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CITY STREETS AND OFF-ROAD TRAILS: THE 13 BEST RUN ROUTES IN PHOENIX

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Jeremy Heath

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If you run at sunrise or sunset, you’ll know just how perfect Phoenix is for getting out and active. Some cities have wind, rain, and snow to contend with (hah!). Us? All sunshine. Even better, no matter if you prefer city streets or hitting the trails, our town has some incredible places to run.

You can just as easily explore the city skyline with a run through downtown as you can escape to the mountains (there are several!) for breathtaking desert scenery. Plus, strategically plan your run smartly and you can fix yourself up with a post-run beer along the Phoenix Canal.

Ditch the work clothes and lace up your running shoes for a quick jaunt through Downtown Phoenix. Discover new pubs, bars, bakeries, and coffee shops as you criss-cross the city with the skyline as your backdrop. Don’t work downtown? No problem! The Light Rail makes getting around—when you’re not running, that is—a lot easier!

Looking to just run, and run, and run? The Phoenix Canals stretch for over a hundred miles throughout the city and are perfect for those wanting to log double-digit miles (and get a perfect warm-up in for the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in January). Honestly, the biggest draw to the canals, particularly for long runs, is the fact that it’s pancake flat. But the many local restaurants who set up shop along the canals aren’t a bad thing either — can’t forget the post-run brew!

Paved and hilly. Rocky and hilly. Dirt and hilly. Whatever your preference, South Mountain Park has a variety of challenging routes to choose from. Just be prepared for—you guessed it—HILLS! If you hit up the Pima Canyon Trail entrance, be sure to squeeze through “Fat Man’s Pass” along the Hidden Valley Trailhead. Entering through the main entrance? Test your endurance with the extreme climb to the top of Dobbins Lookout.

If you love trails but are still working your way up to hills, check out Papago Park, right off the 202 in Tempe. Stay on your toes, though. You’ll share the fun dirt and rock trail with mountain bikers who are also looking for an easier route (and a few jackrabbits too!). Fitt Tip: check out the Hole-in-the-Rock as the sun sets for a picturesque evening run.

Looking for more green in the desert? Go the distance in the Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt. It’s no surprise that this is a beautiful run — green’s even in the name! The belt stretches 11 miles of paved straightaway (that bypasses major traffic crossings) and takes you through golf courses, parks, and lakes. We’re not surprised it’s rated among the top urban “green spaces” in the state! Tell us if you agree.

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Whether you’re seeking the coveted shade in the summer or the colorful foliage in the fall, Murphy’s Bridle Path is a popular spot for all levels of runners. The Bridle Path stretches along Central Ave., which can be pretty busy, but a quick out-and-back in the morning is totally doable. Bonus: It also connects with the canal if you still have some left in the tank.

Test your off-road skills on the Dreamy Draw trails, winding around Piestewa Peak. They’re technical, rocky, and pose a challenging climb, but the views at the top are worth the sweat and perfect for your mid-run selfie. Accomplish any of the various climbs and you’ll earn major bragging rights to go with those burning lungs.

Runners trek all over McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale for a blast from the past. Here, you can run by a real locomotive, museums, and other railroad attractions, like a beautiful ride on the Arboretum Train (do this after your run). The park stretches for over 40 acres, but say you’re an ultrarunner who needs even more mileage. You’re in luck — the canal connects here too!

Ready to rumble where the triathletes train? You don’t have to go far. You’ll join many other runners, cyclists, paddleboarders, and kayakers at Tempe Town Lake. Athletes come to enjoy the beautiful lake and flat routes. Running from bridge to bridge is the perfect five-mile loop, complete with restrooms (important for a run) and fountains along the way.

Kiwanis Park is the Phoenix oasis. With green grass, palm trees, blue lake, and ducks and birds, you’re welcome to take a break from desert life to run at Kiwanis Park. Stroll about in the greenery or run an easy 5k or 10k loop around the lake. And, of course, hit the connecting canal for extra mileage.

You get it by now — canal runs are flat. But if you’re more into sweat-dripping, humbling workouts, know that we’ve got that too. Take a run up the largest mountain range in Phoenix: the Superstition Mountains. Climb to the highest point (about 5,000ft.) through a forest of cacti for ultimate bragging rights and the best views. Fancy yourself a treasure hunter? Legend has it there’s a lost gold mine somewhere in these mountain ranges.

Deem Hills Recreation Area is a workout for your body and an educational exercise for you mind. See, running Deems Hill lets you in on a piece of ancient history. The characteristic rock formations date back to the dinosaurs and the trails, while hilly, showcase a variety of desert vegetation: from saguaros and cholla to Palo Verde trees and barrel cacti. Run the base trail for a route just short of a 10k, or add in some extra miles and climb to the top for serious views of Ludden Mountain.

More hillwork? Why not climb a mountain? In Phoenix, runners enjoy a good challenge, and we like to hit the Cholla Trail at Camelback Mountain for some short (2.6 miles round-trip) but difficult hill climb. The ascent is a little over 1200ft., but the views at the top are worth the burning quads! Fitt Tip: This popular trail is a heavily trafficked area, so arrive early to find a parking spot (they’re limited) for the scenic sunrise!

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Fitt

Get Fitt delivered to your inbox.

Stay up to date on what’s happening in Phoenix’s health and fitness scene.

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Fitt

Get Fitt delivered to your inbox.

Stay up to date on what’s happening in Phoenix’s health and fitness scene.