People run for all reasons, ranging from purely fitness, to racing, to adventure experiences, and travel. I am fortunate enough to live near epic, worldclass mountain running in the Tetons of Jackson Hole. The great thing about living here is the access I have to these mountains. I also have the opportunity to travel to many great places to run and many of the adventures that stick out in my mind are the ones that flew under the radar and were not expected. Places that might get over shadowed or destinations you might never even thought to run. So lets have a look at some of the coolest running destinations that might be worthy of your travel bucket list.
5. Washington Park – Denver, CO
Ok, so I am breaking the rules a little right from the start. Of course you have heard of Denver, but I am trying to distract you a little from the remainder of the list (quit peeking). Washington Park, or as the locals call it, Wash Park, is very special to me. I spent most of the 1990's training and racing in Colorado, living a warm-up distance away from the Park entrance. But why does this make the list you ask? Well, many folks travel to Denver for business and do not always have time to hit the main attractions of the high peaks and Boulder tends to get all the running attention. Wash Park is the heart beat of Denver, serving as the place to be for everyone active. It is the "happy hour" of the running scene and is literally an outdoor recreation center that revivals any of the better known city parks in the Country.
4. Moab, Utah
Most of us have heard of Moab and probably seen a few car commercials shot on location. Moab and Utah is like no other State in the US. It’s diverse landscape sets it apart providing some of the coolest land features in the World and maybe beyond, as you feel like you are in a different world. Moab is best known as a mountain biking mecca, but is becoming a great run destination for those in search of dry dirt trails in the Spring as the snow melts at home. Unlike the other destinations on the top 5 list, Moab is not easy to get to and requires a road trip mindset. But this is the genius of the area as you are transformed into an explorer itching to get out and run buttes, slick rock, natural formed arches, stopping every so often as you expect to see smoke signals launching high above the rock pillar in the distance. Moab is like no other and is not just for fat tires anymore.
3. Lantau Trail – Lantau Island, Hong Kong
The 70-kilometer trail system on Lantau Island is divided into 12 stages and offers some of Hong Kong's most rugged and beautiful scenery. This is a very hilly, mountainous trail, winding through forests and crossing over two of the island's highest summits, but it also offers stunning views of the South China Sea. The steep terrain and Asian beauty alone makes this run experience standout. But by having the unique opportunity to run to “The Big Buddha,” the worlds largest buddha statue, and visit the Po Lin Monastery, makes this a one of a kind trail run adventure and cultural experience. And, you don’t have to hire a Sherpa guide to get you there with trailhead access less than an hour from the Hong Kong airport.
2. Teton Crest Trail – Jackson Hole WY
When you first think of Jackson Hole and the Tetons, you most likely think Grand Teton National Park and the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. The Tetons are my training grounds and offer up what I believe to be the best mountain running in the US. The Teton Crest Trail is 64km long, running North and South along the Teton Range. You will traverse canyons, climb over several high passes, and run through high alpine meadows with the Cathedral mountain group staring you in the face. This is stunning, worldclass alpine exposure that can be easily accessed at several trailhead parking areas allowing you to pick and chose which trail section is in order for the day’s run.
1. Ometepe Island – Nicaragua
First time experiences are always high on my radar and Ometepe Island is one of the most unique places I have ever run. For one, I have never run up a volcano before, let along running up two. Add in monkeys, hanging coconuts, beautiful beaches, lung searing vertical climbs through a jungle maze with the potential for an active eruption at any moment, and you have yourself an adventure and cultural experience beyond imagine. Running the trails of Ometepe will take you far away from the rest of the world, providing peace, intrigue, and mystical images of past Indian inhabitants on the sacred land.