A very frequent question I have been getting from readers is where to go trail running in the Bay Area, and along with that, how to find trails. One thing trail running has made me realize, is how much I love where I live. We have access to so many trails, all with different terrains and climate, so you can pretty much never get bored.
How I Find Trails
My favorite way to find places to run and routes to run on are race websites. They are a great resource for maps and local trails, and pretty much always have maps with routes and distances marked on them. A lot of my runs I have found this way! We are lucky to have so many trail race organizers, so you can pretty much find a map for any region and it’s a great place to start.
When I first started trail running, I would even go run races at places I wanted to run just to be able to go on the course when it was marked and supported. Trail races have a great low key atmosphere, so it’s a great way to explore without being completely alone.
In addition to race websites, the park districts have great maps. If I know there is somewhere I am thinking about running, I always try and find the park’s website and go from there. East Bay Regional Park District has a fantastic site.
This might be kind of obvious but I had to include it anyways. Like everything else, I use my know-it-all BFF google to find trail runs. There are tons of websites out there that have different routes posted, some of them in great detail. Sometimes changing your word search to hike instead of run, yields better results. If you are looking for a specific area, just try google!
Another great resource is the Trail Runner’s Guide: San Francisco Bay Area book. It has a ton of routes listed by region with detailed instructions on where to park, which trails to run and everything else you might need to know.
The trails that I love the most are the ones that I have found completely on my own, or have gotten lost on. Once I have gotten comfortable in my surroundings or in a park, I will venture off to trails I have seen and wonder where they go. It doesn’t turn out great every time, but when it does it’s so rewarding. It can be frustrating at times not knowing exactly where you are going and constantly pulling out maps, but like I said, once you get it figured out, it’s so worth it. Just bring a map and know you can always turn around and retrace your footsteps.
Whether it’s a local running group, a run from a running store, employees at a running store, or a runner you happen to meet on the street, ask about routes, be social and join group runs. It’s a great way to find new routes and see new places without being alone or as worried about getting lost.
These are just a handful of the amazing trails in the Bay Area and doesn’t even touch on the Peninsula or South Bay or even all the trails in the East Bay. I have spent a lot of time on these trails and they are definitely on the top of my list. Without giving away too many of my secrets or posting my frequent routes, I highly recommend all these parks. The terrain is just based on my opinion of the routes I have taken.
1. Mt Diablo/Shell Ridge/Diablo Foothills
- Cities: Danville, Alamo, Walnut Creek, Concord, Clayton
- Terrain: single track, fire roads, some shade, hilly (Diablo is a mountain!)
- Maps: Shell Ridge, Diablo Foothills, Mt. Diablo
- Cities: Lafayette, Martinez
- Terrain: hilly, fire roads, open
5. Lake Chabot
- City: Castro Valley
- Terrain: fire roads, single track, shade, open, rolling hills
*There are trails to connect Tilden to Redwood to Anthony Chabot to Lake Chabot for a really long run!
6. Marin Headlands
- City: Sausalito
- Terrain: open, fire road, long hills
I hope that helps to give some Bay Area runners or visitors of the area some ideas of where to go. With trail running it’s all about getting out there and not being afraid to explore a little bit.
Now go download a map, find a trail head, and go explore!
Bay Area runners – anything I should add to my favorites list?