5 Fun Running Trails in California

5 Fun Running Trails in California

By Grace Collins February 29, 2020

California is a vast state crisscrossed by more than interstate highways. There are hundreds of excellent running trails throughout the Golden State offering scenic views and great workouts. Whether you’re training for a marathon or simply looking for an easygoing run to try this weekend, here are the best running trails in California.

Oso Creek Trail

Located in Mission Viejo, the Oso Creek Trail is about 5.5 miles long and is nestled inside an urban area. The pathway is lined with lush vegetation and stately mansions, so your run won’t be boring. After your workout, check out the nearby California Citrus State Historic Park.

Santa Barbara Waterfront 

Due to its unique topography, the coastal city of Santa Barbara is ideal for cyclists, pedestrians, and runners. The paved path bordering the Santa Barbara Waterfront takes you through the most-visited spots in the  city, including Leadbetter Beach, Stearns Wharf, Andree Clark Bird Refuge, and Butterfly Beach. You can start your run at the bird refuge and head west, following the Cabrillo Boulevard Bike Path all the way to Stearns Wharf. After you enjoy oceanfront views, continue on to Butterfly Beach and linger until sunset.

Spanning from Butterfly Beach to Shoreline Park, the Santa Barbara Waterfront pathway makes for a spectacular and challenging run.

San Francisco Bay Trail

The iconic San Francisco Bay Trail begins up near Napa and stretches down to Sunnyvale. While there are several picturesque sections, it’s best to start at the San Francisco airport, where you can run some 7 miles up north or head about 9 miles down south to the San Mateo Bridge, past Coyote Point and Seal Point. These areas are fairly flat, too, so you won’t have to worry as much about experiencing shin splints or other foot injuries.

Coyote Point 

Coyote Point is situated at the northern end of San Mateo, just south of the San Francisco International Airport. The area is somewhat mountainous, but the highlight of the run is a lovely green park bordered by the Bay’s sandy beaches. The surrounding hills also offer hiking among redwood trees, making it a prime place to stop and enjoy the views.

Coyote Point Trail in San Mateo is perfect for a scenic coastal run. Photo courtesy of San Mateo County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Ocean Beach

If you like to run beside the water, then San Francisco’s Ocean Beach is the perfect place for you. Not only is it one of the best Bay Area surfing destinations, but also a spectacular spot for running. (Just note that it can be chilly, rainy, and foggy at times, so bring a raincoat, even if you visit in summer.) Settled west of the Golden Gate Bridge, Ocean Beach features a spectacular running trail along the Pacific, with surfers merely meters away performing their stunts. Advanced runners can challenge themselves by running in the sand, while beginners can traverse the popular, 3-mile-long paved path stretching from the Lands End Lookout Visitor Center to the San Francisco Zoo.

What are some of your favorite running trails in California? Tell us about them in the comments. 

Grace Collins

WRITTEN BY Grace Collins

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