Ever since I moved down to Virginia I have been on a quest to discover new trails to run. Through the mountains, the woods, the swamps, and the coast I have discovered a passion for trail running. My wife and I make it a priority to travel to these beautiful locations and our travel plans always include exploring with a trail run. Along with eating amazing food, trail running is one of my favorite ways to explore an area.
Some areas are plentiful in the amount of trails they provide. Any state that is “outdoorsy” like Colorado or Oregon or Montana will be loaded with a variety of beautiful places to run. In fact, northern California might have the most trail runners in the United States!
That being said, recently I have realized that the idea of an “outdoorsy” area is what you make of it. Any place in the United States can be “outdoorsy” if you search for those experiences.
If you want to hike or trail run, you can find trails to run on within a half-hour from anywhere you are.
The amount of my trail running corresponded with having recently moved to Virginia. I used to say “well, Iowa just doesn’t have trails to run on.” Turns out, the problem wasn’t Iowa, the problem was me. I wasn’t actively searching for trails. In total, Iowa has 85 state parks, 6 state forests, 24 wildlife areas, and 3 national wildlife refugees, all of which have trails for hiking or trailrunning. Does it have as many trails as an “outdoorsy” state? Probably not. But it is more than enough to get you started in a brand new way to experience running.
Let’s examine my hometown of Muscatine, Iowa. There are miles of beautiful nature trails that I never took advantage of while growing up (there is even an annual Ultrarun at Wild Cat Den, a beautiful park on the bluffs of the Mississippi River).
“Wait a second dude, I live in a gigantic city, surrounded by skyscrapers and concrete. How can I trail run?”
I have recently traveled to two major cities: New York City and Atlanta – both had single track dirt trails to get a workout on. Atlanta had this killer park in the middle of town (Piedmont Park) that had some trails through the woods and (much to my surprise) so did Manhattan. As I was jogging around Central Park (cool experience if you ever get a chance), I noticed the option of a dirt trail along side the cement path.
If you are an urbanite, the trails won’t always be in the middle of the city, but I can guarantee that you can find a state park or state forest somewhere within an hour of town. There you will find plenty of trails and although you can’t hit them up every day, you could probably make the commitment to travel to them once a week.
The lesson being: Trail running is an activity you can do ANYWHERE if you take initiative to actively seek out trails.
A brief guide to discovering new trails:
For me, the easiest way is to use Google Maps. Find your current location and slowly zoom out. Look for the green areas that represent state parks, state forests, nature preserves, etc. Most state parks will have a website showing hiking trails, pictures, and maps. Pick out the one that suites your needs (distance, scenery, etc.) and enjoy!
Bottom line: Find trails to run on. It is fun, exposes you to the wilderness, and will allow you to explore some amazing places on this beautiful planet.
Good luck! If this is your first time trail running check out my article “Lessons for Trail Running Newbies” and remember to enjoy nature and have fun!