My Favorite Running Trails in the Southeast: Atlanta and Charleston

Running isn’t just about exercise, or about mental conditioning. Half of the fun of running is seeing beautiful places for the first time at high speed.

Here are a few of my favorite scenic runs for your next running outing:

The Charleston peninsula

This historic old town has been the site of some great runs for me, including my first half-marathon. Start at the Citadel’s adjoining Hampton Park and run south along the oceanfront on Lockwood Drive on your way to the beautiful gardens of the Battery and the famous Rainbow Row. Then you can go up Meeting Street and King Street to pass through the heart of downtown, taking a right on Calhoun (past Marion Square) to go to the East Bay side of the peninsula. From there, if you want to go the extra mile (or a few miles, really), run across the Cooper River bridge to Mount Pleasant. It’s a climb, but there’s a great view of the harbor from the top.

Kennesaw Mountain national battleground

This is the perfect place for trail runners living in Atlanta. The battleground has miles and miles of dirt trails that split off in every direction and pass by wildlife and cannons and up mountains. You can go for an easier trail run (start at “Pigeon Hill Parking” on Google Maps) or start from the visitor’s center to ascend Little Kennesaw or Kennesaw Mountain itself. There’s nothing more magnificent than the straightaway runs at the top of the former mountain (or the gentle runs of the downward paved grade), which offers views of the city of Atlanta.

Sullivan’s Island beach

This is the most beautiful beach in the Charleston area, hands-down. And with great views of the ocean and harbor, a lighthouse, and pretty beach-front houses, this makes for a scenic run. If you like a challenge and a bit of fun, run right where the surf meets the beach. Just be sure to wear shoes – I ran this one barefooted and had blisters to show for it.

The Chattahoochee river trail at Cochran Shoals

A great Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon run (arbitrary, I know) is the 5K (approximately) trail at Cochran Shoals along the Chattahoochee River near Sandy Springs, GA. The main loop passes by the beautiful Chattahoochee, where you can see kayakers or birds passing by, and then runs through gentle hills where you might occasionally see deer. There is a network of trails splitting off deeper into the woods for you trail runners, but the main loop offers plenty of nature balanced with plenty of company from other runners and walkers from the Atlanta area.

Midtown Atlanta

There’s nothing like a big city to make a guy feel small sometimes. There’s nothing like running through that city to make yourself feel bigger. If you get tired of the Atlanta traffic, get out the car and run. One of my favorite things as a runner is to pass over the 17th Street overpass over I-75, looking out onto the beautiful imposing skyline of midtown.

Piedmont Park and the Atlanta Beltline

THIS. This is the place to be if you’re running in the city of Atlanta. A joint Piedmont Park/Atlanta Beltline run isn’t too far away from most midtown residents, and for social runners it’s also a dream. Here you can people-watch (and dog-watch) to your heart’s content, join up with other runners, and grab a King of Pops popsicle from a street vendor – all while running through a gorgeous tree-shaded park and past the quirky urban art and growing commercial/residential developments of the Atlanta Beltline.

Photo by David Marcu on Unsplash

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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