From Fastest Known Time record-holders to 100-mile champions, HOKA ONE ONE’s athletes are some of the best trail runners today. They’ve logged serious miles on trails all over the world. Whether you’re looking for a quick loop near a city center or a bucket list destination run, check out seven of the HOKA team’s all-time favorite trails.
Favorite Trail: Priest Landing Trail
Location: Savannah, Georgia
Tucked into the maze of tidal rivers and marshes of coastal Georgia is Skidaway Island. Fewer than 30 minutes from downtown Savannah, this low country oasis is home to Skidaway Island State Park, a 588-acre sanctuary for species like the fiddler crab and marsh snail in addition to hundreds of different birds. Adjacent to the state park is the 7-mile Priest Landing trail system. There’s not much in the way of technical terrain here, and at most, you’ll be gaining a few hundred feet in elevation, but what the Priest Landing Trail lacks in the climbing department it more than makes up for in setting.
Cruise along flowy singletrack that winds through mystical maritime forests and swoops beneath Spanish moss-draped boughs of ancient live oaks. Between the longleaf pines and the cabbage palms, you’ll likely catch glimpses of the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs along the Skidaway Narrows on the western edge of the island. Parking for the trail system is available either at the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography or at the end of OSCA Road.
Favorite Trail: Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail
Location: Kentucky and Tennessee
Spanning 290 miles from the northeast corner of Kentucky to the Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area in Tennessee, the Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail pieces together some of the most rugged terrain of the Southeast. In 1979, the trail officially became part of the Daniel Boone National Forest. From the soaring sandstone formations of the Red River Gorge to the old homesteads and logging sites of centuries past, running on the Sheltowee Trace is like running back in time.
The trail is well-blazed with its signature turtle diamond, a reference to Sheltowee, which means “Big Turtle” and was the name Shawnee Chief Blackfish gave to Daniel Boone. Because the trail passes through five different state and national parks, parking and day-use fees vary depending on the section. Little’s favorite section includes Eagle Lake near the northern terminus of the trail and just a few miles from her home in Morehead, KY. Start where the trail crosses I-64 and run 16.1 miles along a canopied ridge down to the 30-acre lake.
“My jaw drops every time I run past that section because it is so beautiful,” said Little.
Favorite Trail: Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail
Unlike many established, linear trails, the Potomac Heritage Trail is not any single trail, per se, but a threaded network of trails running from the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia to the Allegheny Plateau along the Maryland – Pennsylvania border. The network is continually evolving to include more of the cultural and historical landmarks that define the Potomac watershed.
Trail surfaces range from graded rail trails like the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath to steep and technical terrain like that found along the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. No matter what sort of trail run you’re seeking, the Potomac Heritage Trail has it all. An Arlington native, Wardian’s favorite section is the Billy Goat Trail, a 4.5-mile route that features a 60-foot vertical rock scramble and views of the Potomac River.
“I love it because it is wild, rugged, rocky, rooty and tough but super close to my house and, most importantly, dog friendly,” Wardian said.
Favorite Trail: Western States Trail
Location: Tahoe City, California
What once served the Paiute and Washoe Tribes (and the gold prospectors who came later) as a route across the Sierras, is today the setting for the oldest 100-mile trail race in the country. Modeled after the Tevis Cup, a 100-mile equestrian event that traverses the same distance from Tahoe City to Auburn, Calif., the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run has become a benchmark event for every aspiring trail runner. While the trail in its entirety extends all of the way to Salt Lake City, Lickteig (who won Western States in 2016) is a big fan of the classic Sierra section of the course.
“I have so many amazing memories both good and bad from that trail,” said Lickteig. “It boasts some of the sweetest buttery singletrack and the most beautiful high-country mountain trails I have ever been on.”
To experience those high-country vistas, check out the first 30-mile section of the course from Squaw Valley to Robinson Flat.
Favorite Trail: Crags Trail
Location: Divide, Colorado
Rising 8,000 feet above downtown Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak has been calling to adventurers since even before explorer Zebulon Pike first attempted—and failed—to summit what he called the “Grand Peak” in 1806. Due to its close proximity to the Front Range and its relatively moderate elevation (14,115 feet), Pikes Peak is one of the most popular fourteeners in Colorado. Hikers typically summit via the Barr Trail to the east, a grueling yet rewarding 25-mile round-trip trek. But in Gray’s opinion, the 14-mile out-and-back route that begins at Crags Trail and connects to Devil’s Playground Trail is a quieter, more stunning alternative.
“The trail goes through very beautiful terrain with drastic changes that can make you feel like you’ve run in two completely different places,” said Gray. “At one point the trail looks like something you might see in the Northwest with plenty of green hues and tall trees.”
Favorite Trail: Coconino Cowboy Loop
Location: Grand Canyon, Arizona
The brainchild of ultrarunning phenom and HOKA ONE ONE athlete Jim Walmsley, the Coconino Cowboy Loop is a 21-mile route that takes runners down to the Colorado River and back up to the rim. The loop starts on the heavily trafficked Bright Angel Trail and follows its many switchbacks past the Indian Garden to the silver bridge that crosses the Colorado River. Here, it connects with the South Kaibab Trail which is notorious for both its cliff and sun exposure. The loop packs in a stout 5,544 feet of climbing in those 21 miles, but according to Bard, the adventure is worth the hard work.
“I like that you get a little bit of everything—a few road miles, a seven-mile descent, more technical flats toward the base, and then a long climb,” said Bard. “Not only is the run broken up into some really fun sections, but you get hours of beautiful scenery.”
It’s $35 to enter Grand Canyon National Park by vehicle. Remember to stock up on water before heading up the South Kaibab Trail, as there is no water along the climb.
Favorite Trail: Tour du Mont Blanc
Location: Chamonix, France
Perhaps the most iconic long-distance trail in Europe is this 103-mile circuit around the Mont Blanc Massif. Climbing more than 31,000 cumulative feet in the Alps through three countries—France, Italy and Switzerland—the Tour du Mont Blanc is as much a physical challenge as it is a cultural immersion. Villages with warm huts and hot meals are sprinkled throughout the route, making it easy to pack light and travel fast.
Every August, thousands of the most elite ultrarunners in the world convene in Chamonix to tackle the route at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The event is largely considered one of the toughest in the world. But whether you’re racing the route and finishing in less than 36 hours (which Boulet did in 2017) or breaking it down into a multiday adventure, Boulet suggests adding it to your bucket list.
“It’s just so incredibly beautiful the whole way around,” said Boulet. “Mountains, valleys, waterfalls, goats…it really has everything anyone could ask for.”