The thousands of running trails across the United States offer a huge variety of terrain, landscape, and scenery. If you are a serious runner, you probably have a running bucket list- locations that offer beautiful trails that can’t be seen from a car. We have compiled what we feel are the 10 best running trails in America to help you decide which ones you would love to visit! From the lush green mountains of Hawaii to the rolling hills of North Dakota, the list contains a trail for every runner, no matter the preference!
1. Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii
It is no secret that Kauai is the most scenic of the Hawaiian Islands. Running the Kalalau Trail will expose you to some of the most beautiful areas on the island. As you run the 11-mile stretch, you will see some of the best scenery that Hawaii has to offer. From the sandy blue beaches and remote waterfalls to the lush greenery and historic ruins, there is always something beautiful to take in. If you are weary of heights, it may not be the most enjoyable trail for you. Much of the time, you are running next to a sheer cliffs that tower high above the sea below. The trail is anything but flat, and to complete the entire thing can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many convenient turn-around points if you choose to shorten your run.
2. McKenzie River Trail, Eugene, Oregon
If you are a big fan of trail runs or mountain biking, you have probably heard of the McKenzie River Trail. In fact, it was voted the best mountain biking trail in 2008. It is 25 miles long and winds through the beautiful forests that cover the Cascade Mountains. During your run you will see the moss-covered lava rocks, hidden waterfalls, and ancient trees that tower above you. The trail is home to the famous McKenzie River Trail Run 50-K. If 25 miles is too ambitious for your taste, you can always pay for the shuttle service that is offered. No matter what you choose to do, you will not be disappointed with your choice to run on this famous trail!
3. The Appalachian Trail
You probably don’t have time to complete the 2,181-mile trail that stretched across 14 states. The main trail extends between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine. Luckily, there are easy access points in places like Knoxville, Tennessee and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The idea of the “super trail” was first formed in 1921, and has been popular among runners and hikers ever since. The trail is home to some of the notable points in United States’ history and winds through Northern and Southern New England, the Virginias, and the Southern Appalachian Mountains. If you are a ultra-runner, put the A.T. on your bucket list. You will be glad you did when you check it off!
4. Poison Spider Mesa, Moab, Utah
Don’t worry, you won’t run into a poisonous spider while running this trail. You will, however, run into the grave of Mary Jane Francis, who died of a spider bite at the location! The trail is frequented by ATVs and Jeeps, but running and biking are just as (if not more) rewarding! The eye-popping views of the Utah red-rock set against the background of (usually) cloudless blue skies are more than breathtaking. Make sure you pack enough water to stay fully hydrated-especially in the summer months. You also will want to bring camera. The post-card perfect scenery is something you will want to look back at for years to come!
5. Tahoe Rim Trail
This 165-mile train is narrow and open to hiking, running, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The trail encompasses the gorgeous Lake Tahoe. It is broken into 8 smaller segments, which makes it perfect for runners. Depending on which portion of the trail you choose to run, you will be surrounded by towering pine trees, wildflower fields, and stunning views of the lake. The variety of scenery is the main reason we consider it one of the top running trails in America. About 50 miles of the trail overlaps with the Pacific Crest Trail. Serious runners may want to take part in and endurance run (50k, 50M or 100M). The best time to enjoy the Tahoe Rim Trail is throughout the summer into the early fall.
6. Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park
Although there is not one specific trail we are referring to, running in the Porcupine Mountains is definitely a must for all running die-hards. The scenery is stunning and there are hundreds of backcountry trails that will take you through all the rugged terrain. One of the highlights of the park is the Lake of Clouds. It is a huge lake that is known for the cloud-like haze that often sits on the water, creating a picturesque sight that is unbelievably beautiful. The mountains also overlook Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake on earth. If you are unsure about how to navigate the trails yourself, check out the Porcupine Mountains Trail Marathon.
7. Colorado Trail, Denver, Colorado
If you are looking for a natural high in the state of Colorado, this trail is a must-see. The 500-mile trail that is broken up into segments runs from Denver to Durango. Two of the segments cross beneath the peaks of the two highest peaks in the state (Mt. Elbert and Mt. Massive). Other sights include old mining towns, railroad tunnels, and crystal clear lakes. Most of the trail is more than 10,000 feet above sea level. However, the trail often runs below the timberline, offering shelter from the frequent storms that are common in the area. We suggest visiting this part of the United States during the summer months and into early fall (primarily July, August, and September).
8. Maah Daah Hey Trail, Medora, North Dakota
Nestled in the Badlands of North Dakota, the scenery offered by this Maah Daah Hey Trail includes beautiful skies, rolling grasslands, and colorful rock formations. The trail connects the northern and southern portions of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is the longest continuous singletrack mountain biking trail in America. The best portion for running goes from Sully Creek State Park thourgh the Petrified Forest. The phrase “Maah Daah Hey” means, “been around for a long time”. As you are running through the geographical timepiece, the name will take on a deeper meaning. The geography and landscape has been preserved beautifully.
9. Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, Issaquah, Washington
The landscape in the non-populated parts of Washington is beyond stunning, and the Cougar Mountain Park, established in 1983, is no exception. All together, there are 36 miles of running trails that wind in and out of the hills. No matter what trail you choose to run, you will be sure to see lush greenery, cascading waterfalls, moss-covered trees, and larger-than-life boulders. But be aware, black bear and cougar sightings are not uncommon! We suggest running with a partner in case you get into any trouble.
10. Shut-In Trail, Asheville, North Carolina
The shut-in trail was originally created by George Vanderbilt in 1890. The trail linked his Bitmore home with his hunting lodge in Buck Springs. If you go in during the summer season, you will know where the trail gets its name. It winds its way through tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel, making runners feel isolated or “shut-in”. Although a beautiful trail, if you are a person who prefers to run in remote, un-populated areas, you may want to steer clear of Shut-In trail. Its close proximity to the parkway causes there to be heavy jogger and hiker traffic that is unavoidable.