It is no secret that my favorite place to be is in our National Parks. I am determined to see them all and I am slowly checking them all off my list. Soon we will be my favorite time to get away, too! I love to run through our National Parks in the fall. The crowds drop off and in some places you feel like you have the entire park to yourself. The trees are turning and the weather is perfect to get out and take advantage of the trails. So here are my three favorite parks to run. There are many spectacular parks but these three stand out for having some fun, runable routes with spectacular views.
Saguaro National Park – This one may be in my own back yard but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. I head to the East side of the park where the paved loop is like running an 8 mile rollercoaster. It’s non- stop up and down. Cresting each hill offers another great view of Tucson, the Catalina Mountains and the Rincons. Don’t just do it for the view. This is prime training ground. It will test your strength and endurance. I have kept track of my time each time I run the loop over the years and I can tell just how fit I am based on my time. If you are lucky enough to get a slot, there is a race through the park every Labor Day. This is a Tucson classic. Afterward, enjoy a salty margarita for, um, the electrolytes!
Acadia National Park – This is the place to hit on the East coast. This place was set aside to have no automobile access. Instead, miles of carriage roads were built. This makes for nice wide, level running on dirt roads. Wind around ponds and lakes while watching the leaves turn stunning colors. With 45 miles of trails, you can run as long or as short as you want and always see something new. You may be at sea level but you will be working since there’s no lack of hills here either. Refuel with some fresh Atlantic seafood!
Zion National Park – This is the most challenging run of the three. For this you need to make a reservation with Zion Outfitters. They can shuttle you out to the trailhead of the West Rim. Over 18 miles you descend 4,000 feet into Zion Canyon. Along the way you get a birds eye view of the staggering maze of canyons around Zion. If you aren’t afraid of heights, hit up Angels Landing on your descent. Back in the canyon, you can ride one of the free shuttles back into town or if your are up for an even bigger challenge, head back up the other side and out the West Rim trail. At the end of the day, sit back and watch a spectacular sunset while icing your legs in the creek.