10 Trails You Can Run Right Now

Because we’re ready to hit the trails, weather be damned.

It still might be cold in certain parts of the country, but we want to run. Whether you’re sick of treadmills or trying to get a jumpstart on spring, we’ll consider them all valid reasons to brave the elements for a trail run. We’ve put together a list of doable ones; some may lead you through slick conditions, and others are actually safer in winter (looking at you, Texas). But they do have one thing in common: They’re all better than the gym.

Grandview Trail

Location: South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Length: 4.4 miles
Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Grandview Trail | Photo: Madelyn Lumpkin

Trail Run Project contributor Nicholas Shannon describes Grandview Trail as “a steep, non-maintained trail offering canyon scenery and exposure to this area’s mining history.” Daring to run Grandview in the winter is a trade-off: Conditions can be icy, but you won’t have to bushwhack your way through the narrow trail. Due to the steep grade and slippery winter conditions, use caution (and maybe Yaktrax) in the winter.

Hermit Trail

Location: South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona
Length: 5.9 miles
Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Interested in the area but not up for battling slick conditions? Hermit Trail offers a safer winter running option in the Grand Canyon. According to the NPS, the Hermit Trail has less snow and ice than any other trail on the South Rim. This is due in part to the trailhead being at than 7,000 feet, a lower start than many other runs in the park. Here too, the trail is steep and has some challenging switchbacks, but you’ll still get views of the canyon and avoid the national park’s crowds.

Andrews Bald Out and Back

Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina
Length: 3.6 miles
Difficulty Rating: Easy/Intermediate

Andrews Bald is the highest grassy bald in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and one of the two maintained grassy balds in the park. While not overly technical, the trail leading up to the halfway point is rocky and can be icy during the winter months. Once you reach the bald, you’ll be greeted by sweeping views of the snow-covered Smoky Mountains.

Cable Mountain Trail

Location: Zion National Park, Utah
Length: 3 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Cable Mountain offers one of the best views in Zion National Park. The rolling out-and-back trail leads runners along a trail that looks out over Angels Landing, Observation Point, Great White Throne, and the Cable Mountain Draw Works. Temperatures in Zion are on the warmer side compared to other parts of Utah, making for prime winter running. Sunny skies are likely on this mellow trail.

Marufo Vega Trail

Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas
Length: 9.7 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/Difficult

Marufo Vega Trail | Photo: monad68 under CC BY-SA

Marufo is a difficult, backcountry trail through the Texas desert, and winter is the best time to tackle it. Although you’re avoiding the searing summer temperatures, Marufo in winter is still waterless and hot—the conditions and distance make it best suited for experienced trail runners. The NPS recommends all visitors get a topographic map of the area “due to the difficult nature of [Marufo] and environmental dangers in the low desert.” But, brave Marufo and only a few miles in, you’ll be privy to an amazing view of the Sierra del Carmen Mountains and the Rio Grande.

Wolf Rock/Chimney Rock Loop

Location: Catoctin Mountain Park, Maryland
Length: 3.6 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Moderate temperatures and powder make Wolf Rock/Chimney Rock Loop a perfect option for those chasing seasonal scenery. The short, yet challenging trail is dusted with snow during the winter months, setting off the incredible rock formations of Maryland’s mountains. It might be a chilly jaunt, but despite the mountain terrain, deep snow and unmanageable ice are unlikely at Catoctin.

Mirror Lake Trail

Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Length: 4.7 miles
Difficulty Rating: Easy/Intermediate

Striking, but crowded, in summer, Mirror Lake Trail is the epitome of tranquility during the winter months. Gaze at Half Dome as you make the 4.7-mile loop, and chances are, you won’t encounter more than a few people during your run. With little elevation change and few technical elements, the trail is easy on the legs. Snow is probable and ice is a possibility, but overall, Mirror Lake is pretty temperate in winter.

Blacktail Deer Creek Trail

Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Length: 4.2 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Deeper snow is almost a guarantee on Blacktail Deer Creek Trail, but if you’re lucky, cross-country skiers will have packed it down already. Although not a dangerous trail, this run is only for the hardy as Yellowstone can be brutal in winter; temperatures regularly dip below zero, so dress accordingly. Bison and elk frequent the trail, and you’ll see far fewer people on this singletrack this time of year.

Biscuit Basin Trail

Location: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Length: 0.5 miles
Difficulty Rating: Easy/Intermediate

Bison in Biscuit Basin area | Photo: Richard Ryer, Panoramio

Biscuit Basin Trail is so short, you’ll probably consider it a warm-up. (Run the full Yellowstone Marathon course after if weather allows.) But the scenery makes it too good not to mention. The trail—made up partly of boardwalk—takes you through geyser basins; the boiling pools letting off steam are an incredible contrast to the snowy, winter landscape.

Marble Falls

Location: Sequoia National Park, California
Length: 5.9 miles
Difficulty Rating: Difficult

Welcome to some of the most rugged terrain in Sequoia National Park. Marble Falls is best in late winter when the rivers are full and lively; you might even catch wildflowers peeking up if you run this in the early spring. The seven-mile trail weaves through striking forest and passes Marble Falls. It’s straightforward in nature, with some slippery rocks near the falls, a steady climb, and a 26-percent incline at its max grade.

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