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SCENIC TRAILS & CITY STREETS: ALL THE BEST RUN ROUTES IN CHARLOTTE

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Hayley Lyons

JUL 2, 2019

In Charlotte, we love all things active, and there’s no doubt about it: we also love to run. We’ll run for fun, we’ll run for a cause, and we’ll always, always run for beer and food trucks (because #tacos).

If you’re a routine runner, it’s easy to get stuck in a running route rut. We’ve all been there, and it’s a bore — but maybe all you need are some new grounds to stomp. Whether you’re new to the QC or are just looking for a change of place, here are a few of our fave places to run in Charlotte.

Central to pretty much everything, Freedom Park can be found in historic Dilworth and Myers Park and offers everything a runner could possibly want. Take a lap around the pond, or better yet, hop on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway for miles and miles of flat running. Say hi to the ducks while you’re there. And when you’re done, rent one of the B-cycle bikes from Atrium Health for a cool-down loop around the park. Or, join the sand volleyball players for a match, but be warned: they’re super competitive.

If there’s one thing Charlotte’s fitness and adrenaline junkies love, it’s the US National Whitewater Center. There’s rafting, kayaking, canoeing, ziplining, rock climbing, and mountain biking, but today, we’re talking exclusively about the running — and not just any running, but trail running. There are over 40 miles of trails through preserved woodlands and alongside the Catawba River with plenty of loop options, depending on how many miles you want to get in (and how hard you want to run). When you’re done getting down and dirty on the trails, cool off with a beer from the Pump House Biergarten.

Running along the Light Rail’s Blue Line, the Charlotte Rail Trail covers 3.5 miles of ground from Sedgefield all the way into Uptown. On top of that, its close proximity to breweries makes it the top choice for beer runs — and we’re certainly not complaining. The Charlotte Rail Trail is flat and will give you the best view of the skyline, which means that this trail is highly-trafficked most times of the day. So get your waving hand ready and practice saying “On your left!”. Oh, and be warned: there’s a 100% chance you’ll run into someone you know, and it will probably be last week’s awkward Tinder date. Whatever — we still swipe right for the Light Rail Trail.

Did you know that Mallard Creek Greenway is the longest greenway in Charlotte? Just north of UNC Charlotte, this greenway in the University area features 5.6 miles of both paved and gravel surfaces. The trail is perfect for an out-and-back, plus you’ll see lots of other runners, bikers, and rollerbladers along the way.

Training for a marathon? These adjoining greenways are by far the most popular spots for those SLRs (slow, long runs). Running nearly six miles through South Charlotte, you get a little bit of everything in terms of surface — we’re talking asphalt, gravel, and boardwalk. Nestled in the trees, there’s also plenty of nature for you bird enthusiasts out there. Just watch your step — nature means snakes! But reptiles aside, there are multiple entrances, making this trail super accessible no matter where you are in South Charlotte.

Crowders Mountain is about 40 minutes from Center City in Gastonia — but there’s a reason so many Charlotte runners make the trip to South Carolina just to hike and run. The trek up Crowders Mountain is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it gives stair climbers a run for their money. Crowders appeals to your outdoorsy side, and will have you climbing and weaving your way through a forest of hardwoods. But it’s also well-maintained, so you don’t have to worry too much about tripping. Fitt Tip: take a friend who will snap your picture at one of the overlooks. Because if you don’t Insta it, did it really happen?

Here’s another great option if you’re itching for trails, but without the bike traffic. In fact, Reedy Creek Park is open only to those traveling by foot. Cool, right? And with 10 miles of interconnecting loops, it’s easy to get in as many (or as few) miles as you want. Enjoy some sweet solitude as you make your way through the forest and around ponds. Afterward, be sure to spend some time at the nature preserve for the full Reedy Creek Park experience.

This one’s for our history buffs, because who doesn’t want to learn about their city’s past while catching a few miles on the trails? These routes are rich with history (and probably a few ghost stories), but they’re also incredibly beautiful. Covering over five miles, be sure to take a stretch and selfie break at one of the Mountain Island Lake viewing points along the way.

When it comes to The Booty Loop, Charlotte’s got back(side). Named for its—ahem—shapeliness, this run route curves through Myers Park and is just under three miles of gorgeous pathway. With streets lined with trees and minimal intersections, there’s a reason this loop has become a popular spot for runners and walkers alike. Plus, you get to cruise down the beautiful Queens Rd. West, with homes that tower as high as the trees.

Wait, whaaaaat? We know. Fighting your way through hurried commuters, stopping at crosswalks, and blazing past honking cars — it’s far from a runner’s paradise. But at least once, we encourage you to plan a route that runs through Uptown Charlotte. There’s just something about running through the city when you aren’t hailing an Uber, dancing in the EPICENTRE, or hurrying to make a show at the Blumenthal that gives it a whole new life. You’ll see the QC in a new light, and we know you’ll love it.