There exist countless beautiful, elegant, and breathtaking trail running destinations around the world.
And this makes it almost impossible to narrow down your choices to the best of the best destinations. Likewise, it becomes impossible to visit all of them in your lifetime given other important life commitments you might have.
Luckily, I was able to distill the 20 finest trail running destinations across the globe that you’d be crazy not to visit in your lifetime.
Let’s take a closer look at this ultimate list:
#1. Kenya: Safaricom Marathon
Starting our list of the best of the best trail running destinations across the globe is the Safaricom Marathon, organized every June in Kenya.
It’s a moderate trail. It involves running through the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (through African savannah), where you’ll encounter lions along the way. However, you don’t have to fear the wildlife as armed rangers with helicopter support stand ready to guard you throughout the trail. Don’t forget to carry your sunscreen as the weather here is quite hot.
Another challenge- you’ll be competing with the locals as well who have world records for long distance running!
#2. Grand Canyon: The Grand Circle Trail
The Grand Circle Trail is not only a scenic trail run but also a challenging destination for the advanced trail runners.
The 11.6 miles loop that stretches from the Red Rock Canyon visitor center, roughly paralleling the striking Loop Road. The train is 100% beautiful to satisfy your viewing needs. It also has enormous variations- some parts are rocky, others have loose sand, and some have hard packed dirt.
You’d want to study this trail in advance to avoid getting lost along the path since it’s not marked correctly.
And no matter what type of year you hit the trail, be sure to carry sufficient hydration.
#3. Portugal: Peniche
Portugal has a gorgeous coastline that’s perfect for trail runners who wish to explore new scenery along the way.
You can start in the small Peniche surf coastal town and run through various beach cliffs as you explore the beautiful coastal line. The total distance along the path ranges between 7-8 kilometers.
The path has limited obstacles, so it’s less challenging and great for new runners. An outdoor gym is also set along the route.
#4. Myanmar: Bagan Temple Marathon
The Bagan Temple Marathon, which covers a distance of 26.2 miles long, is carried out in November of every year and is always open to participants all over the world.
What makes this trail run a great, must visit destination for you is the fact that it lies in an incredibly beautiful landscape of Bagan- where you’ll enjoy viewing more than 2,000 ancient Bagan Temples spreading all over the dusty plains.
Besides the epic sceneries, the course is relatively flat throughout its length, with the only primary challenge being hot weather. This makes it ideal for novice trail runners.
#5. Iceland: Olfusa River, Reykjavik
Iceland has a mild climate for the summer half of every year, making it an excellent destination for trail runners.
About an hour and a half drive out of the icy land capital, you’ll come across the Gullfoss falls, and if you take this path, you can make a stop at the Olfusa River trail where you can run all the way to the falls. At the falls, you can then choose to go further- head downward about a three-quarter of a mile- until you hit the bottom of the fall.
Alongside this route, you’ll enjoy a scenic view of the glaciers and mountains in the distance as well as breathtaking wildlife and plush hills. You’ll also come across several natural geysers.
The best time to hit the Olfusa River trail is between May and September.
#6. South Africa: Table Mountain Crossing
The iconic Table Mountain crossing is a must run on the trail when you visit Cape Town, South Africa.
It features an incline that gives you a superb view of the beautiful city as well as its coastal surroundings.
For the best view experience, runners recommend you to reach the top at sunrise or sunset.
#7. Japan: Fujisan Marathon
If you’ve always to visit Japan, the annually held Fujisan Marathon gives you a chance to do so. While the marathon is generally not an easy task, the beautiful natural setting surrounding this marathon will help you complete it.
The fact that it’s held in November each year means the conditions around Mount Fuji (located a few hours from Tokyo) are crisp and ideal for you.
Apart from having an opportunity to view the iconic mountain, you’ll also pass through the autonomally colored trees and blue lakes.
The toughest part of this trail is climbing the mountain!
#8. Chile: Atacama Crossing
Labelled as a walk on the moon by locals as well as previous visitors, the Atacama Crossing is also an annually held race (held in every October).
Interestingly, this trail is part of the 4Deserts Challenge (the popular 155 miles around the deserts that exist on the globe).
Keep in mind that this race is a 7-day event for. So, I’d not recommend starters to take on it.
#9. South Africa: Two Oceans Marathon
The Two Oceans Marathon claims to be the “most beautiful marathon around the world.”
It involves a 35-mile race around the coastal region of the spectacular Cape Town city. And if you’re wondering where the name Two Oceans comes from- it’s because you’ll run along the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.
This makes it one of the most popular ultra-races on earth.
One particular scene that will grab your full attention along the trail is the Chapman’s Peak- the most splendid scenery along South Africa’s coastline.
#10. Chile: Patagonian International Marathon
Halfway our list of the top trail running destinations around the world, we’ve got another destination in Chile- the Patagonian International Marathon.
The fact that it lies in the Torres del Paine National Park makes it one of the most beautiful trails you can’t afford to miss in your lifetime. Like all the marathons we’ve discussed before, this one also occurs annually- organized in September of every year
Don’t expect this marathon to be easy for you. But the handsome landscape is sure to take away your tiredness and with its breathtaking scenes.
Keep in mind that the marathon also offers you additional options- like the ultra, half, and 10k runs.
#11. Hawaii: Kalalau Trail, Kauai
Situated at the scenic Na Pali coast of the Kauai Island, the Kalalau trail measures 11 miles long (one way).
The path offers you a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean, waterfalls, and even walled terraces that express the history of Hawaiian agricultural practices. For your information, this trail is considered as one of the most challenging of all the Hawaii islands. This is mainly due to its hilly nature plus a sea cliff and verdant valley.
Despite all this, the end of the trail is always great. That is, you’ll end in the Kalalau beach where you can enjoy cool, relaxing swim in the Pacific.
The best time to visit this trail is between mid-May and early October.
#12. Mexico: The Copper Canyons
The Copper Canyons of Mexico have an interesting story behind them…
There exists a group of elusive people in Mexico known as the Tarahumaras who live in these remote canyons. Most of them have made up to the lists of the world’s best ultra-runners.
They usually trail run the hostile copper canyons while wearing only sandals and bright, swirling shirts which make the high-end sportswear brands look like a big joke. Even more amazing, these people run through these canyons until their late ages of 60.
The Chris McDougall’s highly popular book- Born to Run- made the canyons popular to the world since its release.
If you want to try your luck in the canyons alongside these locals, you’re free to do it, anytime!
#13. Antarctica: Ice Marathon
This trail route is characterized by an altitude of up to 700 meters, an average wind chill factor of -20 degrees C, snow/ice, and sometimes the katabatic winds.
As if that’s not enough, you’ll not encounter a single landmark along the way.
What makes it a top destination for many runners, however, is the physical challenge and mental focus it requires you to have, helping you improve on your trail running tactics and skills. Furthermore, it’s among the few paths that are based on ice lands.
The marathon has been held for ten times, every year so far. And any new runner show wishes to participate can do so in this year’s marathon scheduled for November.
Plus they offer you the half marathon option alongside the full marathon and a January ultra.
#14. Nepal: Everest Marathon
If you think you’re ready to take on a real trail running challenge, consider participating in Everest Marathon! This is the highest known marathon on the planet, held each May.
It starts at the Everest Base Camp (which is 7,598 feet above sea level), traversing the mountains trails and through the Himalayas sublime landscape.
Along the trail, you’ll encounter two steep uphill parts that will test your trail running skills. Keep in mind that you’ll also meet ice along the way for more challenges. Luckily, all these will be the compensated by the rest of the trail as its mainly downhill.
If you’re interested in this trail, it’s required that you get to the country three weeks before to acclimatize fully.
#15. Puerto Rico: El Yunque National Rainforest
Puerto Rico likewise offers you a running trail in the El Yunque National Rainforest which is surrounded by beautiful landscape.
Just an hour drive from the main city, the 10 miles run through the forest gives you a refreshing that you’ve been missing for long. It also offers you plenty of shade through the canopy of trees and beautiful vegetation, so you don’t have to worry about the hot temperatures.
On top of it all, you’ll get to see idyllic waterfalls that will doubtlessly take your breath away.
Because some parts of the trail aren’t 100% off-road, this would be an excellent destination for beginner trail runners who are still running the ropes of the game.
#16. Colorado: Lost Man Loop
Failing to include at least one trail running destination in Colorado would be a remiss, given that this is home to countless running trails- all of which are genuinely appealing with their scenic settings.
The Lost Man Loop, in particular, is 8.8 miles long- used for both hiking and trail running activities. Located at almost the top Continental Divide and Independent Pass, you can access this loop via two trailheads- the Independence Lake or the Lost Man Campground trailheads.
What’s more, you can opt to do the one way 8.8 miles run or the 5.5 miles out and back run from the Independence Lake trailhead.
If you go with the Independence Lake Trail, you’re sure to encounter beautiful scenes, including alpine lakes- all of which make it worth a visit.
Keep in mind that the trail is open between Memorial Day and late October (depending on snow).
#17. Los Angeles: Runyon Park
Next time you hit the L.A streets, be sure to run in the Runyon Park- one of the iconic Hollywood trail running destinations.
Most of the trail loops in this park range from 2.5 to 3 miles, with varying degrees of difficulty. They also provide you with superb views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.
Besides trail running, the park also features grassy areas where you can enjoy free boot camp as well as yoga classes from local trainers.
You’d want to bring enough water with you as the top can get hot.
Because this park is a tourist attraction with high traffic, I’d advise you to go there as early as before 9 am or late in the afternoon to secure some parking.
#18. California: Joshua Tree
Do you prefer a rocky running trail? If yes, say hello to the Joshua Tree, a path located in Southern California Desert!
Unlike other rocky terrains you might have seen before, this one covers up to 800,000 acres of land in the Colorado and Mojave deserts- translating to a vast network of trails with varying levels of difficulty and lengths.
You’ll get to enjoy both short and long nature trails, in addition to strenuous hikes.
The trail is encompassed with natural beauty to make running a great experience. The most notable feature is the unique shape of trees that look like the biblical figure Joshua who held his hands up to the sky when praying.
Due to the scorching midday sun, it’d be better if you visit the place around midmorning or later afternoon for the best experience.
#19. Ireland: Cliffs of Mother
If you’ve not run in the Cliffs of Mother in Italy, then you’ve not yet witnessed one of the most beautiful, majestic, and striking trails on the globe.
Set high above (214 meters above sea level) the Atlantic Ocean, this is one of the few trails that gives runners a breathtaking view of the natural beauty. You can choose the coastal path along the sea. This way, you’ll start from the visitor center and run all the way to Hags Head- making it a full 5-kilometer run…or run to Doolin to make it 8 kilometers.
The bright blue Atlantic couples with the lush green cliffs to give you a picturesque trail run. The beautiful Galway Bay and Arab Island take the beauty of this place to a whole new level!
Since the weather is unpredictable at the cliffs, carrying a raincoat is highly recommended.
#20. Brazil: Jungle Marathon
Last, but not least, I present to you Jungle Marathon. It’s labeled as one of the most hardcore marathons ever organized in the world.
And that’s for a valid reason- the trail lies in Amazon rainforest where you’re bound to encounter challenges of all forms and shapes- including high humidity levels, sky-high temperatures, caimans, snakes, leeches, smothering darkness, river crossing, and so on.
For those who believe they can take up this challenge, it’s held on the October of every year and provides you with up to 3 running distances to choose from. These include a 78-mile race, a 157-mile race, and a marathon.
Are you ready for this classic challenge?
If you’re running out of trail running destinations ideas, consider visiting the above 20 top-rated trails in different parts of the world for the ultimate trail running experience.
Besides trail running, these destinations will also give you a chance to explore the world and learn new things.
Don’t forget to bring along your camera to capture the mind-blowing scenes and exciting moments in your trip.