Let’s be real — some cities are just plain better for running than others. Maybe they’ve got great weather, amazing places to log miles, or are teeming with run clubs. Or they might be home to iconic races that many runners dream about and train for years to qualify for.
Taking all this into account, we’ve narrowed down the 15 best U.S. cities for runners. You might find your hometown on the list or maybe a dream runcation. Either way, it’s time to lace up those sneakers and get going.
Texas does everything bigger and so goes the running scene in its capital, Austin. Runners flock to the miles and miles and miles (you get the idea) of trails that line that Colorado River. Get lost along the paths on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail or in the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Closer to the city you’ll find plenty of breathtaking views of downtown and places to hop in for a swim to cool down from the Texas heat. Gear up or join a group run at local shop Luke’s Locker, which is right near some of Austin’s most popular running trails. And test your mettle at one of Austin’s many road races – there’s one nearly every weekend!
Home to the world’s oldest annual marathon, Boston is definitely one of the best cities for anyone who loves to run. Welcoming to pros and newbies alike, there are endless places to pound the pavement. Start with the paths that line the Charles River on both the Boston and Cambridge sides, then hit the Emerald Necklace, or the Minuteman Bikeway. With lots of run clubs in the city, you’ll never have to go solo. Plus, local running shops like Marathon Sports or Heartbreak Hill Running Company are the places to go to get geared up whether you’re running the marathon or your first mile.
Charlotte is one of those places where it’s only really cold for a few weeks a year, so it’s absolutely made for year-round running. And there are so many places to run, the hard part is figuring out where not to run. Check out the Charlotte Rail Trail, which has views of Uptown and has easy access to nearby breweries. Or hit up the McAlpine Creek Greenway, which has both paved and unpaved surfaces so you can give your knees a break. And if you’re looking for a fun local race in the Queen City, check out Charlotte Running Company for a calendar of upcoming events.
Cleveland sports are getting a lot of attention lately. With the Cavs winning the NBA championship and the Indians almost winning the World Series (next year, guys!), all eyes have been on the city. Locals know that it’s not just a great place for basketball and baseball – Cleveland is made for runners. Seriously, you can’t go wrong hitting up the Ohio and Erie Canalway Towpath Trail. It has 85 miles of paved trails so you’ll never tire of logging miles there. And with tons of local running groups, you’ll never have to hit the trails alone.
Don’t let Chicago’s brutal winters put you off, the Windy City is one of the best places to live or visit if you love running. The Lakefront Trail, which winds along Lake Michigan for 18 miles, is one of the best run routes in Chicago. The trail offers stunning views of the skyline and even has bathrooms and mile markers – a runner’s dream come true. When you run the Lakefront, you can even make a pit stop at the iconic Bean in Millennium Park for a selfie you’ll never want to delete. When you’re ready to go long, the Chicago Marathon is ready and waiting for you (and totally worth it!).
Residents of the Mile High City are famously fit. From hiking to mountain biking, there’s no shortage of ways to stay in shape in Denver. And running is near the top of the list. Hit the Cherry Creek Trail for 24 miles gorgeous miles that end in a state park. Or log miles at City Park, where you can wave to the animals as you pass the Denver Zoo. If you’re new to the city, take it slow, running at altitude is no joke (and you might barf)! But once you’re acclimated you’ll be able to run to your heart’s content, taking in mountain views and skyline shots while you pound the pavement.
Minneapolis and St. Paul are home to what’s billed as “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America.” The Twin Cities race takes runners on a scenic 26.2-mile journey past lakes (unsurprisingly) and the Mississippi River before ending at the state capitol. If you’re not up for a marathon, no worries. The nearly 12-mile Chain of Lakes is a popular local running route in Minneapolis. Or check out the Grand Rounds National Scenic Byway for 51 miles of city parks, wetlands, and woodlands. And don’t worry about the wicked winters, the running trails in Minneapolis are often plowed before the roads.
New York City is home to both the largest marathon in the world and one of the most iconic running spots. Central Park is a runner’s paradise, with trails that will make you feel far from the city while you’re right in the heart of it. Or take to the paths that line the Hudson, East, and Harlem Rivers for terrific views and fresh air. The Big Apple can feel awfully large and lonely sometimes, but not when you train with or run one of the New York Road Runners’ many races. Go ahead, grab a slice of New York’s famous pizza after your run. You earned it.
Ask us; ask anyone!, Philadelphia is home to the best urban trail in the U.S. The 60-mile Schuylkill River Trail, known locally as the SRT, starts in downtown, runs through the Philly suburbs, and ends way outside the city. Looking for a different kind of challenge? Take on the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, AKA the “Rocky Steps,” to work on those glutes. And if you’re looking for a way to burn off all those cheesesteaks, enter one of Philly’s many road races, where you might just make some new runner friends. It is the City of Brotherly Love after all.
With two cities on our list, Pennsylvania might just be the most run-happy state. We’ve already told you why we love running in Philly, now let the Steel City’s show you around the best run routes in Pittsburgh…and their hills. Steel City runners training for the Pittsburgh Marathon love logging miles on the 24-mile Three River Heritage Trail. While Frick Park’s 644 acres are perfect for anyone who’s crazy for all-terrain running. Don’t want to log miles solo? Join the Steel City Road Runners, Pittsburgh’s largest run club, and you’ll never go it alone again.
With Nike headquarters in nearby Beaverton, it’s no surprise that running culture is a huge part of life in Portland. You don’t even have to leave the city to find miles of trails to get lost on at Forest Park. It’s the biggest natural park in an urban setting in the U.S. and with 80 miles of trails you’ll never get bored logging miles there. If you’re looking for a more traditional setting for a run, take on the path that lines the Willamette River and make sure you cross the spectacular Steel Bridge. Because running is so big in Stumptown, there’s no shortage of run clubs to keep you company.
We all know running hills is good for us and we can’t think of a better place to do that than in San Francisco. It’s home to Lombard Street, which is so steep that cars have to navigate eight hairpin turns to get to the bottom (take a picture from the bottom first). If you’re looking for a flatter patch of land to stretch your legs, head to the Embarcadero and take in the famous Fisherman’s Wharf. Or explore peaceful Golden Gate Park, where you’ll run beneath towering trees. And don’t miss the Bay to Breakers 12K, part race, part party, that’s all San Francisco.
Home to both Brooks and Oiselle, two top running companies, there are few places better to be a runner than in Seattle. Hit the 27-mile Burke-Gilman Trail for water and city views – and a stop into the Brooks headquarters, which is right off the path. Do loops around Green Lake while watching seaplanes land. Or get away from it all at Discovery Park, which overlooks Puget Sound and has views of the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. You might even see Brooks athletes, like Nick Symmonds, who trains in the city.
Miles of trails, a distinct lack of winter, and very few hills make Tampa one of the top cities for runners in the U.S. Bayshore Boulevard is a popular spot for to log miles along the city’s beautiful shore. Or if you’re looking to escape Florida’s blazing sun, take to the 42-mile-long Suncoast Trail, which is shaded and paved. And mark your calendars for the Gasparilla Distance Classic, a two-day race offering four distances that’s named after a pirate festival. Arr!
If you’re looking for a side of history and patriotism on your run, head to Washington, DC, where you can run around the National Mall. There you’ll take in the Capitol, Lincoln and Washington Memorials, and many of our other national treasures. Want to really go the distance? Cross the Potomac River into Virginia and head out on the Mt. Vernon Trail, which runs for 17 miles between George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Theodore Roosevelt Island. Take in D.C.’s famous spring show when you race the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run.
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