Just east of the central section of Nara and Nara Park is a large preserve with hilly paths leading up Mt. Wakakusa, around Mt. Kasuga, and the Kasugayama Primeval Forest. It’s scenic, and quite shaded. There are numerous options for hiking/walking/running here, although we note it this is a very hilly and challenging run. Here are some recommendations:
Full Loop. Start at Nara Park and use the paths through a more open area to run the 1.5 km to the summit of Mt. Wakakusa, climbing 150m (alternative: parking lot at top). From there, run on the Shinwakakusayama Driveway (gravel road). At the 4 km mark, optional 1 km out and back to the Hakuryu Shrine. Continue along the road. At the 6.2 km park, take gravel path that heads back west for 2 km through the Kasugayama Primeval Forest preserve to the Nara National Museum (there’s either a windy path to the Kishibosonjin Temple, or a path along Noto River). The winding trail leads through ancient forests of cedar, oak and maple. Especially pretty in autumn!
Mt. Wakakusa Loop. For a shorter option, just to the route to the summit of Mt. Wakakusa. From the same start, take the path to the summit, and then take the gravel, wooded path that comes off the parking lot back down. This is half the distance and half the elevation gain as the longer loop.