50 States, 50 Trails to Run

The Kalalau Trail in Hawaii. Photo: Scott Draper


While the idea of the most scenic trail run in each state might be a bit subjective, every state from Montana (the Hyalite Creek Trail has 11 active waterfalls) to Wisconsin (featuring the ancient forest of the Ice Age Trail) offer a unique beauty.

Here are some trails that are not to miss if you get the chance.

RELATED: Destination America: The Ultimate Running Guide

Alabama: Oak Mountain Trails

The fast flowy trails of Oak Mountain’s singletrack offers something for every runner from rocks and roots to smooth and easy terrain. Choose from six trails covering 51 miles.

Alaska: Williwaw Valley Trail

Part of the Chugach State Park Hillside Trail System, the Williwaw Valley Trail is a 14 mile out-and-back run that illustrates the best of Alaska. Emerald-colored lakes, wandering moose and the peak of Mount Williwaw are visual to the eye as you climb 1,585 feet.

Arizona: White Tank Regional Mountain Park

With 25 miles of shared trails, runners can choose to huff and puff up the Ford Canyon and Goat Camp trails or take it easier on Ironwood and Waddell. Breathtaking panoramic views of the valley and mountainside are a treat to the eyes.

Arkansas: Sylamore Trail

This out-and-back trail is 23 miles one way following North Sylamore Creek and is accessible via three in district trailheads to make your run longer or shorter along this sometimes rocky terrain. Bears, copperheads, rattlesnakes and other dangerous wildlife frequent the area.

California: Backbone Trail

Running from Pacific Palisades to Point Mugu, the 68-mile Backbone Trail offers runners plenty of challenging terrain with ocean and island views. On a clear day, views of the valley can also be seen.

Colorado: Colorado Trail

No matter what section of the trail you hit running 483 miles from the outskirts of Denver all the way to Durango, you will be in for a visual delight. Mountain peaks from Elbert and Massive to open fields of wildflowers, abundant wildlife and old mining towns greet you along your journey.

Connecticut: White Memorial Conservation Center

The 35 miles of fairly flat trail at the White Memorial Conservation Center are an environmental wonderland. Visitors can observe wildflowers in spring and summer, the best of changing leaves and a paradise of birds. Be sure to warm up or cool down on the wooden boardwalk trail.

Delaware: Brandywine Creek State Park

Ranging from rocky to wide open terrain, trail goers will see walls created by masons in the early 1900s, wildflowers and the Brandywine River as they enjoy any or all of the four trails in Brandywine Creek State Park. All trails range from easy to moderate and are between 1.8 and 2.5 miles long.

Florida: Stephen Foster State Park Foster’s Hammock Loop Trail

Sing out loud the Stephen Foster song, “Old Folks at Home,” as you navigate the eight mile singletrack of the Foster’s Hammock Loop Trail. Swamp forest, limestone outcroppings and the Suwannee River Overlook are just some of the scenery along this trail.

Georgia: Pine Mountain Trail

Watch for the wild turkeys and deer as you navigate the 23 miles of singletrack (with additional surrounding trails to add mileage) on the Pine Mountain Trail. Expect water crossings, rocks and roots, climbs and flats amongst the pine trees and fauna as you follow the Pine Mountain ridge.

Hawaii: Kalalau Trail

Not for the timid, the Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast in Kauai has been named one of the most dangerous but most beautiful in the world. This rugged and slippery 11-mile trail one way takes runners from Keʻe Beach to the Kalalau Valley with spectacular views. A permit is required after the first two miles.

Idaho: Continental Divide National Scenic Trail

Bordering the Montana state line, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) offers views of Idaho’s Lemhi River Valley and Montana’s Big Hole Valley. The 270 miles of trails beginning on the edge of Yellowstone has beautiful color (especially in the fall) and a chance to see wildlife from bears to moose.

Illinois: Palos Forest Preserve

If you want wide track or singletrack, twisty and more technical, or smooth and obstacle-free, the trail system at the Palos Forest Preserve has it all. Ten trails ranging from one to five and half miles offer views of sloughs and lakes, trees and woodland creatures.

Indiana: Trail 9 Indiana Dunes State Park

At only 3.75 miles, Trail 9 doesn’t seem to be too difficult. The catch is that the trail is comprised entirely of sand offering tremendous views of the dunes and Lake Michigan while dipping into the forest and burning the quads.

Iowa: Wabash Trace Nature Trail

This Southwestern trail travels over bridges, through forests, past Iowa farmland and through eight towns including Council Bluffs and Shenandoah. The 68-mile converted rail trail is accessible in each town it passes through.

Kansas: Clinton Lake State Park

This park, just outside of Lawrence, has 23 miles of trails. Besides lake views, runners go through an oak and hickory forest, and can see wildlife like beavers, gray fox and bluebirds.

Kentucky: Land Between the Lakes Canal Loop

An 11-mile loop, runners can expect to see plenty of wildlife amongst the forest of trees while climbing the hills. Be prepared for creek crossings and an abundance of wildflowers in the spring and summer months. This trail offers the opportunity to connect to other trails adding up to an additional 11 miles to a route.


Louisiana: Chicot State Park Trail

Wood bridges, wild hogs and plenty of shade greet runners on the 19.5-mile out-and-back Chicot State Park Trail. The first few miles may be hilly, but the nice flowy miles meandering through the trees and over the roots after that are worth the burn.

Maine: Camden Hills State Park

Technical singletrack and views as far as the eye can see of Mt. Battie, Penobscot Bay and on clear days Cadillac Mountain await runners on the 20 miles of trails at Camden Hills State Park.

Maryland: Patapsco Valley State Park

By doing multiple loops (Avalon Super Loop), you can see the whole Patapsco State Park and get in a 12.5-mile run. The remains of settler’s homes, waterfalls including the state’s best Cascade Falls, swinging bridges, switchbacks and plenty of wildlife are all a part of a day’s run at this park.

Massachusetts: Blue Hills Skyline Trail

Seven miles point to point, the Blue Hill Skyline Trail offers runners an off-road experience close to the heart of Boston. Visitors can expect city and Eliot Tower views and steep terrain on this dog-friendly route.

Michigan: Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

For a different take on a trail run, try the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail. One of the most unique trails you can run, delight in the views of Sutton Bay and the rows and rows of grapes on vines. Three loops—the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop—pass by a total of 25 wineries. Don’t forget to stop and enjoy a sample of local cuisine and wine.

Minnesota: Hyland Lake Park Reserve

The 10-plus miles of trails at the Hyland Lake Park Reserve offer something for every level of runner from the steep trails of the Hyland Ski and Snowboard area to the flat wood chip trail around Hyland Lake. On a good day you can see the Minneapolis skyline from multiple points as you run amongst the trees and grasses.

Mississippi: Lake Thoreau Environmental Center Golden Eagle Trail Complex

On the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi, the Golden Eagle Trail Complex features 11 miles of pine needle covered singletrack from the challenging climbs of the Mt. Tuffburg trail to the quick flowing three miles of the Death Valley Loop.

Missouri: Berryman Trail

A rocky singletrack trail skirting the Ozark Mountains, the Berryman Trail is an all-out leg-busting workout as you dip up and down through the Mark Twain National Forest. Twenty-four miles long, the sounds of running water and bustling woodland animals will great you along the way on the trail.

Montana: Hyalite Creek Trail

A waterfall lover’s dream (11 notable ones with some smaller ones mixed in depending on the season), the Hyalite Creek Trail is an 11-mile out-and-back trail suitable for all categories of runners from super fit to just getting started. There is no shortage of scenery from the views of Yellowstone and Hyalite Peak to deep canyon walls and bountiful trees.

Nebraska: Platte River State Park

Timber woods, roots, rocks, tight switchbacks and gullies can all be found on the singletrack trails at Platte River State Park. With 10-plus miles of trails, you can choose to huff up hills and enjoy the descent down or stay on flatter terrain.

Nevada: Red Rock Canyon Grand Circle Adventure Trail

About 11.5 miles long, the Grand Circle Adventure trail lives up to its name. From the heat and open terrain to the panoramic views of Ice Box Canyon and even a tortoise habitat, the loop starts right at the Visitor Center.

New Hampshire: Presidential Range Rail Trail

Along the edge of the White Mountain National Forest and flanking the Presidential Range, the 18-mile Presidential Range Rail Trail offers excellent wildlife (especially birds and very possibly moose) viewing as you wind your way through the trees following the Moose and Israel rivers.

New Jersey: Hartshorne Woods Park

Follow the outer edges of Rocky Point on the Rocky Point Trail or the primitive Grand Tour Trail through the forest if you are looking for challenging but short run. Plenty of short easy and moderate runs take you through wildflowers, past bunkers and through the woods with water views.

New Mexico: Dale Ball Trails

Sweeping the foothills of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, the 22 miles of the Dale Ball Trails offer opportunities for veteran and newbie runners to explore the beauty of Santa Fe. City views, mountain views and beautiful color make these trails a treat to the eyes.

New York: Finger Lakes Trail System

Whether you stick to the Finger Lakes Trail or loop on through another trail, there are over 950 miles of options in this trail system. Mossy rocks, pastures, shade trees and gorges are just a few things you might encounter on your scenic run.

North Carolina: Mountains to Sea Trail

Whether you want to scale the tallest mountain peak in the eastern U.S. or scramble up the tallest sand dune, you can do both on the Mountains to Sea Trail. One of the most diverse scenic trails you can run, from sandy and lighthouses to leaf covered bridges and wildlife refuges, 500 of the 1,000 miles are completed of this trail that extends from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks.

North Dakota: Sheyenne National Grasslands North Country Trail

Twenty-nine miles within the most endangered ecosystem on the planet, this trail winds through the native tallgrass prairie ecosystem. It gives runners the opportunity to see Dakota skipper butterflies and western prairie fringed orchids.


Ohio: Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

Although the four trails at Clifton Gorge aren’t long in length, the scenery more than makes up for it. Wildflower lovers will bask in the glory of the rare snow trillium while the dolomite beds and limestone gorges tell plenty of history.

Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Roaming buffalo, elk and longhorn cattle treat runners to quite the view along these wide open canyon trails. Connect the nine trail options ranging from less than half a mile to over five miles for a 15-mile run.

Oregon: McKenzie River Trail

Through the forest of the Cascade Mountains, the McKenzie River Trail is 25 miles long with shuttle service available for shorter runs. As the trail winds, runners can see lava fields, old dated trees and even waterfalls.

Pennsylvania: Laurel Highlands National Scenic Trail

Seventy miles long, the Laurel Highlands National Scenic Trail spans across the Laurel Ridge weaving in and out of the hemlocks and alpine trees. Mountain streams and views of the Youghiogheny River can also be seen as well as a variety of wildlife.

Rhode Island: Newport Cliff Walk

Over half of this 3.5-mile one-way trail is paved, but the rocky unpaved section make this a true trail runner’s paradise. Jutted cliffs, crashing sea swells and mansions with beautifully manicured lawns make for spectacular scenery on this National Landscape Trail.

South Carolina: Hickory Knob State Park Lakeview Loop Trail

With no significant climbing, the challenges of the 7.2 miles of the Lakeview Loop Trail are dodging and maneuvering over and around the close-to-the-trail trees, rocks, roots and sinkholes. The environment on this trail ranges from grassy inlets to pine groves with a lakeshore breeze to cool you down.

South Dakota: Mickelson Trail

Some 109 miles through the Black Hills with access via 15 trail heads, this primarily crushed gravel trail brings you through history with rock tunnels, converted railway bridges and national forest lands that you can imagine explorers once passed through too. You must purchase a day pass to use the trail.

Tennessee: South Cumberland State Park Fiery Gizzard Trail

Pine trees that tell history, rock gardens, water falls and creeks are all par for the course on this 12.5-mile one way trail at South Cumberland State Park. Be sure to cool off in the swimming hole post run!

Texas: Big Bend National Park Hot Springs Trail

Be on the lookout for fossils virtually at your feet as you navigate the limestone, as this trail parallels the Rio Grande River for six miles round trip. Runners can look across the border at the Sierra del Carmen mountain range of Mexico.

Utah: Goblin Valley State Park

Whether you choose the moderate 1.5-mile Carmel Canyon Loop, the easier out and back 2.1-mile Citrus Bench trail or the Entrada Canyon trail that takes you to the Goblins and back, the scenery at Goblin Valley State Park is both unique and intriguing.

Vermont: Long Trail

The first established long distance trail in the U.S., the Long Trail is 273 miles long as it stretches from the Massachusetts border of Vermont to Canada. Streams and backcountry woods, rugged terrain and mountain peaks are all a part of what Vermont describes as the “footpath in the wilderness.”

Virginia: First Landing State Park

Off the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, First Landing State Park offers 19 miles of trails for runners with a mix of terrain from dunes and wetlands to swamps and maritime forest. Soak the legs in the bay for post-run recovery. There is an entrance fee into the park.

Wisconsin: Ice Age Trail

Stretching 1,200 miles across the state of Wisconsin, the Ice Age Trail takes a step back in time, carved from the melting glaciers. Craters formed from melting ice, mammals from wolves to bear, ancient forest, prairies and numerous bodies of water can be seen all along the trail.

Washington: Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park

Close to Seattle, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park has 36 miles of rolling trails that border the lower part of the “Issaquah Alps.” Be on the lookout for old missile silos, plenty of wildlife and the beautiful waterfalls and creeks that trickle alongside the trails.

West Virginia: Canaan Mountain

Choose one trail or make loops with the 25 miles of service roads or 30 miles of singletrack for views of Blackwater Falls and Blackwater Canyon. The trails range from rocky to smooth with views of the amber-colored water that comes from the red spruce and hemlock trees lining the trails.

Wyoming: Curt Gowdy State Park

In the heart of the Laramie Mountains lays over 35 miles of trails that will visually please the weekend warrior to the 40-plus miles a week runner. Thin tree-lined singletrack, rock faces and waterfalls help to keep the mind at peace while the miles click away.

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