10. Chicago, Illinois
Known for its cuisine, architecture and art, Chicago is also a top running destination. The most scenic of its paths are defined by the city’s 18-mile long Lakefront Trail that overlooks stunning Lake Michigan. Views of the lake offer one of the diverse runs in the country, as runners jog through scenic parks, marinas and beaches. If you’re looking for a less crowded gravel path, choose the north part of the trail, which starts at Hollywood Ave by Foster Beach and goes south to 71st St. near Rainbow Beach Park on the southside. The middle section runs next to the downtown area and the Magnificent Mile, an area that includes sights like Grant Park, Museum Campus and Soldier Field. The trail in this section often gets crowded on nice days and features concrete paths. The final four miles in the south provide excellent views of Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. It’s also great to explore the trails that run through Lincoln Park and other areas that lie just off the Lakefront trail. If you’re looking for more nature-oriented paths, the Forest Preserves near O’Hare Airport is worth the journey.
9. Minneapolis, Minnesota
As part of the Twin Cities metro region (known as the land of 10,000 lakes), Minneapolis has plenty of room for runners to venture. The area is among the most livable cities in the United States, but it’s often overlooked for its running trails. Many of its paths offer extensive views of lakes, large parks and charming residential neighborhoods. Plus, the path along the Mississippi River showcases a desirable course. This path is used for training in The Twin Cities Marathon, often named “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.”
Check out the Minnehaha Parkway trails beside the Mississippi River and the Chain of Lakes run. Cross the river to St. Paul and you can find Lake Como and then take a runners’ tour that passes by the Capital and Summit Avenue. The Gateway State Trail north of the city and Fort Snelling State Park or Hyland Lake Park Preserve provide great opportunities to escape into nature. Since the weather in the Minneapolis metro area can be extreme, summers are hot and humid and winters are frigid. Remember to dress for the weather and you can also take an extensive bus and light rail system to your desired running destination.
8. Los Angeles, California
The second most populated city in the country, Los Angeles is constantly in the spotlight for its film industry and celebrity sightings, but one feature often overlooked is its beautiful running trails. Runners often choose between its varied paths, which feature trails with canyons, hills, beaches, and sun. From Santa Monica to Redondo Beach, runners can take advantage of the 20+ miles along the beachfront path. Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon Park are wide open urban parks with hills and stunning views of the city. In the downtown district, runners often decide to run along the sidewalks of Sunset and Wilshire Boulevards to enter the city action. However, visiting the L.A. River Trail in East Los Angeles and Los Angeles State Historic Park feature relaxing areas to jog. North of Los Angeles lies the natural beaches surrounding Malibu. More challenging runs in Topanga canyon and the Santa Monica hills are great places for resistance training.
Los Angeles is spread out, so principal running areas are naturally distinguished by location and for their geographic features. The city almost always has sunny weather and doesn’t get too hot or too cold, so it’s a great city for runners. Public transportation to get to these places is limited, although the addition of the light rail/subway stations between Santa Monica and downtown has helped alleviate these challenges.
7. San Diego, California
A neighboring city of Los Angeles, San Diego also boasts a handful of trails for avid runners. Often called a runner’s paradise, the city offers a layout of beautiful harbors, beaches and stunning running trails. All are fairly accessible, making San Diego a top destination for running cities. Travelers who stay near the downtown/airport area have access to some great routes as well. Some of the best running trails around the harbors include Mission Beach. Sunset Cliffs and Balboa Park. The latter offers 65 miles of trail through scenic groves, gardens and San Diego landmarks like the Zoo and a handful of museums. Check out the 4.1-mile #2 trail, which leads to these elegant gardens and museums. The #33 trail loop that runs through Florida Canyon’s Native Plant Preserve while the #4 takes you to Balboa Park. More developed trails surround the popular sites, but runners can also find rugged, wooden routes. Altogether, 19 trails lead from five entrances to the park.
It’s also worth a trip to visit nearby La Jolla and Torrey Pines; these are prime options for challenging runs in the mountains that lie to the city’s eastside.
6. Portland, Oregon
Did you know that Portland, Oregon is one of the most active cities in the United States? With over 200 miles of running trails and 300 miles of biking paths, Portland is frequently ranked as one of the top running cities by running publications like Active.com, Runner’s World and the American College of Sports Medicine. On top of being a pedestrian-friendly city, all twelve of its downtown bridges are open to runners, including Tilikum Crossing, which is inaccessible to cars.
In the downtown district, most runners opt for the paths along the Willamette River. A couple miles away from downtown, residential areas provide peaceful running options and extensive spaces in Washington Park, Forest Park and the areas surrounding Terwilliger Boulevard are prime running options. Most of the downtown neighborhoods have flat topography, but it gets hilly in the Northwest and Southwest areas of the city, by the Tualatin Mountains. Portland also features an efficient public transportation system that extends from its downtown districts to the outer suburbs. The TriMet MAX system offers a ground light rail system that covers most of the city along with a busy route that shuttles visitors and residents in and out of the suburbs. The easily accessible city is a great place to get around for visitors and those who want to stay active!