Leaves have changed the tree line from lush green to brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow and are beginning to fall in every direction.  I don’t know if it is the crunch beneath my feet with every stride or the smell of earth from the falling leaves, but there is something about fall that makes running during the fall truly majestic.

Maybe it’s those mornings where I can see my breath, feel the cool air entering and exiting my lungs, and really feel my body working to maintain the rhythm of breathing, striding, breathing, striding.

It’s an amazing time of year to go out for a run, and yes, runs around campus are perfect for time-crunched days where runs need to be as simple as possible.  But I challenge everyone to find one day this fall and leave Elon for a national or state park to go for a run or even a long hike and see how far away you can feel from school and stress for a few hours.

The following parks are within one hour of campus, and all offer at least three miles of trails to explore on your next run … just make sure to read the maps before heading out -- a 5-mile run could turn into 11 miles if you’re not careful!

  1. Umstead Park William B. Umstead State Park is located between Raleigh and Cary off Interstate 40.  Although it is about an hour from campus, it is a very easy drive, and it offers 5,579 acres of wide, crushed-limestone bridal path and single-track trails for running.  Beware: the hills are treacherous, but the views and dense wooded trails make up for the hills.  Also, it is very easy to navigate, and the entrance off Harrison Ave is close to an upscale plaza, with Starbucks, Café Carolina and Moe’s to replenish after your run.
  2. Eno River State Park / Duke Forest Both about 45 min from Elon, these forests are located next to each other in Durham.  Duke Forest offers a hilly 3-mile loop that is easy to follow with wide, soft trails.  The Eno River trails are mostly single-track and can be a little tricky to navigate.  They also offer obstacles, including river crossings and bridges to add to the excitement of running.
  3. Hagan Stone Park With four lakes and soft mulch and grass trails, Hagan Stone Park in Greensboro is a short drive and easy access trail to run off-campus.  There are many cross country meets (both high school and college) held here, and both 5k and 8k course maps can be found on the website.
  4. Salem Lake The dirt trail around Salem Lake is lined with trees and the lake is visible for seven miles around it.  It is about an hour from campus in Winston Salem, and is worth the drive. Warning for this fall: the dam is under construction, and the lake levels are a little lower, so this may be a better run to save for next year.