The Best College Campuses for Trail Running

The Best College Campuses for Trail Running

The Best College Campuses for Trail Running

Upon your college search there are many things to consider – location, cost, class sizes and, most of all, campus facilities. If you’re an avid runner, or someone who is looking to get in, or stay in shape, you may want to consider these colleges.

*Related: 25 Fittest Cities in the U.S.

When it comes to running trails, these 10 universities are hard to beat. Large and small, near and far, they all provide easy access to trails and opportunities on or close to campus; many are even within a short distance of forestlands, wildernesses, national parks and monuments.

University of Montana, Missoula

Missoula is a trail town – it’s surrounded by three national recreation areas, a wilderness area and plenty of city/county open space. The University of Montana lies at the base of Mount Sentinel, and two trail races start by climbing to the iconic “M” on its face. The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Wilderness are a short bus ride from campus, and the Selway-Bitterroot, Mission Mountains and Bob Marshall wildernesses and Glacier National Park are possible weekend getaways. And in 2015, ultra-runners Mike Foote and Mike Wolfe traveled 600 miles on foot north to Banff, Alberta, starting from a trailhead at Mount Jumbo, adjacent the site of the new Missoula College building.

University of Colorado Boulder


Blocks from the University of Colorado Boulder campus, several trailheads provide easy access to open space and mountain parks. The trails at Chautauqua Park and Flagstaff Mountains lead to the Flatirons and into the Front Range. The nearby Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park offer opportunities for further exploration. If you’re up for a challenge you could try the Nolan’s 14 – 14 peaks over 14,000 feet in roughly 100 miles.

Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff

From the Northern Arizona University campus, it’s just a short distance out the Sinclair Wash Trail to an intersection with the 800-mile-long Arizona Trail on the edge of Flagstaff. There’s also an urban trails system, the 42-mile Flagstaff Loop Trail – parts of which are still under construction – and the Kachina Peaks Wilderness north of the city. On the weekends try running Rim-to-River-to-Rim or Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon National Park.

University of Alaska Anchorage

While the University of Alaska Anchorage campus is out of the way for most of the country, everything is big in Alaska. West of the university is Kincaid Park with its 43 miles of trails, and to the east is Chugach State Park with 280 miles of trails and more than 100 peaks. Flattop Mountain, for example, is the most visited in the state. For a big weekend, head north to Denali National Park.

University of Utah, Salt Lake City

On Salt Lake City’s east side, the Utah campus meets the Wasatch Front – and trailheads provide access to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. A 13.5-mile section of the existing 100 miles of trail runs around the northeast Salt Lake Valley. The trail is expected to stretch 280 miles when complete. Four wilderness areas south of the city offer ample opportunity for scenic runs.

Oregon State University-Cascades, Bend


The small Oregon State University-Cascades has a brand-new campus near Riverside Park and the Deschutes River Trail through Bend. Several other trails lead through town and Shevlin Park and connect with trails on national forest lands. Outside town, the Three Sisters, Mount Washington and Mount Jefferson wildernesses and Smith Rock State Park are easy to reach, while Crater Lake National Park and Mount Hood are good weekend getaways.

Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina


Situated in North Carolina’s High Country, Appalachian State University has its own nature reserve on campus with a network of hiking trails. Nearby, Boone’s Greenway Trail connects to several singletrack trails. Outside town along the Blue Ridge Parkway are Moses H. Cone and Julian Price memorial parks and Grandfather Mountain State Park, which has rocky, challenging terrain. On weekends, try the Linville Gorge Wilderness – known as the “Grand Canyon of the East” and, of course, the Appalachian Trail.

University of California, Berkeley


In the densely populated Bay Area, the upper part of Berkeley’s campus is a mostly undeveloped preserve with scenic trails. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area – home of the North Face Endurance Challenge – Muir Woods National Monument and Point Reyes National Seashore are across the bay. Farther out for the weekend arte Lake Tahoe and Yosemite National Park, where the north end of the 211-mile John Muir Trail is located.

University of Vermont, Burlington

With the university’s Centennial Woods adjacent to the campus, the Isalnd Line Rail Trail and several parks and natural areas, the University of Vermont, Burlington has trail running options. East of the city, the Catamount Outdoor Family Center offers several miles of trails and holds several races. On weekends, head for Camel’s Hump State Forest and other access points along the Long Trail. The trail follows the Green Mountains for 270 miles, the southern 100 of which are part of the Appalachian Trail. Or cross into New Hampshire, where the White Mountains are home to four wilderness areas.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

With its Lakeshore Nature Preserve and its Arboretum, UW Madison has plenty of trails branching out from campus. Try the preserve’s high point in the Eagle Heights Woods or out to Picnic Point on Lake Mendota. The Madison area offers much more, too, like the Capitol City State Trail, which connects to the Badger and Military Ridge state trails outside town. The 1,000-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail passes through several parks and natural areas east of the city.