As our TriSports.com Run Guru often points out to us (when we don’t show up for group runs) ‘running is part of triathlon’. Yes, it certainly is….a huge part. Tucson is known as a place to get some great spring training rides in, but over the past few weeks many athletes have asked me, “Where should I go to run?” I took an informal poll of our employees and these were the overwhelming favorites for the top three road and trail runs in Tucson.
On the Road
Saguaro National Park East- A beautiful 8 mile loop through the national park which includes tons of steep rollers, beautiful views and one very massive 1.5 mile climb. This run is more enjoyable if you are in good shape, not for the beginner. Trails can be found branching off from many places on the road if you like to divide your run time. Toilets/water located at the entrance and very little traffic (more bikes than cars). Check out the park and get directions here.
Rillito River Path- If you are looking for long and flat in Tucson, this is your best bet. 10 uninterrupted miles of either paved or hard-packed dirt path. Perfect for those Farlek or tempo runs that we all love so much. Most of the year the river is actually a sandy wash which is also great for running if you need a very soft surface due to shin-splint or other ailments. Check out the AZ roadrunners website for more information.
UA Mall/ University/ 3rd St. – Here you will get to see the best of old Tucson combined with the hippest young population of the city! Run around the Mall (home to the Tucson Tri Series run course) and then head down University Dr. and through the historic neighborhoods surrounding U of A. You will not be alone, there will be lots of fellow runners, window shoppers, students, and people from all walks of life mulling about at various cafes and quant shops. Plus unless you go to a golf course you won’t find as much grass anywhere else in the city. The guys in particular seem to be a big fan of the UA Mall….hmmmm
On the Trail
Starr Pass –Probably the run that I enjoy most frequently in Tucson due to it’s beautiful views and easy accessibility. Located near the Starr Pass Resort about 10 minutes from downtown Tucson this trail offers hills and relative flats with some wonderful views and varied terrain. Especially beautiful in the mornings and evening since you can see all of Tucson and have a direct view of Mt. Lemmon at times. There is an 8 mile loop (which is somewhat tricky to figure out so recommend a guide the first time you attempt) or you can do a solid out and back. Warning, in the summer months you want to carry plenty of water and avoid mid-day runs since there is zero shade on this trail. For more information click here.
Catalina State Park -(The 50 Year Trail)- Warning, only do this for your long run because once you start you really won’t be able to stop yourself. This might be the most scenic trail in Tucson not to mention it is just plain fun to run! This trail begins with a 1.5 mile climb that is challenging, but easily runnable. It then turns into a runners dream with rolling hills, flats, switchbacks, varying surfaces…overall the best run in Tucson if you are willing to make the drive to Oro Valley….bring $5.00 for parking, the money is well worth the experience. Check out the park site.
SabinoCanyon Phoneline Trail This trial offers some great view due to the serious climbing you do in the first mile. Park in the visitor’s center ($5) and take the trails on the back right down to the trailhead. You can either run that first 3/4 mile to the trailhead partially on the road or stay to the right of the road on trails. There is a bathroom near the trailhead, just before you cross the river. During the Monsoon season and occasionally in the spring this trail is not accessible due to high water levels. After you cross the river the trailhead will be directly in front of you. You will take the Bear Canyon Trail to the Phoneline Trail. The trail is fairly steep, but runnable for the first mile and then evens out as you wind around the side of the canyon. For details on the park and directions visit this site.