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Scenic Running Trails in Boston and NYC

scenic running trails

If you’re a runner living in the big city, getting ready to go out for a run likely means getting ready to hit the asphalt – and concrete, and potholes and other city hazards. Needless to say, an urban environment isn’t ideal for running, especially if you like to pair the activity with a good view. Scenic running trails may be harder to come by in the city, but they do exist.

Put the high-rises, busy roads and drab colors behind you. Here are some scenic running trails in the Northeast’s big cities, Boston and New York City.

Note: Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, please see official websites before visiting to check for restrictions or closures.

Scenic Running Trails in NYC

Central Park

It may seem obvious, but Central Park is worth the mention. Central Park is an escape in the middle of the city with lakes, wooded trails, outdoor family activities and a variety of events to boot. Ambitious runners can tackle the outer loop (6.03 miles) or take on one of the many trails inside the park, like the 1.58 mile path following the perimeter of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.

Click here for a map of Central Park running trails.

The High Line

Built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side, the 1.5-mile long High Line provides a unique vantage point for views of the city and the Hudson River. You may have to dodge tourists during peak hours, but that’s just more motivation to wake up for an early morning run. Discover more fun things to do on and around the High Line.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park Greenway

The Brooklyn Greenway is a 26-mile stretch that runs through Brooklyn Bridge Park. Only 6 miles of the Greenway are available for public use, and most of those miles are in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It follows the length of the waterfront from Pier 1 to Pier 6, providing views of the Brooklyn Bridge and East River.

Van Cortlandt Park

Located in the Bronx, Van Cortlandt Park is another natural haven within NYC. It’s a quick getaway from the cinderblocks and skyscrapers that normally make up the scenery. The park includes over 14 miles of trails, including a few nature trails and a cross-country course. As you run through wooded areas and past a babbling brook, you’ll feel as if you’ve left the city behind you.

Click here for a map of Van Cortlandt Park running trails.

Prospect Park

The paved pathways at Prospect Park in Brooklyn may provide a similar scenic experience, just without the rugged trails. Take a gander at the foliage and Prospect Park Lake as you run the inner loop (3.36 miles) or perimeter loop (3.68 miles). Be sure to wave to the Prospect Park Track Club if you see members running by!

Click here for the Prospect Park Alliance Running Map.

scenic running trails
The Charles River Esplanade in Boston.

Scenic Running Trails in Boston

The Emerald Necklace

The Emerald Necklace is a chain of parks in Boston and Brookline, Mass., that stretches from Boston Common all the way to Franklin Park. Within the Necklace are several walking and running trails, each with different parkland and city views. The Back Bay Fens Loop (1.6 miles) runs through an urban wild not far from Fenway Park. The Arnold Arboretum – during off-peak times – is a great place to catch stunning views of flowers and other plants during a run. A paved pathway follows the circumference of Jamaica Pond (1.5 miles), providing views of the pond and the foliage framing it.

Click here for suggested routes.

Pleasure Bay and Castle Island

Castle Island is the site of Fort Independence, one of the oldest fortified sites of English origin in the United States. Not a traditional trail by any means, but a beautiful spot to run nonetheless, the Castle Island Loop (.79 miles) circles Fort Independence, providing views of the historic site on one side and the harbor on the other. The Pleasure Bay Loop (1.84 miles) is longer and offers more views of the water, with Pleasure Bay on one side and Dorchester Bay on the other.

The Charles River Esplanade

The Esplanade is on the Boston side of the Charles River, stretching 3 miles between the Museum of Science and the Boston University Bridge. Run the bike path that follows the length of the Esplanade for views of the Charles River Basin and Cambridge on the other side. For more of the city’s charm, be sure to run by the Bowker Overpass, where colorful art murals decorate the walls and pillars.

Check the map of the Esplanade for the best route.

Chestnut Hill Reservoir Trail

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir shares its name with the surrounding Chestnut Hill neighborhood, which is home to Boston College. The 1.6-mile loop trail circling the reservoir is flat and wide, perfect for newbies and avid runners alike. It offers views of the lake, Boston College campus and the Boston skyline. The picturesque setting – especially during a sunrise or sunset – is enough to get anyone moving.

Is walking more your speed? Find walking and hiking trails near you. 

What are your favorite scenic running trails? Tell us in the comments below. 

This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated. 


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