For a metropolitan city, Charlotte has some serious green space. And, as much as we Charlotteans love our outdoor drinking, we like our outdoor activities as well. Thanks to year-round warm weather, Charlotte’s parks and trails are well used by joggers and runners from January to July and back to December. Here are some top picks for the best parks and trails for running in Charlotte!
The Rail Trail
Probably the easiest to access running trail in Charlotte is the Rail Trail, which follows the light rail from Uptown through the southern tip of South End. The trail begins at the 7th Street Station and continues south for 4.5 miles to the New Bern station. The paved trail is relatively flat and easy to run on. The only drawbacks are that the trail crosses a lot of streets where you’ll have to push pause on your run and wait for a walk signal.
Pro tip: There are many breweries along the Rail Trail, and most offer run clubs. Join up with one to make new friends while you run!
Made famous by the annual charity bike race 24 Hours of Booty, the infamous Booty Loop is not just for biking. Walkers, joggers, and runners also enjoy the mostly shaded loop through the storybook Myers Park neighborhood. The three-mile loop passes under massive oak trees and by historic mansions and well-manicured lawns. The trail is relatively easy with only a few rolling hills, and it’s safe from oncoming traffic.
Freedom Park, also in the Myers Park neighborhood, acts as an extension to the Booty Loop and a standalone trail of itself. The 98-acre park is mostly for recreational use with baseballs fields, soccer fields, tennis courts, and a bandshell. However, there are also several short but hilly trails throughout the park to get your sweat on. Many include views of the 7-acre lake in the middle of the park.
McAlpine Creek Park
Looking to transition from pavement to dirt? Then check out the cross-country trails in McAlpine Creek Park. Located 15 minutes southeast of Uptown Charlotte, the 462-acre McAlpine Creek Park boasts a 5k championship cross-country course.
Pro Tip: To access the course, enter the park through the Monroe Road entrance. While the trail is well-marked, the park-ranger station does offer maps.
US National Whitewater Center
While most outsiders think that the US National Whitewater Center is just for whitewater rafting, the center offers so much more. From mountain bikers to trail runners to ropes course renegades, the Whitewater Center is an amusement park for outdoor enthusiasts. Choose from over 20 miles of wooded trails, with some snaking along the Catawba River. You do have to pay to park but trail access is free. If you want to stick around for other activities like kayaking, fees do apply.
McMullen Creek Greenway
McMullen Creek Greenway in South Charlotte is one of my favorite trails in town for its sheer variety. The 5.8-mile path includes gravel, pavement, and boardwalk surfaces and is mostly shaded. The interrupted trail ventures through plenty of scenic areas where you may be tempted to stop for bird watching or to spot frogs at play. The trail is known by several different names as it really is a connection of three separate trails – McMullen Creek Greenway, Lower McAlpine Greenway, and the Four Mile Creek Greenway. The trail is not a loop, so if you make it to the end, you have to come 5.8 miles back.
Mallard and Clark Creek Greenways
For those living up north in the popular University City neighborhood, the combined trails of Mallard and Clark Greek Greenways are your best option, and, many argue, the best in Charlotte. The greenway is one of the longest stretches of trail in town with over 7 miles of gravel and paved surfaces that follow the namesake creeks. The cool waters plus the wooded canopy of trees provides a pleasant running environment.
No matter where you live in Charlotte or what your running style is, Charlotte has plenty of trails that will meet your needs.