My 5 Favorite Running Routes in Charlotte
Ever feel like you're running in circles? Like literally, because you have fallen into a running rut, jogging the same routes day-in, day-out? Well I'm here to zigzag your training up a bit. Because I'm sharing 5 of my favorite trails hiding within our very own Queen City.
Distance: Approximately 8 miles: 4 miles each way.
Run this when you... are feeling competitive. Because take a few wrong turns and you might just find yourself sprinting with the high school all-stars, who regularly race on the 5k cross-country course nestled in the heart of this greenway. But if you enter the trail at the Old Bell Road entrance (right off of Sardis Road), you will find a pancake-flat paved trail that will safely lead you straight to the cheerleading section of this eventful route.
Don't run this if you... get lost easily. I mean, the Old Bell Road stretch is a dummy-proof straight shot, but when you reach the cross country course, you will find so many winding trails that will take you to exciting new discoveries and countless moments of "wasn't I just here?"'
Pro-Tip: If you park at the Old Bell Road location and veer left instead of right, away from the paved path, you will find a hidden trail that only the veterans know about.
Distance: Approximately 8 miles: 4 miles each way. But for all of my Energizer bunnies out there, this greenway links up with McMullen Creek Greenway, so you can extend it to roughly 6 miles each way, for a whopping 12 mile round-trip.
Run this when you... feel like being one with nature. Because for the entire stretch, it's you and the leaves. But, *spoiler alert*, you might just see some swamps too. No clowns though 🙏 (at least from my experience...)
Don't run this if you... have an uncontrollable bladder. Because you're really going to hate yourself around mile 3 when you realize that there is no Porta-Potty in sight. So unless you're George of the Jungle potty-trained, or simply feel like holding it for a miserable journey back to the nearest Starbucks, I suggest you plan your hydration accordingly.
Pro-Tip: Turns out there are two "4-mile Creek Greenways" in the Charlotte area: the one I referenced above is near Ballantyne and the other is in Matthews. Why they have the exact same name is beyond me, but accurately plan the one you want to visit and don't let your GPS decide for you (just like mine did the other day...😠 ).
Distance: 3 miles, give or take.
Run this when... the only reward you need after a tough workout is how awesome you feel. Because much to my dismay, this route isn't named after a pirate's treasure waiting at the end of the loop. But instead, after a surplus of spandex-clad biker booties cycling around the neighborhood.
Don't run this when you... aren't about that booty burn. 'Cus those Queens Road hills are no joke and I think it's safe to say that running this route a couple times will rival even the tallest stair climber you've summited.
Pro-Tip: Don't forget to look up. These roads showcase some of the most beautiful homes Charlotte has to offer and every time I make a visit, I pick up where I left off on my future home checklist. 😉
Distance: Approximately 2 miles, if you make it a point to cover all of the loops. But if you feel like you need to add on a bit more mileage to call it a workout, this park connects to the Little Sugar Creek Greenway for an extra 1.5 miles!
Run this when you... Need an escape. Well, from motor vehicle traffic, that is. Because much like Central Park, Freedom Park is the go-to retreat for all of the bustlin' Charlotteaneans to snag some fresh air. And this park is a fan-favorite for a reason, because it truly is a hidden gem nestled in this crazy city of ours.
Don't run this when you... don't feel like playing a game of human dodgeball. Because like I said, people are everywhere. My best advice: be an early bird and beat the crowds. One time I actually woke up early enough to have the park entirely to myself, and the only word to describe it was magical.
Pro-Tip: If you're feeling a little claustrophobic with all of the power-walkers, hop on over to the wooded nature trail that runs parallel to the park. It's shaded and roomy, and the only thing you will have to keep your eyes peeled for is the occasional cycler also fleeing from the party in the park.
Distance: 4 miles or less, depending on where you hop on and hop off.
Run this when you... are in need of some eye candy to brighten your day. This route is located in the heart of South End, Charlotte's trendiest neighborhood, and I kid you not, every time I trot along this trail, I debate on founding a @hotdudesrunning Insta. (Don't tell bae.)
Don't run this if you... don't feel like avoiding eye contact with at least 5 people you know. This is by far one of the more popular routes that I've run, and since I'm the kind of person who awkwardly pretends to be overly fascinated with what's on the ground when I spot a familiar face, I don't train here too often. 😊
Pro-Tip: The three colorful displays of hand-painted artwork on the Rail Trail make for the perfect new shoe-selfies.
Just Can't Get Enough?
This website is a great resource for learning more about additional greenways in Mecklenburg County.
A Quick PSA from Mama Bear Nat: Please please please be cautious and alert when running unexplored territories. Bring a buddy or at least tell a buddy where you are going before you head out the door. And always be sure to switch up your routes, because: A) it keeps things fresh and B) being a mysterious Carmen SanDiego is totally in right now.