On our most recent van life road trip in Florida we decided to start writing about running. It’s something we do almost regularly (currently we’re training four or five days in a row and then taking a day off) and we thought it would be a fun thing to write about. We also wanted to create a resource for those of you who share our passion for travel and running. In this post, we share our top choices for the best places to run in Florida. Oh and if you’re curious about what we’re running in be sure to check out our post on our Favorite Women’s Running Gear.
Gulf Island National Seashore – Pensacola, Navarre, Opal Beach
If you’ve been here, then you know what we mean when we say this place is like paradise. It felt a lot like we were on a tropical paradise and yet we hadn’t even left the United States much less even boarded a plane! There are miles of flat, gorgeous road to run on, some of which has a sidewalk that’s a shared use path with bikes. There’s also the beach itself, which if so easy on the eyes that the miles will tick off one after the other. The potential for long runs here are seemingly endless.
This state park is one of the hidden gems of Panama City. Tucked in behind the touristy shops selling cheap beach towels is this little pocket of heaven. Miles of pristine beach, a gorgeous pier that overlooks the water and even an alligator overlook easily make this one of our favorite places to run in Florida. We managed to snag the very last spot in the campground (spot 106 – great location – close to the bathroom but not too close) and with a harbor view! From the campsite, if you run along the beach road and head towards the pier, you can easily get 4 miles in (and more if you choose to explore other side roads). If you’re looking for a longer run you can leave the park and explore some of Panama City. Just be sure to watch for cars and go in the early morning before traffic increases.
Dubbed the best kept secret along the Forgotten Coast, this state park is a National Gold Medal Winner. We think it’s one of the best places to go for a run in Florida because not only are there several miles of gorgeous park roads to run, there is also just as much beach. And 2.5 miles of nature trail! And a ton of paved walkways leading up to the entrance of the park. If you’re needing to get a long run in because you’re marathon training, consider St. George Island State Park. We ended up scoring another campground spot and ran from there.
From the campsite, I chose the Gap Point trail that was mostly soft sand interspersed with some boardwalk sections and at the vee where the trail bears right towards a primitive campsite, I went left along the East Slough Trail. It eventually dumped me out on the road but not before showing me some really gorgeous scenery. Caroline chose to go in the opposite direction and for the first half of her run the only thing she heard was the wind in her ears and gravel under her feet. At the turnaround, her ears were filled with the sound of tiny waves hitting the shore.
This wide hiker-biker-equestrian trail is a 10-mile trail that goes from downtown Brooksville and connects to the Withlacoochee State Trail. The trail begins at 70 Russell Street and is the perfect place to get in an easy run. We recently ran on a Sunday morning and encountered hardly any traffic. Also, because we’re in Florida, we were expecting a completely flat trail but it surprised us with some nice rolling terrain. Definitely nothing like Asheville or places out west as far as hills go, but a nice break from the absolute lack of elevation that you’ll find in other parts of the state.
If you find yourself on the western coast of Florida, be sure to check out The Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail. This is a linear park that runs from St. Petersburg all the way to Tarpon Springs. It’s a multi-use trail meaning you’ll see hikers, bikers, runners, walkers and skaters (pretty much anyone and everyone except motorized vehicles). We ran the section near Dunedin and got not only wonderful views of the water but had a beautiful place to make coffee and eat breakfast once the run was over.
Welcome to the largest sub-tropical wilderness in the United States. You aren’t scared of gators are ya?! (We were lol.) There are numerous places within the National Park to go for a run. If you want to break into the Everglades nice and easy, we recommend one of the raised boardwalk paths (there are many and they are mostly short – a mile or two) to help you acclimate to the wild. If you start to feel a little more comfortable with nature, consider venturing off onto an actual trail. We went for a run on the Old Ingraham Highway Trail and nearly scared ourselves silly thinking about pythons. If you venture down towards the Flamingo campground, keep an eye out for the Guy Bradley trail which is an easy out and back one miler.
It probably wouldn’t be a stretch to say that almost everywhere in Key West is an awesome place to run. There is a nice wide walking and biking path that runs parallel to A1A and the beautiful water. There’s also the entire downtown area which, though there are tons of cars, bikes, chickens and people to run around, is a feast for your senses: the smell of delicious food, awesome people watching and of course the beautiful sights of the town itself.
North of Miami and south of Fort Lauderdale is a place called Hollywood which it turns out has a really great place to run. We found easy parking off of Taylor Street and within minutes were lacing up our shoes. The brick path is wide and has it’s own bike lane so you don’t have to worry about crashing into those on two wheels. You get a great view of the blue water from the path and can rinse off with the free showers located at certain beach access points after your run. The whole path is about 2.5 miles long.
The Best Places to Run in Florida Recap
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