Going for a run can be a great study break. Exercise relieves stress and releases endorphins, and scenic trails can break up the monotony of reading a dense textbook. These colleges offer the most scenic running trails for students looking to leave their homework in the dust.
University of Colorado Boulder
With several trailheads leading out from campus and more than 12,000 trails nearby, the University of Colorado Boulder has no shortage of trail running options. The campus is situated near Chautauqua Park and Flagstaff Mountain trails, which offers beautiful scenery. The campus is only a short drive to the Rocky Mountain National Park, which can give even seasoned runners a challenge with high altitudes.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
According to College Magazine, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has every type of terrain nearby the 1,000-acre campus. Trail runners can enjoy a jog around the many paths circling Lake Mendota, the largest of four lakes in Madison. The university’s Lakeshore Nature Preserve and Arboretum both feature trails leading right off the campus.
University of Virginia
The Rivanna River and accompanying trails circle the University of Virginia. The Rivanna trails vary in terrain, so Great Runs advises picking a part of the trail best suited for one’s running style. Running enthusiasts entering school may be interested in the university’s running club, which takes trips to longer, farther trails including those in Dick Woods and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
University of California, Santa Cruz
Great Runs calls the University of California, Santa Cruz “one of the most spectacular college campuses in the United States for running.” UC Santa Cruz has more than 2,000 acres of land featuring open fields and trails, in addition to its prime location near the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and the Pacific Ocean. The campus’s south end is home to the Great Meadow Bike Path, a multi-use, two-mile loop right on campus.
University of Oregon
Considered the best college campus for trail running by College Magazine, the University of Oregon in Eugene is very enthusiastic about running. Eugene is nicknamed “Track Town USA,” for the university’s history of success in track and cross country, and potential students are encouraged to take a running tour of campus to learn about the trails and paths nearby. The university’s website boasts, “we have beautiful rivers running through town, trails everywhere in (and out of) sight.”
University of Vermont
The University of Vermont in Burlington may not have prime running conditions year round, but the scenic routes surrounding campus may be convincing and beautiful enough for runners to brave the cold winters. Bordering the campus are the Centennial Woods, Island Line Rail Trail, Winooski Valley Park District, and other great trail running options. To get away on the weekend, Actives Times recommends Camel’s Hump State Forest and Catamount Outdoor Family Center, two areas nearby with longer trails and views of the bucolic Vermont scenery.
University of Minnesota Duluth
Near the University of Minnesota Duluth is the Chester Park Trail. The various loops of this trail offer various difficulties, from hills to steep grades, but runners will be treated with views of tranquil waterfalls from one of the many footbridges. Also nearby campus is the Bagley Nature Area, which runners can connect to from the Hartley Nature Center trails on campus.
Cornell University is situated in the Finger Lakes region with ample waterfalls and accompanying trails. On campus, runners can enjoy a jog through the Cornell Botanical Gardens or around Beebe Lake. Extending out from Cornell’s grounds are numerous trails along the natural gorges, including Cascadilla Gorge Trail, which runs from Collegetown to the Ithaca Commons. Students interested in learning more about natural trails in the area can sign up for a half-credit PE class in trail running.
“Five Colleges”: Amherst College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College, Smith College
The Five College Consortium consists of five schools in the Connecticut River Pioneer Valley in Western Massachusetts. Trails near each of the schools include the Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, the Robert Frost Trail, Mount Tom and Holyoke Range, Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary, and Rattlesnake Gutter. Great Runs cites Amherst College as the campus with the greatest number of trails, but all are easily accessible from any of the five colleges.
University of West Florida
The University of West Florida in Pensacola is highly recommended by Great Runs for its wide variety of shaded trails. The university’s trail map separates the trails into four categories, but trail runners would most likely be interested in the “Cross-Country Trails” and the “West Campus Mountain Bike Trails.” The West Campus trails are hilly, and provide formidable loops which can extend up to ten miles.