There are many superb running trails across the world. In this blog, runner and adventurer Traharn Chidley picks her five favourites.
Running Trails #1: Moonlight Track, New Zealand
New Zealand’s my home away from home. I have an entire network of friends and another life there that I simply pick back up when I return. My base camp when in New Zealand is always Arthur’s Point, just 4km out of Queenstown.
My favourite trail has to be the The Moonlight Track, taking you to the top of Ben Lomond and back down into Queenstown. It meanders through a valley surrounded by layers of the jagged mountain peaks that stretch further than the eye can see. As you reach the saddle of Ben Lomond, it is impossible not to feel a bit moved by the beauty of your surroundings. The view down to Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, with The Remarkables mountain range sitting majestically in the background, makes this trail running gold.
My Moonlight Track route is about 15 miles long and takes me about three hours to run (depending on how long I stop to look at the views!) Be prepared to share the trail…. all those sheep and mountain goats like good views too you know!
Running Trails #2: Red Mountain, Canada
Canada holds a big chunk of my heart. In my eyes, it’s how a country should be. When I’m in Canada my base is the small town of Rossland in British Columbia. Last year I lived in a cabin at the bottom of the Red Mountain Resort, surrounded by forests and with bears and chipmunks sleeping nearby.
The running trail I love so much there involves me tearing up the fun single-track that starts from Rossland town and links up the trails of Larrys, Miners, Red Head and Red Top, before escorting you to the summit of Red Mountain. The reward is an amazing panoramic mountain view. It really puts into perspective just how huge the world is and how tiny we are. At the same time, being stood on that peak makes me feel more powerful than ever and at one with nature. Once the daydreaming is over, I turn around and retrace my steps, doing some fast downhill running with the biggest smile on my face. This run is around 16km with 2,070ft of ascent and takes me about 1hr 45 mins.
And what could make this even better? Starting from the resort in thick fog to then emerge to blues skies and beaming sunshine halfway up the mountain. Whenever I’m in Rossland and awake to thick fog, I reach straight for my running shoes and head up to the summit. To reach it and then look down on a sea of fog in every surrounding valley is really special and something every trail runner should try and experience in their own favourite playground.
Running Trails #3: Snowdon & Tryfan, Wales
The land of the dragon is truly magical, especially in its northern quarters. Its roaring mountainous landscape combined with nature and history, makes it so special. As you drive up the old A5 road you’re guided into the heart of the Welsh mountains by ancient stonewalls and eventually towards two of my favourite mountains, Snowdon and Tryfan.
Running up either mountain is an epic day. On Snowdon I love to climb up the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch then down the Pyg Track. Obviously the perfect day would include blue skies but they can be hard to come by in Wales, so often it is a battle against the elements, which brings its own type of trail running rewards. The scramble up the north ridge of Tryfan, tackling an elevation gain of 2,383ft in just 2.5km, is a trail gem. I take the tourist path route, edge towards the end of the Cannon Stone and then jump between the Adam and Eve rocks on the summit before running back down to the A5.
Running Trails #4: Maderas Volcano, Nicaragua
Central America always takes me out of my comfort zone. I find the heat hard to adapt too and the air feels thick, heavy and sticky. Despite this, I always like to run there and together with my boyfriend, we have experienced ascending up volcano jungle trails. My favourite is on Ometepe Island, which is actually the motherland of two active volcanoes. The best trail that we have found goes up Maderas Volcano. It is only about 8km in length, but still takes a couple of hours due to the heat and humidity. It is, however, breathtakingly beautiful as you are surrounded by luscious greenery, within which sit howler monkeys.
There is something special about running through a volcano jungle and being so close to wild monkeys. It brings peacefulness, balance and serenity. The trail winds its way to the 165ft mineral-packed San Ramon waterfall (just underneath a 4,573ft summit). This waterfall is like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I’d encourage every trail runner visiting this trail to go into the waters and cool off before running back down the volcano.
Running Trails #5: Great Gable, England
The Lake District is my favourite trail running playground in England. Whenever I visit, it’s never for long enough. The place screams at you to ‘get outside!’ Fell running pictures from years-gone-by hang proudly on the walls of the quaint local pubs, while outside tiny, narrow roads frequented by farmers and cyclists meander through the hills.
The running trail I like the most (although there’s lots to choose from) is to summit Great Gable, starting and finishing at the head of the Wasdale valley. On a recent visit to these trails, the top section of the mountain was engulfed in cloud. We ascended via the aptly-named Windy Gap. Once into the cloud, we navigated our way to within about 10ft of the summit, until we could finally see the top rocky outcrop and underneath it the plaque commemorating the members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who died in World War I.
All the trails leading off summit are rock strewn but you have choices of options, including: either back down into Windy Gap via the Bob Graham line, to Styhead Tarn or Black Head (a wonderful col that sits between Great Gable and the neighbouring peak of Kirkfell. I love to hit these technical downhill trails hard and really test myself over such difficult terrain.
So there appears to be a pattern…… my favourites are coupled with my desire to get off the beaten track and seek out new adventures. I love to explore the trails less travelled. Wherever I go, there are more ‘favourite’ running trails just waiting to be discovered – and added to the list.
* Related blog: World’s Best All Terrain Running Races