fall colors

Stay fit when you travel: 3 of our favorite fall trail running spots

There’s a reason why so many races are held in the fall. It’s the best time of year for running! Although we don’t really have that many fall races in the high country, October and November are perfect trail running months. In fact, I’d argue that these two months are practically the area’s best kept “running secret.” Local runner’s know: summer’s humidity is gone, and the temperatures are generally in the mid 60’s (October) or 50’s (November). Not only do you get to run in crisp fall air, but if you hit the trail in October you’re guaranteed to catch some fall color. In November, with most of the leaves gone, you’ll get to peak some gorgeous long range views that our lush mountain summer kept hidden. Read on for a few of our favorite fall trail running spots in the high country.

Be prepared…

If you’re traveling, especially from somewhere down south, it might be easy to dismiss October and November as “too cold” for trail running in the mountains. I beg to differ. Pack a moisture wicking base-layer and a pair of warm socks. As a trail runner myself, I can’t stress the importance of socks enough. My favorite brands: Darn Tough and Balenga. Pick up a pair of Darn Tough socks at Mast General Store, or grab a pair of Balenga’s at Up & Running. I also recommend packing a change of clothes so that as soon as you’re finished running, you can change into something dry and warm. Dressing for the weather will make a world of difference. So without further ado, here are some of my favorite places to run in the fall.

Moses Cone Trails

There are endless loops to choose from. I’ve been training for a half marathon, and this has been my spot. Run a few flat laps around Bass Lake and call it a day, or use that as your warm up. Then power up and through the trail until you reach Cone Manor, and fly back down through the woods until you’re back at the lake. Feeling like you want a serious challenge? Start at Bass Lake and run all the way up to the Fire Tower and back down. You can easily log 10-13 miles or more out here without repeating too many sections of the trail. If you climb to the top of the fire tower, you’ll enjoy long range views. It’s a great spot to view fall color.

Trout Lake & Rich Mountain

Another great loop that you can technically connect to the Moses Cone Trails. I recommend parking at Trout Lake. This does require traveling down a gravel back road off the parkway, but it’s worth it. Similar to Bass Lake, the loop around Trout Lake is flat and offers a great warm up. Head up the trail and wind around and around until you reach the top of Rich Mountain. There are a few different combinations you can run out here, too. Plan your route and check your mileage ahead of time for this trail and the Moses Cones trails as GPS and cell service can be spotty at times.

Mountains to Sea to Boone Fork Trail 

Park off of Shulls Mill Road. Climb up a narrow stretch of trail, and for the first mile or so it will feel like you’re barely clinging onto the side of the bank. I generally take my dog with me when I run, but know that this trail can be a bit challenging at first with your pup in tow. You’ll fly down the trail for the first mile or so (it’s very steep), and then it splits. If you’re looking for a shorter run, go left and after another couple of miles, the trail will end. Go right and you can connect to Boone Fork Trail and make your run significantly longer. I generally use Strava or my smartwatch to track my miles, both of which are pretty accurate in this area.

Enjoy the run…

Boone makes it easy to stay fit, even when you’re traveling. After all, Boone is an inherently active community. Whether you’re a local or a traveler, the energy of getting outside and being active seems to permeate deep – reaching people from all walks of life with all different fitness levels. Do remember, there are some serious ups and downs on these loops. If you’re not used to running on an incline, plan for a shorter loop to see how it feels. Ultimately, just listen to you body. You know it best. Maybe I’ll see you on the trail!

Stay in one of our dog friendly rooms, and take your pup along for a trail run!


Written by Megan Biddix. Content creator, trail runner, and dog lover (of course). 

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