Fartlek – The Best Running Trails (Don’t laugh, it’s a real word!)

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There’s always at least one person who makes your vacation attitude of self-indulgence and unapologetic slothfulness seem out of place. You know the one I’m talking about; the person who gets up and at it bright and early. The person who’s on the balcony drinking coffee and watching the sunrise in a post workout glow while the rest of the crew are dragging themselves out of bed at Bloody Mary O’clock . And although the Alabama Gulf Coast is littered with gorgeous magazine-worthy accommodations so luxurious you technically never have to leave, you totally should because your backdoor leads to some of the best views in the nation. We know you’re secretly dying to spring out of bed to immerse yourself in it, so why not join the crazy motivated person getting an early morning workout in? Seriously, don’t walk, run to the Coast’s best trails (ok, ok, walking is fine, too).

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

Weaving through the Gulf State Park that runs through Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, most of these trails intersect for your long distance running pleasure. Keep an eye out for the half cat, half man aptly named Cat-Man and other (real) wildlife like alligators, birds, snakes, and deer. Nab a map on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail website to plot your run.

  • Catman Road Trail – 2.2 miles
  • Gulf Oak Ridge Trail – 2.75 miles
  • Rattlesnake Ridge Trail – 1.75 miles
  • Rosemary Dunes Trail – 1.75 miles
  • Twin Bridges Trail – 1 mile
  • Cotton Bayou Trail – 1.1 miles
  • Coyote Crossing – 2.3 miles

*Distances are measured from the beginning of each trail to its “end” or intersection with another trial. Distance markers are placed on each individual trail in .25 mile increments. Of course, as runners already know, there’s also an app for that.

Fort Morgan Road TrailFort-Morgan-Rd-Fartlek3-e1442279785600

5.6 miles of paved trail that winds through tree lined neighborhoods and ends near a Grocery Store, Mexican Restaurant, and Chocolate Store – because we Southerners have a sense of humor like that. For a longer run, start at Peninsula Boulevard and cross over Highway 59 to hop on the Backcountry Trail.

Graham Creek Nature Preserve  

It’s dealer’s choice at this natural respite courtesy of Mother Nature. Choose from a 5 mile hiking trail, 7.5 mile bicycling trail, or 3 mile cross country trail. The flora and fauna will make you forget about all those bushwhackers from yesterday weighing you down.

Highway 182

Go as long as your runner’s heart desires on this seemingly endless stretch of highway throughout Orange Beach and Gulf Shores (and into Florida). The scenery of the beach, gorgeous waterfront homes, and the smell of the salty Gulf air will be better motivation than anything your Spotify can dish out.

The Beach

Mother Nature has supplied runners with 32 miles of pristine, white sand through Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. If that doesn’t give you enough distance, we’re going to sponsor you on a Forest Gump style cross country expedition. Get out early in the morning and you’ll have the beach practically to yourself.

Strut Your StuffBCT - Fartlek2

If you want to test your chops in a race, plan your vacay around one of these local runs.

  • Sea Turtle Half Marathon & Sweetheart 5K – Gulf Shores, February
  • Zydeco Crawfish Festival 5K – Gulf Shores, April
  • Shark Adventure Run – Orange Beach, July
  • Tacky Jack’s Bloody Mary 5K – Gulf Shores, September
  • Brett Robinson Alabama Coastal Triathlon – Gulf Shores, September
  • Fanatic Fanz 5K – Orange Beach, September
  • Wonderful Wacky Women 4 Mile Run – Orange Beach, September
  • Shrimp Festival Run – Gulf Shores, October
  • Relay for Life 10K & 5K – Orange Beach, October
  • Hope Haven 5K – Foley, October
  • Corpse Crawl 5K – Foley, October
  • Oyster 5K Run & 1 Mile Fun Run – Foley, November
  • Kaiser Realty By Wyndham Vacation Rentals Coastal Half Marathon & 5K – Orange Beach, November

Don’t Forget…

  • It’s hot down here, y’all! Make sure you stay hydrated and bring plenty of water – especially during summer months.
  • The sun shines bright in Alabama so wear sunscreen and / or a hat (even on a cloudy day).
  • Mind your manners: Southerners wave or say “how y’all doin’?” even if it is through the huffing and puffing of a long, summer run. Say hey back!

See ya out there!