Running is meant to be an escape, but who actually feels inspired to run when a stifling, drippy, humid urban heat weighs you down and traffic lights force you to a hard stop every block. Steady (relatively cool) running is not far from the city, and while these in-town Atlanta routes are short, they are offer respite from the southeastern sun, and the varying terrain will relieve the boredom of running the same routes day after day.
Start: West end at Ponce de Leon Avenue and Moreland Avenue/Briarcliff Road
This paved path ribbons over grassy knolls and winds through towering oaks, detached from the cars hurrying down Ponce de Leon. You’ll cruise through five sections in this island of green space, each divided by low traffic cross streets. Deepdene, the longest and final section, turns to a wooded tract among a steeper, cushioned landscape. At the intersection of South Ponce de Leon Avenue and Ponce de Leon Avenue, turn around for a three mile loop. Tack on the Stone Mountain Trail (accessible between Brightwood and Shadyside Park, off Lullwater Road) and run to Freedom Parkway for paved, steady running without traffic.
Start : 1948 Wellbourne Drive
There is a trail running retreat in the heart of Atlanta’s quaint Morningside neighborhood. The terrain varies between dirt, gravel, and mud (the latter depending on the amount of rainfall). While the total preserve’s distance is just 2.5 miles, you’ll encounter steep slopes, stairs and switchbacks. Make the loop twice and tack on some miles in the hilly surrounding neighborhoods. Be warned that at some points the trail is extremely narrow and overgrown, and sticker bushes will latch onto bare skin. You may end up making a few wrong turns, but all trails connect eventually.
Start: Park Tavern, Monroe Drive
Leading from Park Tavern to Montgomery Ferry Road is a forgotten, undeveloped section of the budding Beltline. You can manage a 3-mile round-trip loop by entering the access point behind Park Tavern and running behind Piedmont Park. These trails are best run in daylight, because they are not lit or paved. On this surprisingly remote run, you’ll find a combination of large gravel rock and dirt as you run under a few different graffiti bridges. Tack on pavement and sun if you want more mileage by running the Beltline’s developed Eastside Trail, which stretches 2.4 miles from Monroe Drive to Irwin Street.
Start: Dearborn Street Southeast
Located in the humble Kirkwood neighborhood, the name “urban forest” couldn’t ring more true. Seven acres of land play host to a trail that zigzags among creeks and foliage between Dearborn Street and Clay Street. An array of color sprouts from the community garden, and you’ll encounter a newly developed meadow. If you access the park off Dixie Street from Dearborn Drive, you can get one mile of weaving trails before you come out on the road, which makes for a natural break-up between pavement.