America's 10 Best Urban Running Trails

runner, central park, nyc

Photo: Flickr/Jarnoji

Living in Manhattan, Daniel Rootenberg looks forward to that special time of day or night when he can leave the office and de-stress with a good sweat.He has no use for that stuffy square box they call the neighbourhood gym and could care less about the latest state-of-the-art elliptical machine. All he needs are his two legs and a good route to jog—which, in his home city, means the pathways skirting the East and Hudson rivers, or through the urban oasis of Central Park.

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Little surprise, then, that when this vice president of finance at Shutterstock travels, he packs his running shoes. Rootenberg typically asks his hotel concierge for a route and a map, noting his preference for varied terrain and safety (as much as he enjoys exploring the streets of a new city, he doesn’t want to jog through crime-ridden or congested areas). Often, he says, he’s able to take in some of a city’s noteworthy sights while on his run.

“On my last trip to Chapel Hill, the concierge mixed historic buildings with less populated sidewalks,” he says. “It was perfect.”

More and more business travellers, it seems, can be found taking to the streets in the cities where they take their meetings. Not only is it liberating for these travellers to run after hours stuck in airport terminals and conference rooms; sometimes, jogging is the only chance they have to see some of the city they’re visiting. Taking a run also gives them an opportunity to share a common activity with local residents—and experience a camaraderie they’d never find on a lonely treadmill inside a hotel fitness centre.

While running is perhaps the most accessible of workouts—all that’s needed are shoes and a route—the gentrification of many cities in the past two decades has made urban jogging even easier. New developments have created running trails that offer a slice of tranquility in otherwise highly energized hubs. In San Antonio, for example, the popular waterfront River Walk has extended both north and south of the city in recent years, giving joggers an additional 15 miles to explore. Similarly, both the Eastbank Esplanade in Portland, Ore., and the Hudson River Park in New York City have unveiled paved trails that offer both riverside and city-skyline views.

So, whether your next business trip brings you to the Financial District in Boston or the massive San Diego Convention centre on the harbor, make sure to throw your running shoes into your suitcase. And check out our list of great urban running trails for more inspiration.

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Lakefront Trail, Chicago

Chicago is a city with an awesome and towering skyline--and this 18.5-mile path along the shore of Lake Michigan gives you ample opportunities to appreciate it. Start at the Navy Pier, then turn south along the paved lakeside trail. You'll pass Buckingham Fountain, the Shedd Aquarium and Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears.

When you turn around for the return trip, you'll be treated to a fabulous view of the city's skyscrapers, including the Aon centre, the John Hancock centre and the Willis Tower (currently the tallest building in the United States). The trail north of the Navy Pier will lead you to Oak Street Beach, a good place to rest after your run.

Lakefront Trail

Charles River Bike Path, Boston

Boston's most cherished running route, this 17.1-mile path lines both sides of the Charles River in Boston's Back Bay and Cambridge.

A favourite four-mile stretch starts at the Esplanade (a historic park that's home to the Boston Pops' Fourth of July concert and fireworks extravaganza), then heads west to cross the Charles at the Mass Avenue Bridge. Turning east then brings you to the Museum of Science, and across the river once again to return to the Esplanade.

In spring and fall, you'll likely see the Harvard and MIT crew teams sculling in the river; but even in the middle of a winter snowstorm, you'll be sure to see other joggers (since the city hosts the world-class Boston Marathon, it takes its running very seriously).

Charles River Bike Path

Central Park Reservoir and Outer Loop, New York City

Manhattan's urban oasis offers two great options for runners to choose from. Those looking for a short, scenic jaunt (or a warm-up) can start at either of the park's 86th Street entrances and run the 1.5-mile dirt track around the reservoir (the scenery here is especially lovely in early spring, when the surrounding magnolia trees are in bloom).

For a more strenuous workout, there's also a six-mile Outer Loop that leads through the entirety of the park--a highlight of which is the sight of the city skyline rising above the wide lawn of Sheep Meadow.

Central Park Resevoir and Outer Loop

The Mall and Monuments Route, Washington, DC

While in summertime joggers often stick to the shaded C&O canals through the brownstones of Georgetown, in any other season it's hard to resist the patriotic appeal of the 2.5-mile-long National Mall route.

Wake up early before the morning rush-hour crowds and start at the Capitol Building. Wake up early before the crowds of the morning rush hour and start at the Capitol Building. Then hightail it down either side of the Mall past the Washington Monument and the World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials, finishing at the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial.

For a cooldown, walk up the memorial's steps to where the statue of Abraham Lincoln gazes over the Mall.

The Mall and Monuments Route

Park Loop, Piedmont Park, Atlanta

Once a farm and Civil War encampment, centrally located Piedmont Park has been Atlanta's finest chunk of green space for more than a century.

The varied terrain includes sweeping meadows, rolling hillside and dense forests, all centered around Lake Clara Meer. Piedmont's longest running route, the 1.7-mile Park Loop, will lead you through the multifaceted scenery, but remember that Atlanta is not flat.

From the Meadow, the lowest point of the loop, to the top of Active Oval, the highest point, it's a good quarter mile up.

Park Loop, Piedmont Park

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