Top parks for trail running

Love running? Step it up a notch and try trail running in one of Adelaide’s national parks. Here’s where to start.

If you love the rush of going for a run and you enjoy getting out in our national parks, then trail running may be for you.

The sport has seen a big rise in popularity in recent years, and if you start on easy trails, it’s not nearly as daunting as it might sound.

Trail runners report fewer injuries and better endurance, and all the benefits of being surrounded by trees and fresh air that you get from bushwalking.

Why not have a go at one of these runs?

South of the city

Belair National Park is another park that is popular with walkers and mountain bikers, and many of its trails are also good for trail running. For beginners, try the Lorikeet Loop, or try the Waterfall Loop if you are at the intermediate stage.

Hallett Cove Conservation Park is the perfect place for you if you love stunning sea views and climbing stairs. The park is just 2 kilometres long, but the Marion Coastal Trail continues to the north and connects to the Esplanade at Kingston Park – and it includes about 800 steps each way. If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot dolphins or seals on your run.

Sturt Gorge Recreation Park has a good 6 km loop starting at Blackwood Football Club, which is perfect for beginners. Follow Craigburn Road down to the main trail hub, then take the ‘Walk the Dog’ trail and finally ‘Lakeview’ to lead you around the lake. A 12 km version starts from the same spot and is great for intermediate runners.

East of the city

Black Hill Conservation Park has plenty of trails with steep climbs, making it popular with intermediate and advanced trail runners, but there are also easy fire tracks and single track trails on the Maryvale Road side that beginners will enjoy. The Gorge Road entrance has a very long and steep climb up the Main Ridge track that will test endurance. Nearby is a slightly easier, but still challenging, climb up the Ambers Gully Track.

Cleland Conservation Park is a great place to run if you’re trying to beat your personal best, as the park’s now a parkrun location. If you’re not familiar with Parkrun, it’s an organised weekly event where you and your pals can have your 5 km run timed by an official. But don’t let this put you off going it alone. There’s heaps of trails you can do any day of the week – and why wouldn’t you at this picturesque location.

North-east of the city

Much of Anstey Hill Recreation Park can be crossed via fire trails, all of which have been recently refurbished and have flat, easy footings. Take the Water Gully Track up to the ruins of Newmans Nursery – it’s fairly easy but still has a steady uphill climb. If you’re looking for a tough climb, the well-named Torture Hill in the centre of the park fits the bill, or try the longer Ridgetop and Wildflower tracks from the Perseverance Road side. The new loop around the car park is popular for time trials, and the top section of the park is a good place for kangaroo spotting. Remember that some trails in the park are for mountain bikes only, so check a map before beginning your run.

Cobbler Creek Recreation Park is the perfect place for first-time runners. There are a few steep sections up to the Teakle Ruins, but these are short and are on easy fire trails. Most of the trails are easy to low-level intermediate. The Porosa Loop follows the creek, and the Ruins Loop will bring you back down, or try the Babbler Loop or Mai Tappa Circuit on the carpark side of the Grove Way. Like Anstey Hill, Cobbler creek is popular for mountain bikers, so remember to keep an eye out and always share the trails.

If you’d like more information about trail running, or would like to join a social run, get in touch with Trail Running SA. Or check out the National Parks SA website for more parks to visit – for a run or just to relax.

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