Trail running is booming around America, and while Utah is a mecca for runnable trails, this activity is also a wonderful way to explore new destinations. Whether you’re planning a vacation or looking for somewhere new to run this year, check out this list of our picks for America’s best trail running destinations.
Tahoe Rim Trail in Lake Tahoe, California
While the Lake Tahoe area is packed with running trails, there’s no better view than along the 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail. The trail hosts endurance events aplenty, but you can also venture onto it for solo runs around the lake and into the wilds. Explore the rocky Desolation Wilderness, the wildflower-filled Page Meadows, and pop onto the Pacific Crest Trail. Be aware that the elevation is about 8,000 feet with the trail topping out at 10,388 feet. Passing through two states and three National Forests, the hardest part of running here is choosing where to go. If you’re looking to run longer in one direction, plan a car shuttle or have someone pick you up. One section we love begins at Big Meadow and travels to Echo Summit on the southeast side of the trail.
Where to Eat: Freshies Tahoe– Hawaiian-style eats await at this local institution that’s famous for its fish tacos. There are also plenty of vegetarian options, like the Sweet Potato and Quinoa Griddle Cakes, and it’s convenient;y located on the main drag in South Lake Tahoe.
Where to Drink: The Hangar- This bottle shop and taproom features 30 rotating taps with a focus on local brews. On sunny days, chill out on forested patio and play a round of bocce.
Valley Trail in Jackson, Wyoming
The mountain town of Jackson Hole is home to plenty of wild trails (many where animal encounters are likely), but one of our favorite simple, scenic runs is to Phelps Lake in Grand Teton National Park. Easy to reach from Teton Village, the base of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, and town, the Valley Trail begins right in Teton Village. Run for five miles along it to reach Phelps Lake (keep your eyes peeled for bears and moose), at an elevation of 7200 feet where the overlook showcases panoramic lake views and old-growth Douglas fir trees.
Where to Eat: Persephone Bakery– One of favorite bakeries anywhere, Persephone in Jackson Hole is known for its sweet treats and savory cuisine. The tiny location in town is classic, but if you’re staying at Teton Village there’s now a location much closer with a different, but equally delicious, menu.
Where to Drink: Snake River Brewing– Launched way back in 1994–before the craft beer boom–this brewery focuses on making award-winning brews in a variety of flavors ranging from IPAS to classic lagers. (I might be biased, but the Jenny Lake Lager is an easy favorite.)
Peninsula State Park in Door County, Wisconsin
The Great Lake views and rocky terrain make Wisconsin a uniquely beautiful running destination. There are plenty of options for trekking off the path in Door County, Wisconsin, but our favorite were the trails of Peninsula State Park. For a route along the water, park at the Fish Creek entrance and run along the shore to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse and back. Or follow the Sunset Bike Trail (it’s also open to runners) and wind through shady forests on routes that twist and turn with smooth dirt paths. Make a loop or run sections as an out-and-back. Go early to beat the heat and crowds.
For a steep path that’s more a hike than a run, follow the Eagle Trail down 200 feet to rocky outcroppings and lake views surrounded by a lush forest.
Where to Eat: Julie’s Park Cafe– Just outside the park entrance, Julie’s is the perfect place to stop for a post-run brunch. Go for a heart omelet or a big stack of pancakes paired with bottomless coffee. Nostalgia and tasty ice cream make Wilson’s old-fashioned restaurant my favorite stop. Don’t miss the towering sundaes and malts!
Where to Drink: Harbor Ridge Winery– Taste Wisconsin-made wines with cheeky names like Call Me a Cab Cabernet and fruit flavors such as Cherry Crush. Samples flow here year-round, and the tasting room is conveniently located next to Wisconsin Cheese Masters, a store where you can taste and stock up on Wisconsin cheese.
Inks Lake State Park in the Hill Country of Texas
The Texas Hill Country is a welcome respite form big Texas cities, but it’s at its best in spring when the state’s famous bluebonnetts bloom. The flowers take over the landscape, covering everything in a blanket of blue, which only lasts at its peak for a few short weeks.
And our favorite place to run amongst them is Inks Lake State Park. Here the rugged landscape is hilly and rocky with cedar, live oak, and prickly pear cacti growing amidst a sea of bluebonnets. Paired with the area’s red rocks, it’s a spectacular destination for seeing the famous flowers. Explore the network of trails, running up to 7.5 miles on a recently expanded trail that links the Highland Lakes countryside to Inks Lake.
Where to Eat: Opies BBQ– Pick your meat and eat at this old-school Texas BBQ joint specializing in pork, ribs, turkey, and brisket cooked over a 12-foot smoke pit. If you’re a vegetarian don’t fear, the tater tot casserole, spicy corn, and banana pudding are great options to fill your belly.
Where to Drink: Save the World Brewing– The small town of Marble Falls is home to a brewery built on giving back. Save the World is Americas first 100% philanthropic production craft brewery and offers a wide variety of tasty brews along with cheese plates and charcuterie. From corn hole to giant Jenga, there’s plenty to keep your crew entertained.
This outdoorsy Virginia town might by the East Coast Mountain Biking Capital, but there are plenty of places to run too. Try not-so-steep sections of the Appalachian Trail, or build your endurance with the long trek to McAfee’s Knob. You can also run throughout Mill Mountain Park and up to the Roanoke Star where spectacular views of town await. For a flatter path, stick to a run on the Roanoke Valley Greenway Trail, a pretty path that connects to the parks and travels right through downtown. You can even stop for a swim in the river if you’re overheating.
Where to Eat: Tuco’s Taqueria Garaje- Found in an up-and-coming area of town, this taqueria offers a wide variety of tacos ranging from fried chicken to cilantro lime shrimp. Pair with the housemate guacamole and a made-from-scratch margarita for the perfect post-run refuel.
Where to Drink: Starr Hill Pilot Brewery– Refuel with brews and tunes at this small brewery on the edge of town. We love the classic Jomo Vienna Lager, but also recommend the limited releases available that include sours, books, milk stouts, and more.
Do you agree with our picks? If not, send us your thoughts on what are America’s best trail running destinations.