Chances are, you run the same 5-mile loop right from your house every time you lace up your sneakers. And that’s great—you’re getting out there. But sometimes, it’s nice to shake things up, pick a legendary trail you’ve always wanted to explore and make a trip out of it. Thanks to trail-building efforts around the country, there are even newly built trails you can add to your must-run list. Here are six trails worth running the next time you feel like venturing out of your neighborhood, plus a few tips on things to do and places to stay while you’re there.
Gold Valley Rim Trail
Sierra Buttes, California
A much-anticipated new 6.5-mile section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) opened last fall in California’s Sierra Buttes, a stunning, remote wilderness area about an hour north of Tahoe. The process of relocating the trail and building several miles from scratch began in 2008 and took years to complete. You can run a 5.3-mile section, called Gold Valley Rim Trail, that includes 2 miles of the brand-new singletrack plus 3 miles of the former PCT route, with stellar views of the jagged Sierra Buttes and the entire Lakes Basin region. Camp at the nearby Salmon Creek Campground, take a plunge in the Yuba River and after your run, grab an oversize sandwich on homemade bread from a food truck called Bread & Butter near the town of Graeagle.
Dale Ball Trails
Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Dale Ball Trails, a popular 22-mile network of linking trails outside of Santa Fe in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, aren’t new, but they’re a longtime haven for trail runners. Trail intersections are well-marked and most sections are rolling and smooth without a ton of elevation gain, making them a good target for newbie trail runners, too. Dale Ball Central is a 5.7-mile loop that’s easily accessed off Hyde Park Road. Don’t miss a chance to soak tired muscles at Ten Thousand Waves, a Japanese-style hot springs spa and lodge just up the road.
Bear Mountain State Park Loop
Rockland County, New York
In 2015, trail crews spent more than 3,000 hours relocating a short section of the historic Appalachian Trail that cuts through New York’s Bear Mountain State Park. The former trail was eroded and worn down, and the newly improved trail is worth a visit. Cover 7.4 miles via the Bear Mountain State Park Loop, which crosses into neighboring Harriman State Park and offers scenic vistas from the ridgetop. Stay in one of Bear Mountain Inn’s rustic stone cottages or book a lakeside campsite at Harriman State Park.
Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park
Seattle-area trail runners flock to Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park on weekends for the park’s 3,100 acres and more than 35 miles of twisting, varied trail. Located about 20 miles east of Seattle near the town of Issaquah, Cougar Mountain doesn’t have any new trails, but there’s always a different corner of the park to explore. The 5.1-mile Red Town Loop, accessed from the Red Town trailhead, traverses through dense, mossy forest and past former mining caves as it gently climbs around 750 feet. It’s easy to get lost here, so bring a map with you. Post-run, you’ve earned a burger and an IPA at the Issaquah Brewhouse.
Skyline Circumference Loop
Arizona’s Skyline Regional Park, an 8,700-acre park just west of Phoenix in the town of Buckeye, opened in 2016 and has seen several new trails added in the last couple of years. Combine newly-constructed trails like Lost Creek and Quartz Mine to wrap around the entire park on the 9-mile Skyline Circumference Loop, which meanders across high desert plateaus and along knife-edge ridges in the southern White Tank Mountains. The park has seven campsites you can rent for the night.
Boulder is full of excellent trail running, but you can’t beat the 5.2-mile Mesa Trail, a classic Boulder run that starts just outside of Chautauqua Park at the base of the town’s famous Flatirons and ends in Eldorado Springs, south of Boulder. You can start at either end and make the run as long or short as you want, running out and back for a full 10.4 miles if you want. The Southern Sun is a popular watering hole and eatery for trail runners and mountain bikers getting off the trail and the Base Camp Hotel has a climbing wall on-site.