The Wildest Runs by Some of the Country’s Biggest Cities

Think you need to live in the woods for access to the best trails? Think again.

Living in a major U.S. city means you can find just about anything, from late-night slices to public transportation, at any time, day or night. But there’s one luxury that’s often harder to find in a metropolis: epic trails. Although some are well-guarded secrets, most cities have a trail system within reach—if you know where to look. We’ve rounded up eight of the best places to run in (or just outside of) some of the country’s largest urban areas.

Where to Run Near New York City

Breakneck Ridge Trail: Hudson Highlands State Park

Looking for a challenging escape from the city? Steep, rocky singletrack makes up a good portion of Breakneck Ridge Trail. The shorter trail clocks in at just four miles, but its 1,489-foot ascent makes it one of the most difficult trails in the area. It’ll surely require some scrambling, but the views of Hudson Valley are some of the best you’ll find. If you’re bringing a four-legged friend, keep in mind you’ll probably need to offer some assistance during extra rocky spots along your journey.

Tuxedo Ramapo Torne Dr. Loop: Harriman State Park

Harriman, New York’s second largest state park, is home to 31 lakes and more than 200 miles of trail. Tuxedo Loop, a moderate 13-plus-mile run, takes you through the best of the historic park. (The land was once owned by Edward Harriman, who spearheaded the Harriman Alaska Expedition in 1899.) It’s mostly flat, making it the ideal location to work on speed. But with smaller, rocky climbs and descents, you’ll still catch spanning panoramas over the Torne Valley. The park, lush and green in the spring, offers spectacular reds, golds, and oranges in the fall, making this an ideal three-season run.

Where to Run Near Los Angeles

Backbone Trail: Santa Monica

Explore the Santa Monica Mountains on this 16-mile section of Backbone Trail—67 miles long in its entirety—finally complete after over 50 years of building. Immersed in wilderness, the trail’s easy access from L.A. and unique rock formations make this a tempting coastal run. Many sections see little traffic, and the route isn’t always well marked. Keep an eye out for mountain lions and rattlesnakes.

Talepop Loop: Malibu Creek State Park

Talepop Loop is all open grassland, with trails that cross rolling hills and grant access to views of Liberty and Malibu Canyon. The trail itself is relatively relaxed with less than 500 feet of climbing, although there’s a steady, mile-long ascent where you’ll work up a sweat. Dotted with large oaks and following Liberty Canyon Creek, Talepop is the perfect run for a bright, sunny day.

Where to Run Near Chicago

Palos West Side Tour: Palos Trail System

Located just 30 minutes outside of Chicago, this route features 12 popular miles of Palos Trail System’s 25 off-road trails. The mostly-singletrack path—shared with mountain bikers—weaves through a quiet forest. There’s a little bit of something for everyone: steep climbs and descents, tight turns and relaxed flats. As the Chicago area’s finest trail system, Palos can be crowded at peak times, so it’s best enjoyed in early mornings or evenings.

Where to Run Near San Francisco

High Ridge Loop Trail: Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks

Somewhat difficult and always breezy, High Ridge Loop Trail is a quick, fun route, stretching for less than six miles. The hills vary from rolling to quite steep, but the incline never tilts above 12 degrees. At its highest point, you’ll catch sight of the bay, and the many ponds offer splashes of water the entire way. In spring, the trail has honey-sweet breezes thanks to myriad blooming mustard flowers.

Bolinas Ridge: Marin County

The lesser-known trail in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Bolinas Ridge, is over 11 miles of pure beauty. Spectacular redwoods, intermingled with fir trees and grassy hills, frame the trail. Along with ocean views, you’ll catch sight of Tomales Bay, Bolinas Lagoon, and feel the cool Pacific breeze along the way. The trail is shared with mountain bikers and horseback riders.

Where to Run Near Houston

Cypress Creek Trail

Well-loved by local trail runners and mountain bikers alike, Cypress Creek Trail features varied terrain in an area that’s mostly flat. You’ll encounter hills, flatlands, and boardwalks as you make your way through the nine-mile run. The many trails come together in multiple loops, making it possible to customize your run each time you visit and add extra mileage as you see fit.

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