10 Best Places to Run near Raleigh, NC

Raleigh is hands down one of the most beautiful and diverse cities to run in. Whether you’re looking for urban routes, paved trails or to completely submerge yourself in nature, you have LOADS of incredible options to choose from.

Here are my top 10 favorite places to run in and around Raleigh:

1. American Tobacco Trail: This shared use, rails-to-trails path stretches for over 22 miles! While the majority (roughly 14 miles) of the trail is paved, there is also a beautiful section of about 8 miles that is packed sand/clay, pine needles and gravel. The elevation is described as “gently rolling hills” and I would agree; it’s definitely not pancake flat so don’t be fooled! The trail starts near downtown Durham and heads out towards Apex. There are several access points along the way, and you will find that the trail is well marked with signage. My favorite spots to park are at the New Hill/Olive Chapel Rd and White Oak Church Rd. Both have bathrooms and ample parking, and the New Hill location also has water fountains.

American Tobacco Trail

2. William B. Umstead State Park: There is literally something for EVERY runner at Umstead! With over 20 miles of multi-use trails (both technical trails and wider, tree-lined bridle paths), this is a very popular destination and a haven for all sorts of runners, cyclists and hikers. Whether you want to explore the wooded trails and practice your skills at trail running or do hill repeats and speed intervals on the bridle paths, there are loads of options in this gorgeous natural area. Parking and access is simple and right off the interstate at either the Reedy Creek or Crabtree Creek entrances.

Umstead Bridle Path

3. Reedy Creek Trail/NCMA Greenway: This 5 mile paved stretch of greenway is a part of the Capital Area Greenway Trail System, and is a favorite of mine. It’s all paved (and hilly!) and winds through the museum’s outdoor sculpture area and out to Reedy Creek by Umstead. You can park near Umstead at Reedy Creek on Blue Ridge Rd or start near Meredith College along Hillshorough Street. Oftentimes, my friends and I will take this trail on Thursday mornings for the Raleigh Distance Project Cup A Joe group sunrise run - join us at 6AM for easy miles, good company and delicious coffee!

4. Neuse River Greenway Trail: A paved trail of over 27 miles, this trail is a part of the Mountains-to-Sea Rrail which stretches across the state of North Carolina, from the Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. Its scenic views along the river, winding boardwalk paths through peaceful wetlands, rolling hills and wildflowers make it a treasured place to run. There are several access points for parking, depending on where you live and what’s most convenient for you. Visit this link to learn more and to plan your visit!

5. Shelley Lake Trail: This stunning 2 mile trail circles around the lake with asphalt paths and wooded boardwalks for scenic views and flat, serene running. Park at the visitor’s center at 1400 W Milbrook Rd with water fountains and bathrooms, and if you want a longer run you can easily add on mileage by connecting to some of the neighboring trails and paths that are marked along your way.

6. Crabtree Creek Greenway: The Crabtree Creek Greenway will always hold a very special place in my heart, as it’s where I first began running when my family and I were moving to Raleigh three years ago. Part of the Capital Area Greenway Trail System, this trail offers 12 miles of forested, paved paths with lovely views. You’ll get your dose of hills there, too. Parking is easy at North Hills or Kiwanis Park.

7. Lake Johnson: Lake Johnson has two loop options: take the east side paved trail for just under 3 miles or venture off to the west side for a more rustic, wood-chip path of under 2 miles. Both offer lovely views and some good shade during the summer! You can park at the visitor’s center on Avent Ferry Rd in Raleigh.

8. Walnut Creek Greenway: this trail is over 15 miles long and connects from the Neuse River Greenway to Lake Johnson. As such, it provides a diverse array of landscapes and scenery to experience and take in. For parking, you can start at Lake Johnson on Avent Ferry Rd. as noted above, or hop on mid-trail at Eliza Poole Park.

9. Dorothea Dix Park: You can’t beat the city skyline views on a run in Dix Park, and trust me when I say that it is well-worth the price of climbing all the hills along the winding roads throughout Raleigh’s largest city park. Many of our area’s runners frequent here for hill repeats with good reason!

10. Raleigh Mural Run: It’s no secret that Raleigh is decorated with some of the most colorful, vibrant and inspiring public pieces of art! Thanks to the folks at the Raleigh Murals Project there is an interactive map and information on these stellar pieces of art so we can easily plan a self-guided tour. We also made a walking/running map (3.7 mile loop) that you can see below to check out some of our favorite murals in downtown Raleigh. Take on this adventure to see which murals you will find and be sure to tag @raleighgroupfitness so we can re-share your run!

About the author, Jess Hofheimer:

As an avid distance runner and a running coach, Jess is very passionate about running and loves to share with and help others discover health, happiness and strength through our sport. Please do not ever hesitate to contact her if she can help you in any way! You can find her on Instagram, via her web site or email her at paceofme@gmail.com. Happy running!

One of the awesome murals to see on the Raleigh Mural Run!

Other guides and resources for running in and around Raleigh that I think are spiffy:

Raleigh Running Guide, created by Raleigh Distance Project and Raleigh Group Fitness

17 Mind-Blowing Triangle Running Trails from Offline Raleigh

Great Runs - Raleigh-Durham/NC

Capital Area Greenway Trail System

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