Scenic in the City: The Best Urban Running Trails

If you’re looking for a great run that’s not too far from the city, but feels removed from all the hustle and bustle, here are some trails to try. We picked pathways with unpaved surfaces to be gentler on runners’ knees and legs and routes with few or no road crossings, so you don’t have to break your stride.


Old Putnam Trail

New York

Photo by: Eddie Crimmins

Tucked away in the Bronx, the Old Putnam Trail is an unexpected outdoor oasis. The 1.25-mile natural-surface trail traverses heavily wooded Van Cortlandt Park, New York City’s fourth largest park, for a cool, shady run. If you want to go longer, you can pick up numerous other trails within the park, or take the South County Trailway, which begins at the park’s north end and continues on a paved, 14.7-mile routeup to Mount Pleasant.


Hermosa Valley Greenbelt


Photo by: Urban Outbacker | CC BY 2.0

Located south of the Los Angeles International Airport, the Hermosa Valley Greenbelt, which connects two beaches (Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach), feels like a big-city get-away. The soft-surface trail is surrounded by lush vegetation and flowers and only a quarter-mile inland from the ocean, so it’s easy to cool off after your run.


Waterfall Glen


Photo by: tommyspan

In the Chicago suburb of Darien, the 9.5-mile loop trail in the Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve features glacier-carved rock ridges, ravines, and forest interspersed with prairie and grassland.


D & L Trail - Delaware Canal Towpath

New Jersey

Photo by: jiggs1960

Within reach of two major cities—Philadelphia and Trenton—the Delaware Canal Towpath offers a great escape from urban life. Spanning 60 miles, the trail is flat and picturesque with views of the canal itself, quiet woodlands, and historical structures.


Coal Creek Trail


Photo by: cjosborn

Beginning south of Bellevue, across Lake Washington from Seattle, you’ll never feel that the city is so close at hand. At just under 4 miles, the soft-mulch route is enveloped in trees. Along the way, you’ll have interesting visual finds, like a locomotive turntable, coal car axles, and lots of wildflowers.


Sand Creek Regional Greenway


Photo by: Jim Akerlund

The Sand Creek Regional Greenway connects Denver’s northwestern neighborhoods and Aurora with a crushed-stone pathway. A paved portion of the trail continues into Commerce City, but if you stick to the unpaved portion, you’ll still have plenty to see. The route even has two nature centers to learn more about the local wildlife: Bluff Lake Nature Center in Stapleton and the Morrison Nature Center in Aurora.


Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park

District of Columbia and Maryland

Photo by: dpg47

C&O Canal Towpath is an incredible asset, beginning in the nation’s capital and expending northwest into Maryland along the Potomac River for a whopping 184.5 miles. This is one run on which you won’t be bored: Hundreds of original features, including locks, lock houses, aqueducts and other canal structures can be seen all along the way.


Barton Creek Greenbelt


Photo by: mbriggs30

Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of Austin’s most popular trails, which runs for nearly 8 miles through Barton Creek Wilderness Park southwest of the city. The trail, flanked in places with rock walls, follows the course of its namesake creek through lush greenery. At the east end, Zilker Park features dinosaurs hiding among the botanical gardens!


McQueen's Island Trail


Photo by: maplover2

Located on the eastern outskirts of Savannah, the McQueen’s Island Trail offers a salt-air excursion of nearly 6 miles. Paralleling the South Channel of the Savannah River, you’ll see saltwater marshes and coastal cedars, and have a good chance at spotting native wildlife, including the eastern box turtle, American alligator, diamond back terrapin, bobcat, osprey, red-tailed hawk, and brown pelican.


Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail


Photo by: Bruce S. Ford, Courtesy Summit Metro Parks

Beginning in Cleveland’s Scranton Flats this 81-mile trail continues along a historic canal all the way to Bolivar. A highlight of the journey is passage through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one of the most visited National Parks in the country. North of the park, the trail is paved; beginning in the park and heading southward, the trail is hard-packed, crushed limestone. Most of the route is level and well-shaded with lots of historic sites and other attractions, making for a pleasant trip.

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