UPDATED JUL 14, 2020
For a tiny city, Nashville boasts a lot of beautiful running spots. Whether you like to go paved or au naturel, there are more than a few scenic routes to be found. And we’ve already done all the finding for you! Here's your guide to the best places to stretch your legs and break a sweat.
There’s a reason that Shelby Bottoms is the go-to park for most of us in Music City; it’s prettier than Dolly Parton in the ’70s. The 950 acres of river bottomland features 10 miles of trails through forests, plains, streams, and riverfront. The trails are about 50/50 paved and unpaved, and pets are allowed in this East Nashville oasis.
The Cumberland River Greenway is a lush contrast to the endless party of downtown and Broadway, and the nearly 8 miles of riverside asphalt path feature scenic overlooks of the Cumberland and the Nashville skyline. Make your way to the part of the greenway known as the MetroCenter Levee Greenway that begins at Ted Rhodes Park and weaves around the city on the west bank. Then, cross the Shelby Avenue Pedestrian Bridge to continue onto the East Bank Greenway and take a break in the scenic Cumberland Park right on the riverfront.
Looking to pack in more than a few miles without leaving the city? The Harpeth River Greenway is a six-mile asphalt trail that connects Edwin Warner Park with the Harpeth River Park. That means you can run the 12 miles of trails at Percy and Edwin Warner and follow it up with this route, round trip, for a full marathon. Is the trail scenic? Sure is! It ambles all along the beautiful Little Harpeth and Harpeth River.
While the big draw of Centennial Park is the replica of the Greek Parthenon, it’s also one of the best spots in town for some urban running. Set in the heart of Midtown, there’s a solid 2.3 miles of paved loop pathways that winds alongside the Parthenon, gardens, a dog park, and the lake. And there’s always something happening in Centennial, so finish off a run by checking the arts facilities for upcoming events.
The Richland Creek Greenway is a five-mile, paved loop around McCabe Park. The rail trail winds through the woods and features a lovely boardwalk bridge over—you guessed it—Richland Creek. The greenway is located in Sylvan Park, so be sure to check out Sylvan Park favorite Star Bagel for a post-run bagel and fresh juice.
Radnor Lake was originally dammed to be a water reservoir for steam engines. It became Tennessee’s first Natural Area after it outlived its intended purpose. Lucky for us, we now have a 1,368-acre park with more than six miles of trails. The catch? You can’t run on them as the park serves as home to an abundance of wildlife. Instead, park at the West Lot and run along the paved portion of the trail to the East Lot. An out-and-back gets you about 2.5 miles, plus the view of the lake and wildlife.
Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks are adjacent natural areas spanning over 3,100 acres. That’s a lot of room for trails, and they make good use of it. Percy is the larger of the two (he was the favorite brother), and is one of the best spots around if you’re looking to get into some hill work. Both parks are heavily forested and feature paved and unpaved trails. Located just off Old Hickory Blvd. in Forest Hills, they’re even easy to get to.
Did you know there’s a running trail that connects Shelby Bottoms to Percy Priest Lake? Yup, that’s a thing. So, if you’re gearing up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Nashville Marathon, you can top off this 20-mile round trip trail with a few miles around Shelby. The paved trail connects to Heartland Park and Two Rivers Park — both perfect excuses to take a few breathers along the way.
Peeler Park is, without a doubt, the highlight of Madison. The 1.9 mile asphalt trail takes you through vast plains, dark forests, and farmlands. About half of the trails are paved, and, while most of them are easy and flat, a few offer hills for those real sweat-seekers. The 650 pastoral acres are some of the most diverse and woodsy countryside in the Nashville area.
If trail running is more your style, head to the primitive running trails in Beaman Park in the northwest corner of Nashville. Beaman Park features five miles of trails and boardwalks in a natural Highland Rim forest, and the park is one of the most botanically diverse places in Tennessee. The hilly landscape, narrow hollows, pristine streams, and cascading waterfalls are not to be missed.
This lakefront natural area offers a handful of trails with impeccable views of Percy Priest Lake along the way. The Couchville Lake Trail is a two-mile paved loop that winds around the Couchville Lake Area and is perfect for a quick run. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, hit up one of the park’s more primitive trails, just make sure you watch your step!
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