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Time to hit refresh on your standard running routes. No matter where you are, there’s a gorgeous trail not far just waiting to be explored. Ranked easiest to hardest, and spanning across all 50 states, these are 10 of the best trail runs in the U.S. to add to your workout wish list.
1. Phoenix Lake Loop
MARIN HEADLANDS, CALIFORNIA
An accessible (read: beginner-friendly) loop in the Mount Tamalpais Watershed, a lesser-known and lesser-visited park area nearby Mount Tamalpais State Park. You’ll have an easier time parking here than at other trailheads in the area, but will still probably share the trail with a few other joggers, making this a safe and convenient choice. The trail itself is a mix of fire road and narrower trail.
2. Old Croton Aqueduct Trail
YONKERS, NEW YORK
From Yonkers to Croton-on-Hudson, this trail follows the Old Croton Aqueduct, which was New York City’s major source of drinking water back in the 1800s. You can access the southern trailhead by taking public transit to Yonkers Station. The trail spans 41 miles and offers a variety of scenery and elevation, from flat urban sections to steeper, more wooded areas.
3. Onion Creek and Homestead Loop Trails
This loop combines the two popular running trails in McKinney Falls State Park into a 6.5-mile loop with little elevation gain. Feel like cutting your run a bit short? Choose either the southern Onion Creek Loop or the northern Homestead Loop. Enjoy seasonal waterfalls and wildflowers. There is a $6 fee to enter the park.
4. Cowels Bog
The area isn’t known for its hills, but you can still get a great workout in thanks to the sandy sections along the Cowels Bog Trail in Indiana Dunes State Park, an hour outside of Chicago. Views of Lake Michigan and a wide variety of landscapes, from marshes to black oak savannas to beaches, make this one well worth the drive.
5. Mesa Trail
The relatively flat (but still challenging) Mesa Trail spans a beautiful area just below the Flatirons and foothill peaks—the views just don’t quit. This is a longer run if you choose to take on the entire trail, but a few different trailhead options along the way make it very customizable. Pro tip: The northern half can be busy with hikers and trail runners, while the half closer to the El Dorado/South Mesa trailhead is often much quieter.
6. Shut In Trail
ARDEN, NORTH CAROLINA
Start at the southern trailhead for a mostly downhill start, or start at the northern trailhead and have your downhill on the way back. The point at which you turn around is also totally up to you, so you can easily get in anywhere from 1–30 miles on this trail. Or try the Sleepy Gap to Reynolds Gap route, a 3.1-mile moderately trafficked out-and-back trail, mostly used for hiking and trail running.
7. Mount Baden-Powell from Dawson Saddle
This Angeles National Forest run (also pictured at the top) is a great option if you’re training to be at elevation or just want to give your lungs an extra workout. For all but a small portion of this 9.9-mile run, you will be above 8,000 feet, taking in epic views and tackling the summits of Throop Peak, Mount Burnham, and Mount Baden-Powell.
8. Mount Marathon Hiker’s Loop
Each year this mountain hosts a trail-running race widely thought of as the gnarliest 5K out there. Runners rush straight up and straight back down Mount Marathon in an event that becomes more of an anything-goes scramble than a traditional trail run. Take in the epic views of this challenging mountain on the (only slightly) easier 4.1-mile loop, with close to 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
9. Green Lakes and Soda Creek Loop
For a serious run with stunning views, wake up early and hit this Bend-area trail before the hikers arrive. At 13.1 miles and with some decent elevation gain, it’s an amazing workout with gorgeous lake views (you’ll spot it around the halfway point—perfect place for a quick breather and stretch break before finishing strong). Do the route clockwise, and you’ll finish with a few flat miles where you can expend as much or as little energy as you have left.
10. Bridger Ridge Trail
This near-20-mile, point-to-point run is not for the faint of heart: You’ll follow a narrow, dramatic ridgeline the entire time and climb more than 8,500 feet before you’re finished. But the views are unbeatable and the feeling of accomplishment at the end of this run is second to none. (Also, you can bring your dog for company! Just keep them on the leash at all times.)
Looking for even more options? Download the AllTrails app (for free, or upgrade to AllTrails Pro for $29.99 per year), where you can search a database of more than 75,000 hand-curated trails and filter by length, level of difficulty, and even options that are dog and kid-friendly. Get maps, photos, driving directions, and everything else you need before you go. To get more info, head to alltrails.com or look for it in your app store.