridle Path Loops are a good place to cut your trail running teeth.
If you’re a bit more seasoned, give Sandy Hook a look. It’s a great spot during the summer for a quality trail run (and post run beach time). You can expect log hops, roots, and more.
Santa Fe, N.M.
If you need a quick and dirty handful of trail miles, check out the Dale Ball Trails. If you’re staying in the Plaza downtown, you can access this 22 mile trail network just a few miles up Hyde Park Road. The terrain is largely smooth and rolling. So, it’s accessible to trail newbies and veterans alike.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, it’s possible to run from the north end of town to the towers at the top of Ski Santa Fe. Be advised, this run is 18 miles with 4,000 feet of climbing.
If you’re in Maryland and jonesing for some trail running, Billy Goat Trail is your best bet. This trail connects the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal and the Potomac River just outside of Washington D.C.
This trail includes ‘3’ sections (A, B, C). If you’re new to the trails, you probably want to stick to sections B & C. If you’ve got a few trail miles under your belt, Section A includes some rugged, rocky, challenging terrain.
One of the best trail running sports in North Carolina is the Art Loeb Trail. This trail network is 30 miles long and located within the beautiful Pisgah National Forest. The network is broken up into four sections.
You can opt for a shorter, out/back segment if you’re new to the trails or tackle ascending and descending peaks near the Blue Ridge Parkway if you need something more challenging.
Not far from Traverse City is a stellar trail network known as Vasa Pathway. There are loops of 3K, 5K, 10K, and 25K are well marked and maintained year round. No matter how much trail experience you have, this trail network has something that will work for you.
Additionally, you can expect no shortage of natural beauty with wildflowers in the spring/summer, amazing fall foliage, and snow covered pines in the winter.
About 20 miles from Seattle you’ll find Cougar Mountain Wildland Park. This park includes 30 miles of trails that wind through the park’s wildlands. There are smooth and flat segments well suited for beginners as well as steep singletrack segments for those seeking a challenge.
No matter what kind of trail run you’re looking for, you can expect lush forests and epic views.
Helena boasts over 70 miles of singletrack trail running and amazing ridegline views. One of the best spots to get some quality trail running in is Mount Helena City Park. The park is about 620 acres, rises 1,300 feet above town, and offers six trails totaling 20 miles.
Given the multitude of trails at Mount Helena City Park, there are plenty of quality options for new and seasoned trail runners. BTW, if you like knocking back a beer or two following your trail adventures, check out the offerings at Blackfoot River Brewing Company.