It is easy to see why trail running has become such a popular sport over the past few years. Not only does it provide a host of benefits to your health, it gives you the opportunity to get outside and immerse yourself in nature too. Chances are, no matter where you live, there are some fun, scenic trails just waiting to be explored.
That said, when it comes to trail running, not all places are created equal. While there are plenty of places that offer great opportunities for runners to make the transition from the road to the backcountry, some are definitely more blessed than others in terms of trail options. With that in mind, here are the five best trail running destinations in the entire U.S.
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe has been a hot-bed for trail runners for a very long time, and for good reason. Not only does it have outstanding weather that allows for running outdoors all year long, it also offers access to some great running routes too. Amongst the very best are the Dale Balls Trails, which run for more than 22 miles into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Scenery along the way include impressive views of the high desert, intermixed with juniper and cedar trees, which line the dirt and rock path.
Asheville, North Carolina
Over the past few years, Asheville has gained a reputation for being one of the truly fantastic outdoor destinations in the eastern United States. It offers great hiking, mountain biking, paddling, and of course, trail running too. With 500 miles of trail located less than 30 miles from town, there are literally options for all levels of runner ranging from beginner to expert. And when you’re done running for the day, be sure to drop by one of Asheville’s famous craft breweries.
For many, Boulder is the outdoor capital of the U.S., offering access to some of Colorado’s best backcountry alpine settings. Trail runners will find more than 200 miles of trail within a short distance of town, with plenty of high-altitude routes that can test both the lungs and the legs. One of the best is the 15-mile long High Lonesome Loop, which is a particular favorite with the locals. Just be sure to acclimate before you set out, as the oxygen gets thin when you’re more than a mile above sea level.
Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
The 165-mile Tahoe Rim trail is absolutely one of the best in the entire U.S. Encircling all of Lake Tahoe, it passes through two states, three national forests, and three wildernesses areas. Along the way, it winds through aspen meadows and past pristine lakes, reaching altitudes in excess of 10,000 feet in the Sierra Mountains. The trail is broken town into nine distinct sections, with numerous access points located at various places along its length, making it easy to find unique routes of varying distances and difficulties.
The Pacific Northwest is filled with great trail running destinations, but few can compare to Bend. Located in a spot where the Cascade Mountains meet Oregon’s high desert region, the city offers fantastic routes through both environments. This makes it a trail runners dream come true, allowing them to train in a variety of conditions, with rich and varied scenery along the way. Head out to the 16.7 mile Flagline trail to experience everything Bend has to offer. The route features some of the best scenery in the region, and since the city boasts 300 days of sunshine each year, there are no excuses to not get out and run on a regularly.
These five places offer some of the absolute best trail running opportunities found anywhere. But, there are numerous other great destinations throughout the U.S. as well, In fact, as mentioned above; chances are there some excellent trails near your home as well. All you have to do is search for them, and before long you could be a trail running convert too.