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Best Runs in U.S. National Parks

Great Runs has researched the best places to run in the major National Parks, plus countless other locations administered by the National Park Service. To find the best and most appropriate running spots, we’ve talked to park rangers and scouted out routes, with a focus on accessibility and safety, while exploring the beauty within the parks. These are not serious trail runs or duplicative of suggested hikes. Rather, the approach is, if you are visiting a National Park, where are the most enjoyable, interesting, scenic, and appropriate places to go running? Here’s a sampling of some favorites in each of the major National Parks (organized by geography, east to west). And, see this list of Best National Park Half Marathons from HalfMarathons.Net.

Acadia National Park. We love the 45 miles of Carriage Roads that are the gift of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. On the Park Loop Road, the most spectacular section with the best views is south of Seal Beach to Little Hunters Beach.

Shenandoah National Park/Skyline Drive. Moses Cone Park Carriage Trailsin the Big Meadows area and the Tunnel Trail at the south end of the park.

Blue Ridge Parkway. Moses Cone Park Carriage Trails. Nice views, wide and smooth gravel surface.

Great Smoky Mountain National ParkCades Cove Loop is a paved, one-lane road offers a picturesque route filled with views of the mountain peaks, wildlife viewing opportunities and several 19th century homesteads. Closed to cars till 10:00 am May-Sept.

Everglades National Park. The Shark Valley Trail is the easiest to access but the most scenic are the Flamingo Trails at the southern end of the park.

Badlands National Park. Sections of the Scenic Drive are great (see our notes). First 3 miles of Sheep Mountain Table are great for running.

Big Bend National Park. Chimneys Trail is a terrific, open desert trail that provides a great taste of the park, with a gradual elevation gradient.

Canyonlands National Park. Colorado River Outlook is a quiet road with great views. Or, a sunset run to Murphy Point Overlook.qq

Rocky Mountain National Park. Upper Beaver Meadows and Mill Creek Basin Trail.

Great Sand Dunes National Park. The dunes themselves make for very challenging running. So, head to the Grasslands Trails, especially during wildflower season!

Mesa Verde National Park. The best option for running in Mesa Verde NP is the paved, 5-mile trail that loops around the top of Wetherill Mesa.

Zion National Park. Zion Scenic Drive is great from April-October because it’s closed to cars!

Bryce Canyon National Park. Parts of this are more trail running, but it’s beautiful. Go early to avoid the crowds. The new Multi-Use Path to Red Canyon has some scenic sections.

Grand Canyon South Rim. The Rim Trail is great for running but can get crowded, so go early!

Glacier National Park. Lake MacDonald is a paved, 7-mile trail with great views. We also love Hidden Lake Trail, which is hillier.

Grand Teton National Park. The Multi-Use Path offers beautiful views of the famous mountain peaks and provides access to numerous scenic overlooks. Also several lake perimeter trails.

Mount Rainier National Park. Westside Road is car-free after the first 3 miles and gets progressively hillier. The Sourdough Ridge Trail has beautiful subalpine meadows and a relatively gentle climb to the ridge.

Olympic National Park: Choose a section of the 130-mile Olympic Discovery Trail. The Hoh River Trail is the best bet for a rainforest run.

North Cascades National Park. Take the ferry to the Stekehin area to run on Stekehin Valley Road — one of the more spectacular running experiences in the National Park system, with fantastic views of Lake Chelan and surrounding mountains.

Redwoods National Park. There are some fairly easy trails amidst the redwoods that are terrific for running.

Yosemite National Park.  The Multi-Use Trail has 12 miles of paved paths in Yosemite Valley, passing scenic meadows and the beautiful pine forests of the valley. There’s a nice loop in Tuolumne Meadows for running as well.

Yellowstone National Park. Upper Geyser Basin is a trail passing several geysers. The Storm Point loop trail has even elevation and great views (go early/late to avoid crowds).

Death Valley National Park. Sections of Badwater Rd. are popular for running, with great views of the Black and Paramint Mountains and the canyons/badlands to the east. Also parts of Artists Drive, which is more challenging.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Roaring Rivers to Zumwalt Meadows Loop is a flat, paved road through lush and green woods, with dramatic granite canyon walls. Crescent Meadows Rd. is great and closed to cars after 9am on weekends.

Haleakala National Park. A unique opportunity to run on a 10,000-foot oceanside volcano. Challenging, with great views.

Volcanoes National Park. The Crater Rim Trail offers a thrill for trail runners. The 11 miles around Kilauea’s summit are pretty flat and unobstructed, with a 1300 foot elevation gain.

Virgin Islands National Park. The Francis Bay and Johnny Horn trails offer great views and a terrific sampling of the park’s geography.








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