Top Running Trails in North Carolina

North Carolina is one of the favorite states that I have had to honor to call home. I lived in Hickory, NC in the early 2000s and had a wonderful opportunity to travel throughout the state. What I realized was North Carolina iѕ a tremendous рlасе fоr оutdооr асtivitiеѕ, еѕресiаllу in the spring and ѕummеrtimе. Wаrm ѕunnу dауѕ раirеd with brееzеѕ frоm thе осеаn аnd thе rivеr аrе реrfесt fоr running аnd jogging. Whеthеr уоu рrеfеr tо get уоur еxеrсiѕе with a running раrtnеr, a furry fоur-lеggеd friеnd, оr рrеfеr tо hit thе раvеmеnt ѕоlо, NC hаѕ рlеntу оf grеаt trаilѕ fоr уоu tо сhесk оut.

Hеrе аrе thе tор running ѕроtѕ аrоund North Carolina.

​​Our liѕt of Tор running trails in Nоrth Carоlina iѕ in оrdеr оf trailing difficulty (еаѕу tо hаrd) and рrоvidеѕ general infоrmаtiоn tо get уоu thеrе аnd let уоu knоw thе highlights оf the trails

1. Umstead Park (Raleigh-Durham)

Umstead Park


This huge park, located between the capital city of Raleigh and Durham, counts with 20 miles of running trails, with different options for every type of runner: if you are looking for a light run, there are wide and more comfortable paths; if you want more challenge, try the narrower trail running routes.

Here are some different trails recommendations, according to Great Runs.

  • Bridle Trails: This park counts with around 13 miles of easy running routes, old roads that are perfect for moderate running.
  • Sycamore Trail: This option is perfect for those looking for a harder trail run, a 7.2 mile hike that usually takes from 2 to 3 hours to complete. The perfect season here is fall, where you enjoy some spectacular colours.
  • Company Mill Trail: A popular 5.8 mile hike for the common runner, where you can find casual and more expert runners, nature lovers walking or loners looking for some solitude.
  • Oak Rock Trail / Sol’s Branch:  Around 3.5 miles of moderate trail running.ç

2. Bent Creek (Asheville)

Bent Creek Experimental Forest Asheville


Bent Creek is one of the most loved destinations for any kind of runner, due to its huge variety of trails. As Umstead, Bent Creek is apt for all-skilled runners, whether looking for some easy jog or a hard trail run. There are even

Asheville is located in the western side of North Carolina, and count with the advantage of being surrounded by plenty of National Forests. Bent Creek, as you may imagine, is part of one of them: The Pisgah National Forest.

Here you can find the splendid North Carolina Arboretum or the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area.

From all the different trails you can encounter, here are the three top ones depending on the running difficulty you are looking for:

  • Bent Creek Gap Road (Easy): This 4.7 mile road goes from Arboretum to Lake Powhatan.
  • Pine Tree Loop and Explorer Loop (Moderate): 4.4 miles in total of moderate running. Pine Tree Loop counts with around 1.7 mile of trails, while Explorer Loop has around 2.7.
  • Shut In Ridge and Hard Times Road (Hard): 7 miles approximately of challenging trail running for the most ambitious ones.

3. Booty Loop (Charlotte)

Booty LOOP


This time we move to the city of Charlotte, where we find its best-known running loop. These 3 miles route features some of the best houses in the high class- neighbourhood of Myers Park, alongside with great oak trees and perfectly maintained lawns.

Starting at Queens Road W, start going to the north until you reach Hopedale Avenue, then turn right. When you reach Queens Rd again, turn right again, looping the neighbourhood back to the beginning of the route.

Another great option to add here is the Freedom Park trails, with 2 miles of nice easy running.

4. Duke University Campus (Raleigh-Durham)

Duke University Running Trails


Here’s a place you do not want to miss. The Duke University stands out as one of the most beautiful campus in the whole country, so obviously, running here is an amazing experience. For this you have different options:

  • Main campus: Running around the campus is a great way of discover the great Duke University while doing some exercise. The best part is in the east side, where you can find some quads and walking routes and the Chapel.
  • Al Buehler Trail: Also on the east side, this 3.7 mile trail loops a golf course and is well-known by cross-country bikers as a great course for the practice of this sport.
  • Duke Gardens: On the west side of the campus, you can find the gardens, with around 1 mile of running routes.

5. Uptown Parks and Stadium Loop (Charlotte)

Uptown Parks and Stadium Loop


The city of Charlotte offers a great opportunity for runners looking for an urban experience.

Here’s one fantastic route you can do: beginning from the Convention Center in S College Street, go to home of NFL team Carolina Panthers, the Bank of America stadium. Then turn right in Martin Luther King Boulevard, where you will find a great running spot: the Romare Bearden Park. Here you will enjoy a stunning view of Charlotte’s skyline. After this, take the N Church Street to get to another park, the Fourth Ward. After this, follow the 7th Street and turn right on the N Brevard Streeet, to reach another stadium: the NBA Charlotte Hornets Arena. After this one, you can go to the Marshall Park, to finally end up in the NASCAR hall of fame by taking the E Stonewall Street, ending the loop where we started.

However, another great option is to improvise and get lost in this central park of the city. This way you will find other routes and buildings. But make sure of bringing a map with you in this case!

6. Mount Mitchell - Black Mountain Crest Trail (Burnsville)

Black Mountain Crest Trail


If you are more into trail running, you should definitely check this challenging trail running route. Located in the Pisgah national Forest, Mount Mitchell offers everything that a nature lover can expect: a spectacular landscape, wildlife and absolute peace and tranquillity. If we combine these facts with trail running, we find one of the best spots in all North Carolina for the practice of this sport: the Black Mountain Crest Trail.

This trail counts with 11.5 miles of pure wilderness that will test your stamina to the fullest. The best starting point would be from Bowlen's Creek Trailhead, where you will face the toughest part of the trail: the 4-mile climb from Bowlen’s Creek to Celo Knob. However, once there, you will reap the rewards: a huge prairie with a stunning panoramic view of the mountains will leave you breathless.

When reaching the 8th mile, you get to Deep Gap. This is the only point of the trail where you can refill your water bottle, in a spring situated in a little rock cave. After this one, the next will be at the end of the trail, the summit of Mount Mitchell.

From Deep Gap, the next climb is to Potato Hill, the last tough climb until reaching the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the end of the trail.

7. Nags Head Woods Preserve Trails (Outer Banks)

Nags Head Woods Preserve Trails


We move now to the eastern islands of Outer Banks, to find this great National Natural Landmark: Nags Head Wood. Here you can expect diverse trails to get lost in while enjoying the true feel of peace that nature brings.

5 miles of sand dunes, swamps, ponds, and wetlands combined in a bunch of trails which can be from gravel and boardwalk to natural beach sand, offering a fun and variable run experience.

According to the blogsite Take a Hike!, the difficulty of the paths here go from easy to strenuous, depending on the trail you take.

In this official document you can find all the different trails, a map with directions and other useful information, all written by The Nature Conservancy (

8. Duck Boardwalk and ocean views (Town of Duck/Outer Banks)

Really close to Nags Head we find the town of Duck. Here lies one of the best options is Outer Banks if you love running along the water. Starting with 1 miles of boardwalk/off road running followed by some Highway 12  and finishing in the community of Carolina Dunes. In total, around 5 miles of great water views.

If after this route you want some more, you can continue north, to reach the Audubon Pine Island Sanctuary and Center.

If instead of north, you decide go south of Duck, it is also a great option, although there is a section more inland. Here you can find a great video to get an idea of the beauty of this town and its routes!

9. Nat Greene Trail (Greensboro)


via YELP

We stop in the city of Greensboro, to find a 5-mile breath-taking trail near the east side of Lake Brandt. This trail running route offers a great mix of meadows, forests and elevation changes; while not being really difficult.

The access is quite easy, being able to park around the Lake Brandt Marina. Although Tuesdays it is closed, there is an open parking close to the beginning of the trail.

Dogs are also allowed, however, they should be leashed. If you love trail running this is a fantastic opportunity to take your fluffy companion with you and do some exercise while enjoying the healing power of nature.

10. Greenfield Lake Park Trail (Wilmington)

Greenfield Lake Park Trail


Finally, we reach the city of Wilmington to find a great 4-mile running loop around the Greenfield Lake. This path is suitable for all runners, no matter their skills, and dogs are also allowed. However, have them leashed, not only to not bother other people, but for security: this lake is known for being the home of numerous alligators!

The route is fully paved, so do not worry about taking the hiking boots with you.

As we have seen, North Carolina has plenty of routes for running lovers. Depending on where are you staying, and which are your preferences, make sure of asking around and investigate. Probably you will find some hidden gems!

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