5 Incredibly Scenic (And Challenging) Running Trails

5 Incredibly Scenic (And Challenging) Running Trails


It’s no secret that trail running—with its hills and rugged terrain—is more difficult than jogging on a treadmill. So why bother? The breathtaking scenery that you’ll view from these trails is a reward that's even better than all the calories burned.

Whether you’re a gym rat or city dweller, finding an open space to run without having to dodge traffic or battle it out for an exercise machine during peak gym hours can be a workout in itself. But if you escape the city and dive into the great wide open, you’ll find running trails so stunning that you may never want to leave. Both challenging and breathtaking, these five trails give new meaning to the phrase, “Happy trails to you.” So pack your bag and visit one of these in the spring or fall for the most moderate weather.

1. McKenzie River Trail

Just over 26 miles (42 kilometers) long and located near Eugene, OR, this trail is the perfect destination for all nature lovers. Jog through the Cascade Range and its old forests, lava fields, log bridges, and side lakes. Along the way, you’ll see hot springs and blue pools, making for some beautiful distractions while you sweat. Just keep in mind that the trail has been named the number one mountain biking trail in the country, as well—so be on the lookout for workout buddies who are whipping through on wheels.

2. Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail includes many sections worth running through, starting in Georgia, going up through Pennsylvania, and ending in Maine. Some professionals run the trail from end to end (Scott Jurek holds the current record for completing it in less than 47 days), but there’s no need to go such extremes. Even a few miles on the trail will be worth it for the chance to see gorgeous forests and jaw-dropping cliffs.

3. Kalalau Trail

Located on the Na Pali Coast of one of the eight main Hawaiian islands, Kauai, this 11-mile (18-kilometer) trail looks like it was lifted straight off the front of a postcard. Run through green valleys as you pass hidden waterfalls, crystal clear beaches, and even some Hawaiian ruins. Just make sure to check the weather before you head up—Kauai is known as the “Garden Island” because of its lush greenery, which it gets in part from large amounts of rain throughout the year.

4. Poison Spider Mesa

Mountain bikers love this area of the Moab desert in Utah, but experienced runners may find it enjoyable, too. Hydrate wisely (it is the desert, after all) and challenge yourself on the jagged terrain as you look at snowcapped mountains off in the distance. If you’re running with a group (which is recommended for this route), aim to head out early in the day so you can take in an amazing sunrise while you’re at it.

5. Shut-In Trail

This trail, located in Asheville, NC, is perfect for runners who want to go shorter distances without sacrificing their views. In the summer, you’ll feel comfortably confined (hence the trail's name) by miles of rhododendrons, as you work your way through the almost 3,000 feet of elevation changes. This trail is one that will leave your lower body burning the next day, for sure.

When you've finished logging your miles and are ready to head home, stick your dirty sneakers in a Pack-It Shoe Sac and put your sweaty clothes in a Pack-It Clean Dirty Cube to keep those items from contaminating your other clothing (and smelling up your suitcase!).

Are there any other running trails that you like to frequent? If so, what are your favorites? Share in the comments!

While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information.  Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.


by Colleen Travers

Colleen Travers writes about health, fitness, travel, and women’s lifestyle for various publications.