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Running in the Thousand Islands Area

by Mark Lowenstein

Great Runs just completed a week-long trip to an area we haven’t explored much before: the Thousand Islands region. It’s an archipelago of 1,864 islands straddling the Canada–U.S. border on the Saint Lawrence River as it emerges from the northeast corner of Lake Ontario. The Thousand Islands Bridge connects the New York and Ontario sides, though the border itself traverses the river.

The region is steeped in history and is a popular vacation destination, especially in summer, for a great variety of land and water based activities. We enjoyed sunny days and daytime temperatures around 80F.

A few running highlights for the Thousand Islands Region are below. For our full Thousand Island running guide, click here.

Thousand Islands Park

Best Towns for Running: Thousand Islands Park (not to be confused with Thousand Islands National Park) is a ‘private’ community but open to the public. With its historic, waterfront Victorian homes, town greens and squares, it’s like stepping back into another era. Other historic towns nice for running are Clayton and Point Salubrious on the New York site, and Gananoque (Ontario), which is the western gateway to Thousand Islands National Park in Canada.

Best Waterfront Running: The best, traffic-free waterfront roads and paths along the St. Lawrence River:

  • Cape Vincent, NY
  • Sections of the multi-use path along the Thousand Islands Parkway in Thousand Islands National Park, Canada
Cape Vincent Lighthouse

Unique Running Experiences: Run a section of the 10 km Long Sault Parkway, which crosses 11 islands. There’s a wide shoulder, popular with cyclists & runners. In Brockville, run 0.5 km in Canada’s first railroad tunnel trail, now open to pedestrians. In Sackets Harbor, run on several km of trails around a historic War of 1812 battlefield.

Best Spots for a Longer Off-Road Run. The 37 km multi-use path along the Thousand Islands Parkway in Thousand Islands National Park is a great spot to clock in some miles. There’s also the 9.4 km Waterfront Trail, a paved multi-use path that runs between Upper Canada Village and Ingleside, passing through woods, grasslands, and along the water.

Scenic Trail Running. Our favorite is Robert Wehle State Park. Enjoy 3+ miles of Lake Ontario shoreline and 10 miles of trails.

River swim from Joel Stone Heritage Park, Gananoque

A few Thousand Islands ‘must do’ activities (that aren’t running):

  • Go for a swim in the St. Lawrence River. Growing up in Montreal, never thought one could swim in this river. But in the Thousand Islands, the water is clean, warm, and safe. Many of the towns have docks you can just jump off of.
  • Take a sunset boat tour.
  • Rent a kayak and tour several of the islands. Gananoque is a great departure point for this. Tip: the water is calmest in the morning.
  • Take a tour of the historic Boldt Castle & Yacht House. The island setting is gorgeous and the history is fascinating. Tip: Do it from Wellesley Island (faster & cheaper). 

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