10 of the most epic trail runs in the northeastern USA worth planning an entire runcation for.
Stretching from the mid-Atlantic to the furthest reaches of New England, the northern Appalachian Mountains host some of the best trail running on the East Coast. Here are 10 of the best bucket list runs in the Northeast that are best explored during the warmer months, all of which are worth planning an entire runcation around.
Starting from the south, Pennsylvania defines the northern boundary of the mid-Atlantic region, and the state is no stranger to long trails and remote singletrack. A few ridgelines west of where the AT dissects the state, the Northern and Southern portions of the Standing Stone Trail offer some of the best-unadulterated backcountry singletrack you will find anywhere in the state. Long, flat-top ridgelines alternate with lengthy descents through gaps in the mountain – and the views are nothing short of epic as you traverse exposed mountaintops of rock scree. Of course, if you’re looking for something a little different, the Loyalsock Trail is comparable in distance and difficulty and forms part of the Worlds End Ultramarathon, a looped course on 95% trail with both 50k and 100k options. It’s also earned the status of being a Western States Qualifier, which may appeal to some.
If smooth and flowing singletrack is more your style, the Blue Marsh Lake Loop is an excellent long run just west of Reading, PA. Hugging the shore of the man-made reservoir, this 26+ mile run offers countless access points, options for a shuttle, and a variety of ways to shorten or lengthen the run based on what your goals are. Of course, after any extended period of rain, be sure to give the trails time to dry out since many of the low points are prone to flooding and poor drainage.
Moving into New York, the infamous Devils Path bags five of the Catskill High Peaks along a 22-mile trek through pure wilderness. While some may argue that it’s one of the state’s best hikes, the Adirondack Great Range is a close contender for second. Identical in distance, the loop is hands-down the most epic long run you can put together in the Adirondacks, though if you were to ask 10 random people what the official “Great Range” is, you’d likely come up with 10 different answers. But that’s what makes the route so great. Should you find yourself in over your head early in the day, numerous options are available to shorten the loop and head back to town... just be sure to stop for lunch at the iconic Noon Mark Diner across from the trailhead before you leave.
While New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island all offer an abundance of long run options, many of the top epics in New England will be found in the White and Green Mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, respectively. Those looking for an epic trail race have likely already eyed the Vermont 100 course, which has earned a reputation nationwide as one of the top ultramarathons in the east. Unfortunately, much of the course is on private property that is only open to runners on race day, so you may have to get a little creative if you want to pre-run any of the circuit. Or, you could make your way over to Killington and enjoy the shorter but rewarding Sherburne Pass Loop which tours the area where Vermont’s Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail part ways. The run explores quiet mountain streams and dark, loamy evergreen forests, but also offers its share of views along the way.
Across the river, Mount Wantastiquet is an area that gets far less attention than it deserves. This loop through Madame Sherri Forest and the adjacent public land is a bit shorter, but it's still a stunning trail run you cannot miss. The trailhead is located behind an old Wal-Mart and just a moment’s drive from a brewery across the river. The shadows of the deep-green mountains can often be seen reflecting off the mirror-like surface of Indian Pond just a few miles into the loop.
Ask any runner about the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the Presidential Traverse will likely make its way into the conversation. Sought after by runners and hikers alike, the point-to-point run traverses the Presidential Range and showcases the beautiful and exposed alpine terrain that make it equal parts rewarding... and dangerous. With most planning their run in the summer months, you’ll visit the summit of Mount Washington along the way, where you can enjoy snacks and drinks from a seasonal concession stand at the highest point in the Northeast.
Of course, no list of epic runs would be complete without Maine’s infamous Hundred Mile Wilderness, where the Appalachian Trail nears its northern terminus in Baxter State Park. Endless summits weave between remote waterways and active logging areas, and crew access is extremely limited other than a blazed side trail about halfway in. Though reserved for the most adventurous runners, traversing the entire wilderness area is a feat that will leave you with memories for the rest of your life.