5 Western Trails Worthy of Your Next Running Vacation

Friday 5Traveling is great, but as you’ve probably experienced, it can certainly interfere with training. I planned on spending the summer in Boulder, running along Boulder Creek Trail, Wonderland Lake and Coot Lake, hiking the numerous trails in the Indian Peak Wilderness, cycling on Left Hand Canyon Road, reading books and starting some new writing projects. Instead, we sold our home there in June and have spent much of the first half of the summer on the road.

I love to travel but not so much in a car: my body aches from sitting for so long and unless I’m driving I get motion sickness on winding roads.  But when life hands us lemons… I decided to take advantage of the change in plans and convert some of my scheduled training runs into a way to explore new areas. Running is a perfect excuse to get up early, check out local trails, and get the body moving before getting back into a car.

As we’ve traveled throughout Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and back to California I’ve had the pleasure to run some truly amazing trails, and thought they might make some nice food for thought next time you’re planning a running vacation!

Boulder Creek with insane kayakers having crossed under bridge at Eben G. Fine bridge.
The beautiful rapids of Boulder Creek with insane kayakers!

Boulder Creek Trail (Boulder, Colorado): The Boulder Creek Trail (elevation start: 5340’) is my favorite, maybe because it’s the most familiar to me; we ran or walked it often during our almost three years vacationing in Boulder. I usually joined the trail at Eben G. Fine Park and ran west (slightly uphill toward Nederland) for about three miles. The paved trail paces the Boulder Creek, roaring in winter and filled with kayaks and tubes in summer. Or you can head east with a slight downhill along the creek and into the meadows, where you’re so close to the sun that you’ll marvel at how quickly the light can change the contours of the Flat Iron Mountains.

Boise Greenbelt (Boise, Idaho): The Greenbelt hugs the north and south sides of the Boise River through the center of Boise (elevation: 2700’), creating a green, lush covering for the semi-arid climate. The loop is about twenty-five miles round trip, with the ability to start and stop at numerous neighborhood corners along the way. Markers every 0.1 miles will make it easy for you to squeeze in some intervals, but make sure to slow down for The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial at marker one, a heartfelt homage to that brave young woman. While not particularly crowded, you’ll enjoy the company of many walkers, runners, commuters and even fitness clubs. I got a “good pace” comment from another runner, encouraging my sweaty efforts at this slightly higher altitude than my home in California!

Delicate Arches near Moab (we hiked to here).
Delicate Arches near Moab (we hiked to here).

Mill Creek Parkway (Moab, Utah): Moab is awash with trails around the city, the red hills and along the highway. In the heart of the city is a short but sweet gem, Mill Creek Parkway (elevation: 4200’).  A two-mile path that follows the creek, meanders through shaded neighborhoods, and ends at a small park makes for a sweet out-and-back. Just be aware of slow-moving traffic: you’ll find a lot of walkers, cyclists, kids with skateboards and scooters, and parents with strollers. It’s nonetheless the perfect place in Moab for an easy morning run before the temperatures soar in the summer months.

The Park City trail (Farm Trail segment) heading west toward Kimball Junction.
The Park City trail (Farm Trail segment) heading west toward Kimball Junction.

Rails to Trails (Park City, Utah): Park City boasts 300-400 miles of trails, depending on who’s counting and whether one combines mountain biking, hiking, and running/walking. Perfect for your long run, whether you’re training for a 5k or a 50 miler, The Rails to Trails system is twenty-eight miles of trail that will take you out to the towns of Wanship, Coalville and Echo Reservoir, east of Park City. Like other rails to trails systems, Park City has purchased parcels of land to create an interlocking system; I was distracted from the elevation and a biting hamstring on this run by the gorgeous mountains of the Wasatch Range surrounding the city to the west and east. The beauty of this spot is incredible! And don’t forget to stash a change of clothes in the car, because the best way to celebrate your run is by dining just off trail at Zoom, a former train depot that was converted to a restaurant by owner Robert Redford.

Denmark/Burndale/Hyde Roads (Sonoma, California): As if you needed another reason to visit the Napa Valley!  The City of Sonoma (elevation: 70’) has a bike/walking trail that travels east to west about three blocks north of the city, through vineyards, city parks, La Casa Grande (an historic site that played an instrumental role in California’s secession from Mexico and transition to American statehood), and waiting-list restaurants. I usually run out some narrow country roads east of town, where huge oak trees shade the pothole-ridden roads, and farms and vineyards line the valley. Loop it in with the bike path for a scenic 10 miler. I can increase mileage by running more of the bike trail or decrease them by turning off through one of the neighborhoods.


While sometimes my training has been interrupted by too many hours in airports or cars, people all over the Western U.S. and elsewhere are incorporating athletic activities safely into the fabric of their cities.  I’ve found incredible places to run during my travels this summer; my hope is that one day you will enjoy them too!

What’s the best trail you’ve ever visited?

I'm a senior masters runner. I write about my running journey and topics of interest to runners of all ages. My current goal is to maintain of steady base of road and (new to me) trail running, with some 5k, 10k, and half marathons throughout the year.

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  1. Thanks for the starting point suggestion on the Boulder Creek trail! We visit the in-laws there a few times a year. Normally, I tend to run Dry Creek and Coot Lake. I will vote on Mount Sanitas as one of the most beautiful trails of my experience.