Posted August 28, 2014

America’s Best Urban Running Trails


If hot-footing it all over town is your way of seeing the sights (or just keeping fit), here’s a rundown of America’s best urban running trails, as well as some suggestions for pit stops along the way and where to stay when it’s time to rest your dogs.

Manhattan Waterfront Greenway Brooklyn Bridge

Manhattan Waterfront Greenway

New York City

Level of difficulty: Easy

While most people probably assume Central Park would be the top spot to jog in NYC, Manhattan Waterfront Greenway is the running trail to beat all running trails. This people- and bike-friendly loop circles the edge of Manhattan, covering more than 30 miles of the island. It provides a running tour of Manhattan, offering glimpses of the Statue of Liberty, United Nations Headquarters, and Battery Park, just to name a few major attractions.

Pit Stop: Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. One of our favorite museums in the U.S., the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is home to a seriously impressive collection of ships and aircraft. Highlights include the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid, the submarine USS Growler, and the Enterprise (the space shuttle, not the Star Trek starship).

Where to Stay: Ink 48

Photo: The City Project/Flickr

Discovery Park Seattle

Discovery Park

City: Seattle

Level of difficulty: Easy

Formerly a fort, Discovery Park now sits on the shores of Seattle’s Magnolia neighborhood. Covering 534 acres, it’s the largest park in Seattle with more than 11 miles of trails. The paths are a mix of diverse terrain; they take runners past tidal beaches, open meadows, dunes, streams and forest (sounds a bit like a movie set). Discovery Park is also unique in that it provides a habitat for more than 270 different kinds of birds, from loons and grebes to chickadees and bald eagles.

Pit Stop: West Point Light. Built in 1881, West Point Light (also known as Discovery Park Lighthouse) has an important place in history as the Puget Sound’s first light station. Today it marks a scenic stop on a run through Discovery Park and makes for a beautiful backdrop on a clear evening at sunset.

Where to Stay: Alexis Hotel

Photo: Darren/Flickr

Sunset Cliffs San Diego

Sunset Cliffs

City: San Diego

Level of difficulty: Moderate

For many, Sunset Cliffs — a neighborhood highlighted by classy homes and dramatic sandstone cliffs — offers a prime surf location. However, the area also boasts an ideal trail for travelers who want a beach run with great views (but without the sandy surface that makes a longer run more challenging). Start at the north end of Ocean Beach, at the dog park, and continue in the direction of the Ocean Beach Pier, toward Sunset Cliffs. Runners on the dirt trails at Sunset Cliffs are treated with beautiful views across the Pacific Ocean above waves breaking below.

Pit Stop: Pizza Port Brewing Company. Carbo-loading after a run? Why not? You’ve earned it. Grab a seat on the patio of Pizza Port for a pint of craft beer and a gourmet pie.

Where to Stay: Hotel Solamar

Photo: Justin Brown/Flickr

Capital Crescent Trail DCCapital Crescent Trail

City: Washington, D.C.

Level of Difficulty: Moderate

Located behind Georgetown University, the Capital Crescent Trail is unique in that it was built on the abandoned rail-bed of the 11-mile Georgetown Branch of the B&O Railroad. Today it serves as the most heavily used rail trail in America. The trail is part paved and part crushed stone, and the views of the Potomac River are all good. We like that this trail makes you feel as if it’s miles from city life; there’s even a part of it that enters a circa-1910 brick railroad tunnel and other sections that run past a reservoir and Little Falls Park.

Pit Stop: Fletcher’s Boathouse. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, rent a kayak or paddleboat to cruise around in. Fletcher’s also sells fishing licenses if you want to take a line and pole out with you. We’d definitely take the, um, bait. After all, how many major cities can you go fishing in?

Where to Stay: Hotel Palomar

Photo: Eddie Welker/Flickr

Griffith Park L.A.

Griffith Park

Los Angeles

Level of Difficulty: Challenging

The City of Angels is unique in that it’s surrounded by mountainous peaks and canyons lined with trails (and not just full of cars and homes of the rich and famous), the largest network of them belonging to Griffith Park, home to 53 miles of people-friendly footpaths. There are a bunch of access points, though we recommend parking your car at Griffith Observatory and entering the park from its southern end. The Mount Hollywood Trail is accessible from here, which includes panoramic views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.

Pit Stop: Bronson Cave. While this trail doesn’t feature the views that Mount Hollywood does, Bronson Cave offers a little slice of Hollywood since it’s been the filming location of numerous movies and TV shows, including the 1960s version of Batman. Wearing a Batman suit, however, is optional.

Where to Stay: Hotel Wilshire

Photo: Boqiang Liao/Flickr


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