National Parks

Best Runs in U.S. National Parks

This is a brief list of the one or two ‘must do’ runs in the major U.S. national parks. The focus is on easier, accessible running, not trail running or duplicative of hiking trails. For a list of all our routes in the U.S. National Park system, click on the National Park category.

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.

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.

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.

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.

North Cascades National Park. The must do run, and a unique running experience, is Stekehin Valley Road. Reachable only by ferry. The first 6 miles is fairly flat, and features stunning lake and mountain views on an easy gravel surface winding through a river valley.

Redwoods National Park. Best road run is the prairie section of Bald Hills Rd. Best tails for running are sections of the Coastal Trail, Prairie Creek Trail, and around Trinidad Beach. Also some gorgeous beach running along Crescent Beach/Enderts Beach, Little River State Beach, and Gold Bluffs Beach.

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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