Maybe you’re a runner who’s tired of pounding the pavement. Maybe you’re looking for a new cardio workout. Or maybe you’re new to the state and looking to explore the great outdoor playground that is Colorado. No matter who you are, trail running is an excellent option. You can reap the mental and physical benefits of sweat-inducing exercise, and capture breathtaking views of your natural surroundings at the same time. Plus, it’s inexpensive and convenient: no membership fees, no pricey equipment, and no gym schedule or class waiting lists to navigate. You probably already own some workout clothing and a water bottle. If you’re new to the sport, the only purchase you’ll probably need to make is a pair of trail running-specific sneakers to help protect your feet from jagged rocks. A good pair will cost you anywhere from $50-$200, but the investment is worth it.
Trail running’s greatest trait: you’re in complete control of your own workout. See a glorious view? Stop for a moment and soak in the sights. Winded halfway up that steep incline with your legs burning from exhaustion? Alternate running and hiking, and set a goal to reach the top without stopping on your next attempt.
There are tons of trails to choose from, but below are four close-to-home options to get you started. Happy running!
Highline Canal Trail – The Highline Canal Trail offers miles of smooth dirt trails. Perfect for anyone whot might be new to running or just looking to take a break from city streets. While you won’t experience any elevation changes of note, you will enjoy the scenery of a beautiful trail without ever leaving the city. Consider starting at the Goodson Recreation Center.
Animas City Mountain – Located in scenic Durango, Colorado, this challenging trail will reward you with a great mix of difficulty and beautiful vistas. Make sure you go all the way to the end, because it offers jaw-dropping views up Highway 550 alongside the Animas River. After you get back to the car, reward yourself with a stop at Durango Brewing Company, which is only a few blocks from the trail head.
Elk Meadows Park – Elk Meadows Park offers trails for every level of trail runner. With 16.5 miles of trails, you can choose your own adventure! When you have your trail running legs under you, set your sights on Bergen Peak. At 9,700 feet, your heart will be pounding at the top.
Mt. Falcon Park – Mount Falcon Park offers 11 miles of trails, allowing you to customize your running distance. If you’re looking for some elevation training, the Castle Trail gains 2,000 feet. If you’re just starting out, consider the Turkey Trot Trail – a 1.7 mile trail limited to hikers (and runners!) only. No bikes or horses to contend with as you run to the sounds of nature, or to your favorite playlist.
Red Rocks Park – Yes, your favorite concert venue is also a great place to begin your trail running odyssey. Two short trails are located entirely within Red Rocks Park: the Trading Post Trail and the Geologic Overlook Trail. The Red Rocks Trail connects with a trail in neighboring Matthews-Winters Park, offering a great 6-mile loop. If you’re looking to extend your workout, there are always those amphitheater stairs.
Manitou Incline – Although it's currently closed for repairs, this unique spot located in Manitou Springs (just west of Colorado Springs on Highway 24) is not for rookies. The trail, which is really more like a gigantic staircase, gains about 2,000 feet of elevation in a ridiculously quick one-mile, uphill, heart-pounding climb. Unlike most of these other trails, parking isn't free (unless you want to walk a good clip from your car, and you don't want to do that) but it's worth it; if, of course, you're up to the challenge.
Are you a trail runner? Leave your favorite trail or route in the comments!