America’s city parks afford great opportunities to experience the diversity and natural beauty of unique regions of the country and they provide the perfect setting to help us stay physically active. Part IV in our Best City Parks series highlights the final batch of parks that we believe provide some of the best to run in the country!
5.Balboa Park, San Diego
Balboa Park in San Diego is an exceptional park for running thanks to its diverse setting. The park offers a variety of trails and paths that cater to different fitness levels and preferences. There are over 65 miles of trails to explore! One of the most popular running routes starts at the Cabrillo Bridge, providing a picturesque view of the California Tower and the lush surroundings. The route then leads through the stunning Alcazar Garden and Palm Canyon, offering a mix of botanical beauty and shaded trails.
As runners continue, they pass by the San Diego Zoo, providing an opportunity to catch a glimpse of exotic animals. The path further takes them to the Florida Canyon, which offers a more challenging terrain for those seeking an elevated heart rate. The route includes the cactus garden and leads to Morley Field, known for its well-maintained athletic facilities. This section allows for a mix of running and possible workout activities.
The route wraps up with a return to the Cabrillo Bridge, completing a loop that covers approximately 6 miles. Runners can appreciate the historical architecture and vibrant landscapes throughout the course, making the Balboa Park route not only a great exercise option but also a visually captivating experience.
4. The Emerald Necklace
The Emerald Necklace in Boston is a remarkable series of connected parks that offers an excellent running experience. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, this green space provides a scenic and diverse route for runners. The running route follows a roughly 7-mile path that includes a collection of parks and waterways.
Starting at the Boston Common, the route leads to the Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, known for their historic charm and well-maintained paths. Runners then proceed to the Back Bay Fens, which features meandering trails alongside water features and gardens, creating a serene environment.
Continuing along the route, runners pass through the Riverway, where they can enjoy a tree-lined path leading to the beautiful Jamaica Pond. This area offers a refreshing waterfront stretch and a chance to take in natural surroundings. The Arnold Arboretum is also part of the route, providing a hilly section with stunning views of the city and a diverse collection of plant life.
The route concludes by passing through Franklin Park, which offers both open spaces and wooded trails, and finally returns to the starting point at the Boston Common. This running route offers a mix of urban and natural landscapes, historical landmarks, and peaceful greenery, making it an outstanding choice for runners looking for both a physical and visually pleasing experience.
3. Millennium Park, IL
Millennium Park and Grant Park in Chicago provide an exceptional urban running experience with iconic landmarks and picturesque views. This approximately 5-mile running route combines art, architecture, and green spaces.
Beginning at the Cloud Gate sculpture (often referred to as “The Bean”) in Millennium Park, runners are immersed in contemporary art and modern design. The reflective surface of The Bean adds a unique visual element to the run. From there, the route leads past the Jay Pritzker Pavilion and the Crown Fountain, which are renowned for their artistic and architectural significance.
As runners transition into Grant Park, they pass by Buckingham Fountain, a grand centerpiece with impressive water displays. The route continues along the Lakefront Trail, offering stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline. This section is particularly refreshing and energizing due to the waterfront atmosphere.
The path also takes runners past the Museum Campus, home to notable institutions like the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium. These landmarks add cultural and educational elements to the run. Continuing along, the route circles back to Millennium Park, allowing runners to experience the city’s vibrant atmosphere and urban greenery.
With its blend of artistic installations, architectural marvels, waterfront scenes, and cityscape vistas, the Millennium Park and Grant Park running route offers a dynamic and captivating way to explore Chicago while staying active.
2. Prospect Park – Brooklyn, New York City
Prospect Park serves as an unique running experience with its scenic trails and natural beauty surrounded by the cityscape in the heart of Brooklyn, New York.
Starting near Grand Army Plaza, close to the main entrance of the park, runners can embark on a roughly 3.36-mile loop in the park’s interior. This route follows the park’s main drive, featuring tree-lined paths and open meadows, providing a mix of shade and sunlit areas.
As runners continue along the loop, they pass by landmarks such as the Prospect Park Zoo and the LeFrak Center at Lakeside, offering opportunities to enjoy the park’s recreational wonders. The route also takes runners near the iconic Prospect Park Boathouse, a picturesque location overlooking the Lullwater. Paths also lead to the Nethermead, a spacious open meadow perfect for interval training or simply enjoying the space. The Long Meadow, one of the park’s highlights, provides a stunning stretch for running, surrounded by lush greenery. There are many trails that lead off the main route and allow visitors to explore hidden routes that lead to mountaintops and waterfalls.
The route includes a section along the park’s eastern perimeter, offering a peaceful and shaded run along the Ravine and the watercourse. As runners complete the loop, they’re greeted by the impressive Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch at Grand Army Plaza. Runners can also take advantage of the 3.68-mile outer loop surrounding the parks’ exterior. It’s also a great opportunity to explore the beautiful Park Slope neighborhood.
1. Fairmount Park
Fairmount Park in Philadelphia offers an outstanding running experience with its extensive trails, historic sites, and natural beauty. Covering over 9,000 acres of parkland, these trails offer a range of routes for runners to explore.
Starting at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, famously known for the “Rocky Steps,” runners can begin their journey with an iconic view. The route then takes them along the Schuylkill River Trail, which offers picturesque views of the river and the city skyline. This path is perfect for both leisurely jogs and more intense workouts.
As runners make their way through Fairmount Park, they pass by historic sites including Boathouse Row, a collection of charming boathouses along the river. The route also leads to the Boxers’ Trail, a wooded trail that offers a more secluded and nature-rich experience. Or they may want to run on the other side up Kelly Drive, which offers a serene view of the riverbed especially in the spring.
East Fairmount Park provides runners with more expansive green spaces and serene landscapes. Lemon Hill and Strawberry Mansion are notable points along the route, featuring well-maintained paths and historic architecture. This section of the park provides a peaceful escape from the urban bustle.
The route’s return leg takes runners past the Philadelphia Zoo, providing an opportunity to see animals and enjoy a unique aspect of the park. As the run concludes, the Philadelphia Museum of Art comes back into view, completing the loop.