The BEST Places to Run in Nashville
by Caroline Daniel
Whether you’ve just gotten into the sport or are a seasoned veteran, Nashville is a great city to be in as a runner. While you might currently log most of your miles on neighborhood streets, we’re here to show you some hidden gems you can visit to keep your runs exciting! To be such an exciting metropolis, the suburbs of Nashville offer some great opportunities to avoid the traffic and stop-lights along your running routes.
Percy/Edwin Warner Park (The “Warner Parks”)
Just about 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, the Warner Park System is a runner’s paradise. The park has everything from flat greenways to technical trails to hilly road loops that will put the advanced runner’s fitness to the test. Best of all, the park offers what many Nashville runners are longing to find during the hot and humid summer–shade. I love Percy and Edwin Warner because they make you forget that you are anywhere near the hustle and bustle of the city, but they’re still filled with the friendly faces of Nashville’s running community. If you head out to the Warner Parks, be sure to check out some of these highlights for your run:
The Harpeth River Greenway — 6 miles out, 6 miles back for the option of a 12 mile round trip run or bike ride. The greenway is nice and flat and is BEAUTIFUL at sunrise or sunset. Great for marathon/tempo workouts or longer runs with friends.
The 5.8 Loop/11.2 Loop — some of Nashville’s most difficult running. These two loops begin at the Belle Meade Stairs and consist of miles of very hilly roads. You’ll undoubtedly feel accomplished after completing one of these runs.
The Red Trail–Normally a “hiking” trail, Nashville’s seasoned runners love to put their fitness to the test on this 4.5 mile route. As a seasoned runner myself, I can promise you you’ll basically be walking as you go up some of this trail’s inclines. Good thing the trail is beautiful–so it’s so worth it!
Located just across the Cumberland River from downtown (on the outskirts of East Nashville), Shelby Bottoms is my personal favorite place to run in Nashville. The great thing about Shelby is that it offers miles of soft surface trails without the intense hills of the Percy Warner trails. Once inside the trails of Shelby, it is so easy to let your mind wander with the beautiful scenery–once again, you would never guess you are a mere 2 miles from Nashville’s Pedestrian Bridge when you enter the park.
In addition to its soft surface trails, Shelby offers a long, mostly shaded (at least in the morning) greenway that can either serve as a 10 mile round-trip out and back or connect to the Two Rivers Greenway for extra-long runs. While my runs don’t typically lead me farther than 10 or 11 miles, many of my friends have ventured across the bridge to the Two Rivers Greenway where the great views continue.
The flat nature of Shelby Park makes it great for both recovery runs and workouts and is a staple for long runs for my cross country team! No matter what type of runner you are, Shelby Bottoms is definitely worth the trip!
River Park (in Brentwood)
An escape from the sometimes monotonous neighborhood streets of Brentwood, River Park begins by the Brentwood Family YMCA and runs all the way to Smith Park, where it connects to a nice trail system. River Park itself features a nice, mostly flat (with a few rolling hills), greenway that is largely shaded. You can even ditch the GPS watch on this route–the greenway features a host of mile markers that will help you keep up with your distance if you want to relax and forget about pace!
If you take the full trip from the YMCA to Smith Park, the greenway takes you out about 4.5 miles for a 9 mile round trip. If you add on some trail loops at Smith Park, you can easily increase that distance with a nice change of scenery and terrain!
Richland Creek Greenway
One mile down Murphy Road from the bustling West End Avenue, the Richland Creek Greenway is a 2.5-3 mile paved trail that runs around the outside of the McCabe Golf Course. It serves as both a great add-on to a city run or a great escape from the city streets that are so close by. The Richland Creek Greenway is pretty hilly as far as Greenways go, but I like that because it varies up the run!
One of my favorite long run loops starts from Belmont University, runs down to McCabe (a little over 3 miles), does the Richland Creek Greenway loop, and runs back for a total of 9-10 miles depending on what out and back route you take. The loop has some challenging hills but also some great changes of scenery.
The Cumberland River Greenway
Another great option to escape the city (but be very close to the city!). The Cumberland River Greenway extends about 6 miles out and 6 miles back, starting in downtown and extending along the Cumberland River (as the name suggests). This greenway is also almost completely flat and is very pretty at sunrise and sunset with the river running parallel to it. One of my best long run workouts came on this greenway last year–the scenery makes it easy to lose yourself in the run and just keep plugging away!
Caroline Daniel is a Student-Athlete running Cross Country and Track at Belmont University while Majoring in Exercise Physiology. She is currently completing her internship at Personal Best Fitness