Many runners turn to the trails in search of a physical challenge. What they find when they leave the pavement behind is a love for getting off the beaten path, breaking new ground, and pushing themselves in new directions. A perfect trail running community should have more than just a trail network diverse enough to challenge any level of runner. It also needs a strong sense of community that supports an active lifestyle and amenities that can't be overlooked like a good coffee shop, fun attractions and cross-training activities. These five locations across America have just those qualities.
Made famous as the birthplace of Nike and location of the classic comedy Animal House, Eugene, Oregon, is gaining popularity as a trail running destination. Just 50 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, the city known as "Emerald City" and "Track Town, USA" is a runner's paradise. Well-maintained trails abound, and the mountains are just a short drive away for more rugged adventures.
Must-do runs: Just outside of town is the 14-mile Ridgeline Trail overlooking the Willamette Valley. Take a drive an hour outside of town via the Scenic Byway and hit the 30-mile McKenzie River Trail, which winds past waterfalls, old-growth forest and rocky lava flows. For a recovery run, hit Pre's Trail, named after legendary University of Oregon athlete Steve Prefontaine. The woodchip-and-bark trail, located in Alton Baker Park, is part of the city's extensive trail system.
Post-workout fun: Visit Hayward Field, site of the 2008 Olympic Trials and some of the greatest stories in running history. The Nike Store features a museum showcasing the company's history, from the waffle shoe through today. Also stop by Pre Memorial Park and Pre's Rock in memory of the running great. For a relaxing post-run activity, take a trip to the Silvan Ridge Winery, a traditional European-style winery (silvanridge.com), or bike through wine country.
Good eats: Laughing Planet and Cornucopia are cheap eats and great places to catch up with local runners. Laughing Planet is known for their burritos, soups and salads, while Cornucopia has an extensive beer list, including local brews, daily specials and great- tasting burgers for both vegetarians and meat lovers.
Sweet dreams: The Valley River Inn (valleyriverinn.com) on the banks of the Willamette River is a resort-style hotel close to trails and downtown. Get a mid-day pick-me-up from the coffee barista, relax at the indoor spa and enjoy the tastes of Northwest cuisine at Sweetwater Restaurant. The Fox Hollow Valley B&B (markandrewstudio.com/bb/) is a green retreat just outside the city featuring an all-organic breakfast, free-trade coffee and private gardens.
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