Most trail runners, aside from being athletes, are explorers at heart. We love the thrill of discovery, and freeing mind and soul in landscapes that, for a moment, feel like they belong solely to us. It’s what drives us to push harder, go further and conquer new ground. But what if you live in the city? Can you really be a modern day explorer living in the suburbs? Yes! Your own personal nirvana may be closer than you think.
I’ve lived in the same spot for the past six years. When trail running became a staple in my daily lifestyle, I would travel to parks and natural areas to access trails. So imagine my surprise when I discovered a greenway, complete with the isolation and beauty I was craving in a trail, nestled inconspicuously between the condos, businesses, offices and busy roads of my neighborhood. Its existence was subtle enough that I drove past it countless times, hidden behind a nondescript grove of pine trees that looked more for decoration than anything else.
Abacoa Greenway, Jupiter, Florida
It only took a few runs inside to discover what had been lurking a mere half mile from my front door. Once inside, I found a different world. The noise from the roads went silent. The trail snaked its way around through pine flatwoods, splitting off into single-track tree-lined corridors, running along wetland ridges, around lakes, and over footbridges. When I finally pieced together the entirety of the sections, I found I could complete an eight-mile trail run with very little reminder I was still in a densely populated neighborhood. It has since become my utopia, a place I can run to not only train but to find that escape we trail runners crave. It also serves as a reminder that places like this exist everywhere. How can you find yours?
Hope Pass, Colorado Trail. CO
Talk to the locals. Even if you are a local, find a running club and introduce yourself. Trail runners are usually pretty excited to share trails they love with other runners. Many of us have spent countless hours and miles exploring every nook and cranny of the trails we call our own. We run them day and night, literally. Sharing our knowledge and experience of them with new runners gives us a sense pride. These trails are like second homes for us and we welcome you to them. My local trail running company, Down To Run, has a strong member base with a vast combined knowledge of local trails encompassing most of southeast Florida. Networking with other runners through social media is a vital way to find out about group runs, meetups, and races.
Check with your local parks department. Chances are they’ll have information about hiking trails, jogging trails, mountain biking and equestrian trails, most of which easily translate into running trails. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re not treading on a protected area, so be mindful of rules and regulations when it comes to natural areas; some might be environmentally sensitive. Offer yourself up as a volunteer for trail maintenance groups. Not only will it give you the opportunity to give back and help with the upkeep of your local trails, you’re also likely to find new trails through networking with fellow nature enthusiasts. It’s been my experience that just when I think I’ve explored all there is to explore, I find a new area to experience.
Mount Sherman, CO
If you use a running specific app like Strava or MapMyRun, you can search segments in your area that have been created by fellow runners. It’s an easy way to quickly search for routes in your area you may not have known about. And when you find your own “undiscovered” trail, you can create a segment so others can find it, too. Other trail specific apps like All Trails are an even better way to find and plan runs in your area. These are a great way to get a feel for what the terrain might be like, the length of trails, trailhead and parking locations, facilities, and other specifics to help your excursion.
Another way to explore your neighborhood in advance of a run is to use a map program like Google Maps. You can view high resolutions images of your neighborhood like doing a low-level flyover, zooming in and out, honing in on green spaces, parks, and natural areas. I’ve discovered a few hidden gems using this method.
Lastly, I’d recommend finding new lands the old fashioned way; get out there and explore. Get off the beaten path. Even the most inconspicuous trailhead can lead to a new experience. Fill your water bottles, pack some trail snacks and get outside. Then share your experience with your friends.
What hidden gems have you found?
New York- Catskills Mountain
Check out these links to help you find your next trail running adventure: