Nothing quite breaks the ice between you and a new city like sweat and some miles. But instead of logging them in the hotel treadmill, get some fresh air. From sightseeing in Los Angeles, to putting sole to tar in the Big Apple, to jogging in the land of 10,000 lakes, cities offer both urban and even borderline bucolic settings for outdoor runners. So whether you’re visiting one of these cities or just getting reacquainted with your hometown, these routes and trails in 11 major American cities are a good place to start.
New York City
Manhattan to Queens and Back
The East River Run
How Long: 13 miles
Season: year-round, but December through March can get bitterly cold
The Draw: The East River Run won’t trap you between too many lights. It starts at the top of Central Park, works its way through Randall’s Island, over the Triborough Bridge, down through Queens, back over to the Upper East Side and finally completes the circle at Central Park again. Expect lots of waterfront views of the East River — and to be sore the morning after.
In the Shadow of the Hollywood Hills
Runyon Canyon Trail
How Long: 5 miles
The Draw: Runyon Canyon Park is 130 acres smack dab in center of Los Angeles. The popular hiking, running and biking trail is a stone’s throw away from Hollywood Boulevard, Mulholland Drive and the Hollywood Hills. The trail cuts around the urban park and boasts scenic viewpoints of the Hollywood sign, Griffith Observatory and the Pacific Ocean. It gets steep at times, and will make you sweat more than your average five-mile loop.
Start, or End, at the Botanical Gardens
North Branch Trail
How Long: 15 miles
Season: unless you’re the most battle-hardened runner, steer clear from Thanksgiving to March
The Draw: The North Branch Trail glides alongside the North Branch of the Chicago River and heads south from the Chicago Botanic Garden to right near the Skokie Lagoons. It’s a scenic run that snakes over horse riding paths, through suburbs and right alongside Erickson Woods forest preserve.
Down by the Bay
San Francisco Marathon, Stage One
How Long: 19 miles
The Draw: If you’re visiting San Francisco for a few days, put foot to ground over the entire 26.2-mile course of the marathon. If not, the must-hit section of the race is its start. From the Ferry Building to Golden Gate Bridge is roughly nine miles. You’ll have views of the Transamerica Pyramid and Coit Tower, pass through Fort Mason, get a glimpse of the Palace of Fine Arts, and follow through to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re up to it, run the same route in reverse to conquer the full nineteen miles.
In Memorial Park
Memorial Park-Ho Chi Minh Trail
How Long: 5 miles
The Draw: Nestled in the shade of Memorial Park, one of the largest urban parks in the country, the trail plays host to both runners and bikers. It branches off into several trails, all of which vary in difficulty and terrain, yet loop back together so you won’t get lost. The beaten and undulating paths can accommodate both trail and casual runners.
Rock Creek Park
How Long: 10 miles
The Draw: Rock Creek Park is huge. Covering 1,754 acres and playing home to many fields and trails, the park lies north of the heart of D.C. Within the park is Rock Creek Trail, which is split into a north and south section and roughly runs 10 miles long. The South trail is a paved path that starts at Pierce Mill and runs to Memorial Bridge. The North trail is a little under five miles and eventually hooks up with the Beach Drive trail.
A Loop in Emerald City
Green Lake & Woodland Park Trails
How Long: ~5 miles
The Draw: The Green Lake Park Loop is flat and hits exactly 3.2 miles. Located north of Capitol Hill, on the other side of Lake Union, it’s a picturesque area to run. For less high-traffic trails, head to the adjacent Woodland Park. Here, there is a number a short trails, some of which run side-by-side with the Woodland Park Zoo.
Cherry Creek Trail
How Long: 25 miles
Season: March through November
The Draw: Kicking off in downtown Denver, the trail gets its name because it carves its way southeast alongside Cherry Creek. It hits urban areas, wraps itself around the reservoir and cuts through the several parks. Both urban and rural, this long trail is well maintained and provides runners with lots of options distance-wise, the occasional deer and nice views of the Front Range.
Between Two Cities
Charles River Loop
How Long: 7 miles
Season: March through November
The Draw: Confined by the John W. Weeks Bridge at its western end and Longfellow Bridge on the other, this loop allows runners to go from Cambridge to Boston and back, without seeing the same scenery twice. The entire path runs adjacent to the Charles River and passes through Riverbend Park and Magazine Beach. Run through once the ice melts for a beautiful introduction to the cities and the bustling collegiate life that inhabits them.
A Strip in the Queen City
Campbell Creek and McAlpine Creek
How Long: About 7 miles
The Draw: Campbell Creek and McAlpine Creek Greenways are two connecting running and biking paths located just southeast of downtown Charlotte. The southern section is McAlpine Creek Greenway, which is a mostly gravel trail. The northern section, known as the Campbell Creek Greenway, is mostly paved. The trail covers a little over four miles and passes through serene parks chattering with wildlife.
Three of Ten Thousand
The Lakes of Minneapolis
How Long: 10 Miles
Season: April to November
The Draw: Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, so running around them all is just not in the cards. Yet this one will see you circumnavigate three of them: Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. You’ll get immaculate views of the lakes and skyline.