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Discussion: Best cities for trail running (and why?)

in: Orienteering; General

Mar 28, 2017 12:09 AM # 
Curious to hear about which cities in the world are best for trail running (or mountain biking) & wild green spaces.

Bonus points for:
*Unpaved singletrack
*Forest, not just trees
*Big nature that is accessible (mountains/ocean)
*Don't have to drive to get to green space
*Places where you can forget you are in the city
*Longish - can do a 3+ mile run in green
*Bigger forests within 1hr of the city
*Outdoors community
Mar 28, 2017 12:22 AM # 
Sydney - I miss it for that
Mar 28, 2017 12:25 AM # 
Mar 28, 2017 12:54 AM # 
Uppsala :)
Mar 28, 2017 1:04 AM # 
Not saying. If too many people come it will grow, and lose some of these features.
Mar 28, 2017 1:26 AM # 
matzah ball:
St. Louis! (big nature is sky, so not entirely accessible:))
Mar 28, 2017 1:37 AM # 
Oslo. One can easily walk across the city and into forest. Even a bit of forest within the metropolis. Plus buses and trains to the forest.
Mar 28, 2017 2:00 AM # 
Hartford - surrounded by open space, close to mts, ocean. Lots of single track runnin biking.
Mar 28, 2017 4:10 AM # 
Mar 28, 2017 4:42 AM # 
St. Moritz. Meets all of Suzanne’s criteria. Plus it is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
Mar 28, 2017 4:50 AM # 
Well, if one includes cities that small, then a lot of small cities in western North America meet the bill (like mine), and probably very many elsewhere too. Are there criteria as to how big, or just anything called a city?
Mar 28, 2017 5:40 AM # 
*Unpaved singletrack

There's a paved variety?
Mar 28, 2017 6:32 AM # 
I really enjoyed my week in Lidingo. No mountains, but lots of soft trails in forest with sea views. I suspect there are many places like this in Scandinavia.
In Australia my vote would be Hobart with Mt Wellington very accessible. Lots of trails, from the flat pipe line track to tough climbs like Zig Zag. Mountain and ocean views.
Mar 28, 2017 7:50 AM # 
... cities that small. Atlantic City, Wyoming.
Mar 28, 2017 8:22 AM # 
Let's say 100K-ish and up for population. Or, if it's on the smaller side, bonus points for a university or other reason for technical jobs.
Mar 28, 2017 8:37 AM # 
It would be pretty difficult to live in Oslo and be farther than 20 minutes by public transportation to essentially endless forest, with sweet dirt roads and a plethora of trails for running as well mountain biking. That covers most of your bullet points. In the case of variety you do have fjordside options as well as real Scandi forest, but it's not the kind of variety you'd get in Western US cities with huge elevation differences, for example.

Which brings me to... Tucson! The trail running and the mountains surrounding the city are spectacular. The running and biking communities are big and active. Downside: the public transportation leaves a bit to be desired -- it's just not dense enough. Despite living in Oslo I dream of running in Tucson almost every day. In the summer you'd probably want a car to take you up to the high elevations, or to trailheads at 5am.
Mar 28, 2017 9:00 AM # 
Terje Mathisen:
@Cristina: I follow you all the way until the point where you're missing elevation differences?

For most people 500-600 m of elevation difference in one long stretch is enough, but if you're into those vertical K events you do need to drive an hour or more out of Oslo. My favorite mountain is of course Gausta, which is also the finish point for the Norseman extreme tri.

Re dreaming of US running: I did love the high altitude trails in Utah, had a wonderful run/jog/walk sunrise trip up to the top of Mt Timpanogos back in the summer of '92.
Mar 28, 2017 9:26 AM # 
Oh, there's absolutely plenty of elevation difference as far as exercise options! I was thinking more about the variety in vegetation zones/scenery. I'm spoiled, having lived in places in the western US where you can run in cactus desert one day and spruce forest the next, all within the same city. Pretty unbelievable variety there.
Mar 28, 2017 11:51 AM # 
Adelaide actually fits all of the initially-listed criteria, with the added bonus that it's almost impossible to go for a run in the national parks along the Hills Face Zone and not see kangaroos or koalas :)
Mar 28, 2017 12:54 PM # 
...and if you are foreign you will most definatley encounter our Aussie drop bears!
Mar 28, 2017 1:26 PM # 
Well if it's for tech jobs, you could live in Colorado mountain towns like Conifer/Pine, Nederland or Woodland Park, surrounded by mountain beauty and trail options, and drive a half hour down to Denver, Boulder or Colorado Springs for work. (In fact there's a small tech firm here in Woodland Park.)
Mar 28, 2017 1:43 PM # 
Another vote for Uppsala ;), 100 meters to hundreds of Sq K is hills though.
Mar 28, 2017 2:45 PM # 
Ottawa is decent. Gatineau Park is huge (~50 km long), it's a forest (there are bears actually!), it's pretty hilly and rocky, there are lots of trails, as well as good o terrains and maps. It's easily accessible by bike from downtown Ottawa and some parts can be reached by bus (including Cite des Jeunes, one of the most technical o maps). There are also many nice areas in the greenbelt surrounding the city, in particular, March Highlands is very popular for MTB (as well as a good o terrain, too) and is reachable by bus. No sea or mountains, though (but hills are high enough for alpine skiing).
Mar 28, 2017 2:54 PM # 
CWalker: Is Vancouver really that great in terms of what is accessible in the city? I always thought of it as a city in which you had to drive to trails. Amazing unlimited trails, but not really near the city itself.
Mar 28, 2017 4:14 PM # 
Southern California has a lot of variety and some exceptionally long races. Very physical though. And depending on where you live, it might be a longer drive to get to actual forest as opposed to chaparral.
Mar 28, 2017 4:18 PM # 
Sorry, forgot to answer the why part. I lived right next to Pacific Spirit Park and could absolutely do a 5-12 km run on unpaved trails in full-on forest right from my door. If you live on the North Shore like Magnus and Andrea, you also can access trails really easily. If you want mountains and ocean in the same city, it's pretty hard to beat. Within an hour of the city, you can definitely get to pretty much unlimited mountains. However, it is still a really big city so if you live in the wrong place or have a bad commute, it could be not great. It was too big a city for me, which is why I now live in a mountain town of 16,000 people. But even a Truckee evangelist such as myself has a hard time spinning it as a city with a tech industry!
Mar 28, 2017 6:38 PM # 
I lived in Pittsburgh, PA for a few summers, and I really enjoyed the ability to run out my door and be in a relatively large, secluded park within about a mile. Of course it depends where you live, but right outside of downtown Pittsburgh, still in the city proper are two large parks Frick Park and Schenley park, and due to the hills they have multiple levels of trail systems that rack up to some pretty decent mileage. The trails are well maintained and well used - think dirt road more than single track trail, but you can completely forget you are in a city.

Also starting at the center of downtown is paved bike path along the rivers that goes in 3 directions for a couple of miles. Not quite as secluded but still green space. If you follow it far enough SE from the city (~30 miles) it turns to dirt, and you can continue all the way on to Washington DC (300 miles).

There are a number of parks in increasing distances outside of downtown, and it doesn't take too long of a drive to be completely in the woods, including the laurel highlands.

For the size and density of the city, I was very happy with the green space I was able to take advantage of outside my door.
Mar 28, 2017 8:37 PM # 
matzah ball:
Wasn't meaning to be flippant about St. Louis, I know that is not what you are looking for and in your shoes I probably would not be either. I guess my thought was, hey, it really meets all the criteria you listed in one way or another, and that made me realize all the good things about where I live. Sometimes people, always striving for something better, aren't aware of the riches they already possess.
Mar 28, 2017 8:47 PM # 
Philadelphia - believe it or not. Two blocks from my house is the Wissahickon with miles of technical trails running along a steep creek valley all within the city limits. There's several trails on each side running along the creek at different elevations and you can make your way down one side an up the other many times if you want a lot of climb. You're still in the city, but you'd never know it when you're on the trails. If you run the uppermost trails all the way around it's 20+ miles. So if you need to be in a large city with lots of universities and other industries and you can live where you want in the city, it's a pretty nice deal.
Mar 28, 2017 9:45 PM # 
American large cities are generally scary as hell, basically a zombie-land, full of hate, crime, of kinds of ugly things.

I liked Boulder Colorado. Running to the top of Bear and Green Mountains straight from the dorm of UC. Front Range area is gorgeous, and even people are way nicer there. Cause they are rich and relaxed, and their "life is good".
I recall if a dog is barking at you, the owner would be embarrassed and would apologize.
Mar 28, 2017 10:09 PM # 
Mar 28, 2017 10:35 PM # 
Laramie. (But only 30K people. But a university.)
Mar 28, 2017 11:42 PM # 
Whitehorse, Yukon. Meets all of the bonus points criteria in the original post.
Mar 29, 2017 12:14 AM # 
Mr Wonderful:
Ann Arbor, MI checks the boxes.

5 mile single track loop in the city, I think it can be extended I just haven't. The mountain bikers have some "local loop" that strings together interesting connector type single track.
Multiple parks within walking/biking distance (Arb is nice)
City bisected by end-to-end paved trail (accesses several parks) that will eventually extend to a 60-80 mile bike loop to the NW and another similar sized loop to the SE
>1.5 dozen o maps within 30-60 minutes, several have been biked to by A2 residents
Huge University
Great Lake by Amtrak (or 3 hrs by car, or another one 3 hrs by car, or another one 1 hr by car, or another 6-7 hrs by car)
Outdoors community, yeppers
Tech jobs - several domestic automaker HQs nearby, several import auto maker tech HQs in or adjacent to A2, Google has an office, etc. I suspect there are more opportunities as well.
Mar 29, 2017 12:28 AM # 
Additional criteria...
No bears (seasonal snakes and spiders allowed)
Mar 29, 2017 12:44 AM # 
Look, even Houston's Memorial Park has a good bit of forested single track mountain biking, and one could live walking or biking distance from it quite feasibly. There's quite a bit of public transit, and at least some busses take bikes. An hour north is Sam Houston National Forest. And there's a lot of tech in Houston, even close to that park (downtown or Galleria).

Lots of cities have the requested characteristics. If you want cities that have a mega outdoor-active focus, and a good amount of tech (so that it's not just one job available), then I'd suggest Oslo, Whitehorse (I'm guessing about tech there, probably a government job though), or the mountain suburbs of Denver or Colorado Springs.

The closest I've come to a bear (nearly bumping into) was in a provincial park within Calgary (with houses visible both north and south). I think that you'd struggle with avoiding bears entirely in an outdoor environ, or there will be other, possibly more concerning, wildlife. I've never had one do more than run off, and have surprisingly rarely seen them, in forty years of active orienteering and/or other outdoor pursuits. A mapper that we hired was terrified of bears. Finally he saw one a hundred meters away, munching whatever. The mapper immediately went into the whole suite of bear safety guide arm waving activities. Eventually the bear looked up for a moment, then went back to munching. Be careful around them, but normally they don't pose a concern. Don't let people feed them.
Mar 29, 2017 1:57 AM # 
Darwin and then you can go for a quick dip in the ocean and check out the crocodiles
Mar 29, 2017 4:47 AM # 
I think that you'd struggle with avoiding bears entirely in an outdoor environ, or there will be other, possibly more concerning, wildlife.

I assume you meant to qualify that by adding 'in America'. About the most threatened I've felt whilst in the bush in Australia is when a kangaroo accidentally bounced in my direction then bounced off the other way.
Mar 29, 2017 5:00 AM # 
You are a local tRicky - so you won't encounter drop bears like the foreigners do.
Mar 29, 2017 5:34 AM # 
Gothenburg (Sweden)......even in the worst gangster areas we've got amazing forests and trails. The city has everything (bars,lakes, endless forest, hills, nightclubs, great restaurants, indoor xc skiing track, amazing coastline, islands......) apart from the weather.
Mar 29, 2017 6:57 AM # 
About the most threatened I've felt whilst in the bush in Australia...

Really? With the incredible variety of deadly fauna down there?
Mar 29, 2017 7:07 AM # 
So you have run into a kangaroo as well tRicky? When I did it the kangaroo never recovered. It broke a leg. I came away only bruised. But a few weeks ago I saw a kangaroo take out a bike rider on one of our local paths around Crusoe Lake (day three of the last Easter in Bendigo). The rider didn't see it coming. The stupid animal tried to go under the crankshaft and upended the rider. He wasn't going fats so was just grazed and shaken. But at speed it could have been much worse.
But I won't disallow a place because of kangaroos. They are more stupid than ferocious.
Mar 29, 2017 9:22 AM # 
I hit a sea gull on my bike a couple of weeks ago.

Other Australian birds can more of a hazard, Magpies swooping and Emu's can attack as they did during the 2nd World Champs Rogaine, I think they were after Murray for Kamloops hair
Mar 29, 2017 10:07 PM # 
I was impressed with the green spaces on the outskirts of Cleveland last summer and while running there was thinking to myself that it looked great for orienteering if you're into that sort of thing. Later confirmed that the exact place I had that thought was used for a NA champs I think in the 90's Would not have guessed that to be the case and i barely scratched the surface in a three hour run.
Mar 30, 2017 12:37 AM # 
I am quite surprised no-one has mentioned Canberra yet
Mar 30, 2017 1:06 AM # 
Because Canberra is sooo central to everywhere.

I think Tassie would rate the best for trail running. There has to be a reason for our famous Aussie orienteer Hanny Allston to move over there and establish her running store (Find Yout Feet) there.
Mar 30, 2017 1:08 AM # 
So you have run into a kangaroo as well tRicky?

No I said it hopped in my direction then went the other way. No contact was made.

With the incredible variety of deadly fauna down there?

Only foreigners are scared of our local wildlife because we talk it up to keep the place free of tourists ;-)
Mar 30, 2017 1:31 AM # 
Maybe Hanny moved there by being born there. But yes, it is my pick as well. Hobart that is. It certainly ticks all the boxes on the initial list of criteria... particularly if you live in South Hobart or Kingston.
Mar 30, 2017 2:04 AM # 
It certainly ticks all the boxes

Ticks are potentially the most dangerous form of wildlife on a typical event in Australia. They should all be put in boxes and shipped to the US to help deal with the bear problem.
Mar 30, 2017 2:32 AM # 
Don't you need them to deal with the drop bear problem?
Mar 30, 2017 2:48 AM # 
We already have an ample supply of ticks here in the US, thank you very much.

Mar 30, 2017 6:47 AM # 
Sheffield - The Peak District National Park is right next door (runnable to) and there are valleys heading out to it from the city (Rivelin and Porter for example) so you never have to run far to get off road and into nature.
Mar 30, 2017 9:43 PM # 
Mar 31, 2017 12:55 AM # 
NE Ohio has hundreds of miles of trail, including many in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A very active mountain bike community continues to add miles of professionally designed trail. There are a number of running and trail running groups as well as our own orienteering club. If you are into kayaking, Cuyahoga Falls is developing into a destination for expert level rapids. We don't have an ocean, but Lake Erie will do. When you get tired, relax and enjoy our pro sports teams or the Cleveland Orchestra.
Mar 31, 2017 3:50 AM # 
The time will come when this boys fetish for MTB track-making (and girls, when I see one) will run into a realisation that we're over-tracked round here. I rather like the over-grown, forgotten, almost-not-there trails. The non-professional ones.
Mar 31, 2017 5:13 AM # 
The almost-not-there ones can still be improved. By becoming not-there.
Mar 31, 2017 7:34 AM # 
You hater. I just sent you a link as to why there should be more mountain biking :-)
Mar 31, 2017 11:06 AM # 
Cape Town

Ask This Guy, and check out some of his pics in his log
Mar 31, 2017 11:53 AM # 
Cape Town... if you want a nose bleed. :P

Otherwise a beautiful and hilly place :)
Apr 1, 2017 11:05 AM # 
leaving aside the not-really-a-city issue: Forres - surrounded by Culbin, Roseisle, Altyre and Darnaway, with the Cairngorms an hour away, and worth it just for the Findhorn gorge cliff paths (as long as you don't get vertigo :-) )
Apr 1, 2017 3:09 PM # 
I don't, for an instant, think Washington, DC is competitive in this contest overall - no big nature without going well out of town to the west (mountains, if the more or less local ones are even high enough to count) or east (ocean) - but I may as well count my blessings. As long as you live near Rock Creek Park, it does pretty well when it comes to having a reasonably large forested area with miles of natural surface trails within city limits and I'm particularly well situated - ~200 m from a trailhead.
Apr 1, 2017 6:19 PM # 
Yeah, New Haven is pretty much the same as D.C. In those respects. Plenty of off road running but no big nature that close by.
Apr 3, 2017 11:09 AM # 
Zurich, and actually many other Swiss towns.

Zurich covers all mentioned criteria, plus a lake in drinking water quality with great swimming between June and September.
And in Dec-March great alpine skiing / backcountry skiing / cross country skiing with closest areas around 40' away.

This discussion thread is closed.