The 10 Best Urban Trails in the United States
Urban running can sometimes feel like a real-life video game course: You bound around a food cart only to dodge a turning car and be brought up short at a stoplight. Race days may bring miles of uninterrupted city running (thank you, street closures), but weekday running is rarely so continuous. If you’d rather your run be about hitting your stride, these U.S. destinations are tops for urban—and yes, rather scenic—running trails.
1. Buffalo Bayou Park, Houston, Texas
Buffalo Bayou Park covers 160 acres in the heart of Houston, making it one of the country’s greatest urban green spaces. Although the skyscrapers and cultural centers of downtown Houston are just a stone’s throw away, a run here feels far afield from the urban landscape. Twenty miles of trails stretch along the bayou, including the Sandy Reed Memorial Trail, a wide, concrete trail that accommodates cyclists, too, with a five-foot-wide asphalt path better suited for runners and walkers. The trail also passes several public art installations, and the trail’s lighting is a work of art in itself: Designed by L’Observatoire and Stephen Korns, the system transitions from white to blue as the moon waxes and wanes connecting park goers to the natural world.
2. Paseo del Bosque Trail, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque has become a training destination for runners from the fastest female marathoner of all time Paula Radcliffe to Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp. But the altitude isn’t the only thing that attracts competitive runners to this southwest city: the Paseo del Bosque Trail traces the Rio Grande River through cottonwood forests along 16 miles of uninterrupted trail. Offshoots take you along sandy paths to the riverbank, where you’re likely to spot wildlife.
3. Silver Strand, San Diego, California
You’re never far from the Pacific Ocean when you run on the Silver Strand Trail in San Diego. Mikail McVerry
With great weather, beautiful coastal scenery, and accessible running trails, there’s not much you won’t love about running or walking in San Diego. The 15-mile Silver Strand (part of the Bayshore Bikeway) stands out as one of San Diego’s longest continuous routes. It’s also one of the most beautiful in Southern California as it follows the beach from San Diego Bay to Imperial Beach. The trail begins at the iconic Hotel Del Coronado (a prime place to combine sightseeing and a workout, if you’re only in town for a visit.) As it heads south, the trail will take you past overlooks of the naval shipyard and public beaches at Glorietta Bay Park and Silver Strand State Beach, two fitting places to stop for a rest or dip your toes in the water.
4. The Mission and Museum Reaches, San Antonio, Texas
The famed San Antonio River Walk expanded with the addition of the Museum Reach, in 2009, and the Mission Reach, in 2013. The first addition extended the downtown River Walk path just over a mile to connect a handful of the city’s top museums and the dynamic Pearl neighborhood. (If you’re ending there, stop in for a craft beer and a bite to eat in the food hall.) Next, the eight-mile addition extended the route past four 18th-century Spanish Colonial missions, which together earned status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—pretty picturesque for a long run without leaving the city limits.
5. Burke-Gilman Trail, Seattle, Washington
The Burke-Gilman Trail officially stretches 27 miles along former rail tracks in Seattle. If you’re not up for running a full marathon, no worries. Section runs are easy since this path passes through many of the city’s top neighborhoods, including Fremont and the University of Washington, as well as following the Lake Washington waterfront.
6. Chain of Lakes, Minneapolis, Minnesota
You may not be able to see all of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes, but you can see three of them on a single run on this route. The Chain of Lakes Trail follows the lakefronts of Lake Calhoun, Lake Harriet, and the Lake of the Isles just southwest of downtown Minneapolis. The route around each is 3 to 3.5 miles, but short connecting paths will lead you around for the full 11-mile loop.
7. Charles River Bike Path, Boston, Massachusetts
The Charles River Bike Path offers 22 mostly uninterrupted miles to explore. Kyle Tran
You’ll likely spot runners along the famed St. Charles River Bike Path training for the country’s oldest marathon. Even if you’re not a speedster, this 22-mile paved route from downtown Boston to its western suburbs is a top spot for an urban jog. The natural scenery of the Charles River is as picturesque as the architectural landmarks you’ll spot along the way, including the Museum of Science and several university campuses, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard. The trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, a network that when completed will connect 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida.
8. Schuylkill River Trail, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
If you’ve already done your best Rocky Balboa impression by running up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this trail is a perfect addition. The Schuylkill River Trail extends 10 miles along the river, offering one of the most scenic running spaces you’ll find in any urban environment. In addition to the museum, you can run past Boathouse Row and the Philadelphia Zoo.
9. Wildwood Trail, Portland, Oregon
If you’ve ever seen TV shows or movies with people running in Portland, it’s probably along this trail. The Wildwood Trail winds 28 miles from Washington Park to Forest Park, west of downtown. If you have a short run in mind, aim for miles 9 to 11 through Forest Park; this section has gently rolling hills and turns through big trees and past deep canyons, scenery that’s typical of the entire route but with fewer climbs.
10. The Mall and Monuments Route, Washington, D.C.
This trail is probably the best-known path in D.C.—and not just for runners. Visitors and politicos alike travel this route past some of the nation’s top landmarks. With that in mind, let your patriotism rouse you early (before the crush of tourist crowds descend) for a 4.3-mile loop from the Capitol Building past the Washington Monument, and the World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials, to conclude at the Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial. If early wake-up calls aren’t your thing, try this route at night when all the sites are illuminated.
Written by Ashley M. Biggers for Matcha in partnership with Superfeet and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.