Bay Area Trail Running

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

Race Sites

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.

My Favorites

Bay Area Trails2 

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

2. Briones

  • Cities: Lafayette, Martinez
  • Terrain: hilly, fire roads, open
  • Map

3. Tilden

  • City: Berkeley
  • Terrain: single track, fire roads, lots of trees, rolling hills
  • Maps: North, South

4. Redwood

  • City: Oakland
  • Terrain: single track, fire roads, lots of trees, rolling hills
  • Maps: North, South

5. Lake Chabot

  • City: Castro Valley
  • Terrain: fire roads, single track, shade, open, rolling hills
  • Map

*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
  • Map

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?

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13 Responses to Bay Area Trail Running

  1. Page August 10, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    Saving this post under favorites and “some day…”

  2. Shauna @Pleasure, not Punishment August 10, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    YAAAAAAAY! Thank you for this post! I can’t wait to get out and start exploring. Anything we should know about trail safety before venturing out?

    • Aron August 10, 2012 at 8:42 am #

      I am going to do a trail safety post next week (that has also been a big request)… but it’s all pretty common sense, and similar to what you would do for road running. Be aware of your surroundings, trust your instinct, tell someone where you are going and I always bring a map and my phone :)

      • Holly August 13, 2012 at 10:19 am #

        A “safety” post was exactly what I’ve been hoping you would do. Looking forward to it!

  3. Shana August 10, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Great post!

    I think the Bear Valley trail to Arch Rock at the Point Reyes National Seashore is a great run for newbie trail runners. There are a few more out there, but that’s the only one I’ve run before.

    In Sonoma County there is Annadel State Park. Great (and challenging) trails for running and in my experience the mountain bikers are super gracious to runners and hikers. It also is the location of the Annadel Half Marathon. If you haven’t been there it is well worth a look!

    • Aron August 10, 2012 at 9:39 am #

      Ohh these all sound great, I will definitely have to check them out! Haven’t been to any of them :)

  4. John D August 10, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Aron, I do love reading your posts and living the Bay area trails vicariously through you. I too enjoy the trails of Southern Alberta and the Rocky Mountains which provide ample resource for our escapades. The one suggestion for your ‘finding the trails’ option that I use quite regularily is getting lost. I find getting lost allows my group to find many new trails that would never be attempted by following normal routes.

    Thank you for your lovely pictures of the area and continuing to prove that the best run is the one less travelled.


  5. Alisyn August 10, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Would love to get you down here to the South Bay and Peninsula. So many more beautiful trails to explore! Let me know if you are ever game as I would love to explore the trails you mentioned in the East Bay! City swap! :)

  6. Kristy@RunTheLongRoad August 10, 2012 at 10:36 am #

    Thanks Aron – I am so bookmarking this the next time I’m in SF and want to explore some trails!

  7. Liz August 11, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    It’d be a bit of a drive for you, but you HAVE to get down to the Santa Cruz mountains! I can’t even begin to describe all the great trails there. There are a lot of great spots for running on the Peninsula and it tends to be a lot cooler as well. Thanks for the great post!

    • Aron August 16, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

      YES!!!! I have been wanting to do one of the races in Santa Cruz, just haven’t made the drive yet. It is most definitely on my list :)

      I have run in Woodside and love it too. Definitely some great trails on the Peninsula!

  8. Christine August 12, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

    I so wish I would live close to you! All those trails look amazing!!

  9. Jen August 14, 2012 at 8:45 am #

    Yay! Thank you! Very excited to try out the Bay Area trails!

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