City Streets & Scenic Trails: The Best Run Routes in Detroit

City Streets & Scenic Trails: The Best Run Routes in Detroit

Ready to run around Motown and wondering where to start? We can help.

Whether you’re training for the annual Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon or just out for a quick jog, Detroit-area runners have ample opportunities to log those miles. Whatever your style, we’ve got a route for you—from urban pavement-pounders to winding trails worthy of a weekend excursion—you won’t be disappointed.

So grab a friend, and get ready to run wild!

  • Downtown Detroit

    detroit running trails
    image via @stefan.wahlmueller | Instagram

    You might be surprised to see Downtown Detroit on a list of great places to run, but trust us — it’s worth a second look. With a sprawl encompassing over 140 square miles, there’s plenty to explore right outside your door. Catch a glimpse of Detroit’s diversity firsthand by cruising through some of our favorite neighborhoods, including Boston Edison, Corktown, Mexicantown, Woodbridge, and Palmer Woods. And we can’t say enough about the downtown running community! RUNDetroit and Detroit Downtown Runners and Walkers are great groups to plug in with — they host weekly meet-ups for runners at any level.

  • Paint Creek Trail

    running trails detroit
    image via @lindseyeveland | Instagram

    If you like horses and cider mills and need to log some miles this weekend, head north to the Paint Creek Trail. This is Michigan’s first rails-to-trails project, complete with original rail markers for those who prefer to track their distance in “miles to Detroit.” The route runs just under nine miles from Rochester to Lake Orion, meandering through prairies and woodlands and alongside a trout-filled creek. Be prepared to share the path with cyclists and horses, and watch out for those “road apples”! If you’re feeling peckish at the midpoint, stop by the Paint Creek Cider Mill for cider and donuts or a hard-earned brisket sandwich.

  • Dequindre Cut Greenway

    detroit running trails
    image via @objectterritories | Instagram

    Formerly a section of the Grand Trunk Railway, the Dequindre Cut is Detroit’s new urban running destination. Stride past street art and dozens of murals on this two-mile sunken greenway, your new portal to the four-mile-long Detroit Riverwalk. Down at the waterfront, runners can catch the breeze off the Detroit River and soak up the sights, including the Milliken State Park Wetlands, street performers in Rivard Plaza, the GM Renaissance Center, and the Joe Louis Arena. Fitt Tip: the Riverwalk can be especially crowded on weekends, so park off Wilkins St. in Eastern Market for hassle-free access via the Dequindre Cut.

  • Belle Isle Park

    best parks detroit
    image via Belle Isle Conservancy | Facebook

    Detroiters hardly need to be reminded of the crown jewel of Detroit’s park system, but it’s worth visiting for more than picnicking. Runners can log a respectable six miles on the outside loop or extend their path even farther by traversing the island’s web of roads. Catch expansive views of Downtown Detroit from Sunset Point and wave hello to Canada from the south side of the island.

    Access to this park requires a Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport, available for $11/year at park offices or when you renew your MI vehicle tags.

  • River Rouge Park

    detroit running trails
    image via Detroit Inspiring Connections Outdoors - Sierra Club | Facebook

    Tired of jockeying with cyclists and tourists on Detroit’s more popular paths? For a less crowded run, consider the relatively-unknown River Rouge Park on Detroit’s western edge. Lace up your shoes for seven miles of paved trails crisscrossing the Rouge River, and prepare to pause for ponies at the Buffalo Soldier Heritage Center. Other diversions include Olympic-sized swimming pools, 15 acres of restored native prairie, D-Town Farms, and a mountain biking trail.

  • Lake Shore Road

    detroit running trails
    image via City of Grosse Pointe Park | Facebook

    Our first stop outside the city limits, Lake Shore Road (aka “Lakeshore Drive”) is the ultimate destination for runners looking to class things up. With spectacular waterfront views on one side and Albert Kahn-designed mansions on the other, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more upscale place to break a sweat. The most popular stretch is the 3.6 miles between the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club and the War Memorial. And yes, you should run it at sunrise for the full experience.

  • Grosse Ile Trail

    running trail detroit
    image via Dennis Mosley | Facebook

    This wide, paved trail runs six miles down the length of Grosse Ile, offering a refreshingly idyllic path through serene neighborhoods and golf courses (you might even see some deer!). The route comes to a ‘T’ at the airport on the south end of the island — it’s an excellent place to stop for a stretch break while you watch small planes take off.

  • Rouge River Greenway Greenway + Hines Park Trail

    running trails detroit
    image via Rachel Conner | Facebook

    If you’re training for an ultra or just looking to run… and run… and run… the 17.2-mile Hines Park Trail is everything you could ask for. The trail connects Dearborn and Northville, snaking through a series of parks. And the scenery does not disappoint — you can trot past the Henry Ford estate, ultimate frisbee matches, winter sledding hills, vintage car cruises, and dogs galore. We recommend beginning at the Rouge River Gateway Greenway trailhead at Michigan Ave., which traverses the U-M Dearborn campus before connecting to the Hines Park Trail.

  • Island Lake Recreation Area

    best nature walks detroit
    image via @bmccarron_ | Instagram

    Looking to get out of town and into the woods? This 4,000-acre metropark in Brighton provides an “up north” experience right here in southeastern Michigan. Enjoy a change of pace on dirt trails that wind through mature hardwood forests and open meadows. The hilly six-mile Yellow Loop will get your lungs burning, and the nine-mile Blue Loop will guide you through more open terrain. While the park also offers swimming, canoeing, and a shooting range, visit at dawn or dusk for the chance to watch hot air balloons drifting in.

    Access to this park requires a Michigan State Parks Recreation Passport, available for $11/year at park offices or when you renew your MI vehicle tags.

  • Stony Creek Metropark Trail

    best parks detroit
    image via Stony Creek Metropark | Facebook

    For a solid 10k loop and some enticing extracurriculars, head up to Stony Creek Metropark in Shelby Township. Once you’ve conquered the 6.2-mile loop around Stony Creek Lake, take a peek at all the other activities in the park, including disc golf, SUP rentals, 27 miles of wooded hiking trails, and even a ropes course with zip lines. As the seasons dictate, you can even take a kiteboard or snow kite out on the lake for uniquely Michigan-style cross-training.

    Access to this area requires a day pass or annual pass for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, available for purchase at park entrance gates.

  • Kensington Metropark

    detroit places to run
    image via Mike Beauchamp | Facebook

    While Michigan may not lack in lakes and rivers, it admittedly comes up short on opportunities for hill work. Fortunately, Kensington Metropark is here to kick you into shape with an 8.5-mile loop trail chock-full of leg-shredding hills. When you’re done punishing your glutes, take a quick dip in the lake at Martindale Beach, indulge your inner child with a ride down one of the 240-foot water slides, or bust out the binoculars for some spectacular bird-watching. The trails are even kept clear during winter, so yeah, you’ll want to spring for that annual pass.

    Access to this area requires a day pass or annual pass for the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, available for purchase at park entrance gates.