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Destination: My Favorite Adventure Runs From Across the Globe

Aaron McHugh

Some people collect stamps or guns. I collect intangibles like runs, trips, adventures and experiences. I’ve kept a mental list of my favorite runs from across the globe, but never written them all down.

I thought it would be fun to share my collection of favorite adventure runs with you. They aren’t in any order. They are all worth repeating. I haven’t included exact mileage or specific route details. Consider this list as a jumping off point to start your own adventure run.

San Pedro Valley – Valley Trail near SFO airport (photo credits parks CA)

San Pedro Valley Park near San Francisco Airport

Located in the hills above San Francisco Airport (SFO), this trail is within a ten to fifteen minute drive. I hunted for a trail while I waited for my brother’s flight to land. I saw the foothills above the airport and knew there had to be something good. Dirt fire roads, old paved roads with lots of rolling hills. Amazing views of the bay. I found this trail ten years ago and I keep going back when I end up with some extra time flying in and out of SFO.

Elvis Pawn Shop in Tupelo, MS 

Elvis supposedly bought his first guitar at this pawn shop in downtown Tupelo, MS. A customer took me along on his group run at 6 am as he pointed out the pawn shop “look that’s where Elvis bought his first guitar”. This run helped me realize that you can find something cool even in the middle of small town anywhere USA.

Seawall Stanley Park Vancouver, British Columbia seaside run (photo credits city of Vancouver)

Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia

is a gorgeous paved waterway urban trail hugging the English Bay as it extends out to the University of British Columbia. Keep hugging the water as you piece together Sunset Beach, Vanier Park, Hadden Park, Jericho Beach Park to the turnaround at Fraser River Park. I used to cover a sales territory in B.C and this was a treasured find that I repeat each time I make it to Vancouver. The beauty of intersection of sea and mountains makes the Vancouver landscape like few places I’ve been. I’m remembering this to be a 5-7 mile run.

Rural Dairy Farms in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania

Starting at the Hampton Inn in Shrewsbury doesn’t sound very appealing, I agree. The beauty of this run is that you quickly leave behind the Home Depot and hotel row and escape 150 years into rural dairy farms. Local farmers didn’t think too highly of my running tights and headlamp. The hills are steady and the farms and valleys don’t stop. This run reminds me of a scene from Forest Gump. You’ll see why.

The Regent’s Park London

London Tower Bridge to Westminster Abbey, Regent’s Park, Hyde Park

On my first trip to London, I decided to leave my hotel near Tower Bridge and aim towards Hyde Park. I basically meandered my way away to Westminster Abbey, paid my admission and then walked through the cathedral. Amazing! After I wiped a few tears, I started running again from park to park until I finished up at a Tube stop nearby Hyde Park. Taking the tube home enabled me to see a lot more of the city and not worry about directions back to my hotel. Now when I enter a new city I use running as a means of exploring and then I hop a train, subway or call an Uber to get back to my hotel.

Eiffel tower light up at night

Eiffel Tower @ night

My son and I spent Thanksgiving in Paris a few years ago. Our hotel was just down from the Arc de Triumph. Here’s a full post I wrote on our four days in Paris without a plan. Running the city at night was really peaceful and safe. The Eiffel Tower was light up like a beacon as the lights changed colors and danced in display. It was really special to see the tower for the first time all light up.

Kona HI finish in the pool after running the lava fields

Kona Lava Fields

My friend Kevin Lynch is a seven time IRONMAN, completed 70+ marathons and regularly bikes 200+ miles a week. Did I mention that he is in his sixties? Kevin is an ambassador of the Aloha spirit. Over the years, Kevin has introduced me to insider-only running adventures on the Big Island of Hawaii. This run was through the Kona, HI lava fields, along the shoreline of Kahuwai Bay, linking the wave crashing trails in front of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, up through Kukio and back north to finish in Kukio’s private infinity pool. If you want to repeat this run, you’ll have to call Kevin to escort you. Let me know when you’re headed to the Big Island.

Oat Hill Mine Trail Calistoga Napa Valley (photo credits Napa Outdoors.org)

Napa Valley, Calistoga Oat Hill Mine trail run

I discovered this trail when my wife and I stayed at The Solage boutique resort. I found this trail meandering my way towards the hills above Calistoga. The trailhead is easily accessible off Silverado Trail rd. Coming from the mountains of Colorado, this 1500 foot hill climb was welcomed terrain. Phenomenal views, well marked trail with lots of vistas to look down into Napa Valley. Here is a trail map you can download and a nice brochure overview on the trail.

Crater Rim Trail circles Kilauea’s summit caldera.
Volcano Kilauea Caldera Photograph by J. Kauahikaua on September 27, 1997

Kilauea volcano crater rim trail

I ran this course as part of a 10+ mile race in 2007. The race does not exist any longer, but you can still run or hike this course along the Crater Rim Trail that circles Kilauea’s summit caldera. The trail actually takes you along the rim and then down inside the Kilauea Caldera to the floor and back up again. Amazing, moonscape like none other. Along the trail are steam fissures, cooling lava, tropical rainforests and desert. Add this one to your life list. Here are details for driving to the Crater Rim.