The Best Philly-Area Running Getaways to Try If You Miss Traveling for Races
Pack your bags and head to one of these local getaway destinations that are low on drive time and high on scenic running paths.
So you can’t take a trip to participate in a marathons, half-marathons — whatever, a 5K, any excuse to travel — in some far-flung corner of the globe this year due to the pandemic. But that’s OK. You can still create your own Philly-area running-focused getaway to satisfy your need to journey great distances — on foot, that is — and get out and explore, albeit a little closer to home. Here, a few paths (and places to stay) where you can lace up your running shoes and hit the proverbial road.
The Run: This 12-mile loop hits all parts of the island, including Cape May proper, West Cape May, Cape May Point and Lower Township. Around mile six, try running down Bayshore and to the canal to see the water; the trail also passes Beach Plum Farm and Willow Creek Winery on Steven’s Street. “When they’re open, I pop back into both properties for extra scenery and to say hi to the animals,” notes Eliza Crawford, marketing director at Cape May Running Co. and a running ambassador of Lululemon Avalon Local. “But they are private properties, so if the gate is closed, don’t hop it!” Another tip: If a road like Sunset Boulevard or Beach Avenue feels too crowded, jog on over to the next parallel street. “In April I ran every single street on the island starting from scratch — literally,” says Crawford.
The Stay: Lokal Hotel’s micro-resort puts you in prime position to start from Beach Avenue. Its apartment-style hotel rooms make it easy for you to have an ultimate post-run vedge sesh (you can order room-service via apps like GoPuff or cook in your private kitchen) and soothe your sore muscles with a dip in the saltwater pool. And when you’ve rested those weary legs, here’s Lokal’s recs for hiking trails. 5 Stockton Place, Cape May.
The Run: An out-and-back run down the boardwalk into Ventnor will put you at about 10 miles, though you can always extend it with a couple extra laps or by creating your own spin on the Atlantic City Marathon (which, by the way, is scheduled for October). Keep in mind there will be no sanctioned road closures for your personal running retreat, however. But even if you end up seeing the same scenery more than once, the people-watching, casino coastline and beach climes are far better than anything you experienced if you ran laps through your home at the worst of the pandemic. (We did. It sucked.) Finish on the north end, where you’ll be treated to crashing waves, giant rocks and coastal vibes to cool you down.
The Stay: Book a room at the Ocean Casino on the north end of the boardwalk (near where you’ll finish your run), and refresh with the Day of Restoration package at its Exhale Spa. It includes a 50-minute dry brush and body scrub, a 50-minute massage with a blend of aromatherapy oils, and a facial complete with an enzyme exfoliation, extractions and a mask. (Use the group code “WELLPA” for a discount from Monday to Thursday through June 10th.) That’s enough excuse for a run on its own. 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City.
The Run: A jaunt through Cape Henlopen State Park lets you partake in plenty of coastal beauty and historic landmarks. There’s a 3.3-mile paved bike path, plus various gravel and sand paths that you can combine for a choose-your-own-adventure kind of run complete with pine trees, cranberry bogs, artillery bunkers, views of the lighthouse. Even better: You can run to Dogfish Head Brewery for a refresher.
The Stay: If you’re staying at the Dogfish Inn, you can access a resource guide with information about the area, including local runs. The nine-mile 90-Minute IPA route takes you from the inn through the aforementioned cape (and advises bug spray, depending on the season). They’ve also created a Dogfish Head Run Club on Strava with Olympian Shalane Flanagan, who’s signed on to help inspire the virtual community with recipes, workout regimens and tips (and beer pairing, natch). IRL? The Inn also gives guests access to its Off-Centered Gear Shed stocked with reflective vests, running headlamps, stretching tools and foam rollers. 105 Savannah Road, Lewes.
The Run: Unless you’re an ultra-runner, the thought of jogging the nearly 60-mile stretch of the Delaware Canal towpath between Bristol and Easton might be less than appealing. But you can always break it up into chunks — get those 26.2 miles in — or do a socially distanced relay. Across the river, you’ll find the D&R State Park, which creates a series of looping trails connecting Pennsylvania and Jersey via five bridges; a 30-mile stretch of parallel trails gives you plenty of options. A tip: Keep an eye on trail closures and plan accordingly.
The Stay: The new-ish River House at Odette’s (between Bristol and Easton) is right on the Delaware River, so you can simply step out your door and onto the trail. Front Desk Manager Anne Sankey and Laura Duffy, the concierge, can help create itineraries for your towpath runs or local hikes (like Bowman’s Preserve). There are bikes available for guests as well, so you can get some pedal-powered cross-training in on the side. 274 South River Road, New Hope.
Delaware Water Gap
The Run: A 32-mile jaunt on the McDade Trail, which has hosted a number of sanctioned runs over the years, is the way to go. The wide path parallels the Delaware River on the Pennsylvania side, and meanders through fields and forests for some views of the great outdoors. Even better: There isn’t much of an elevation change — it’s flat with only a few sloping hills and climbs, with a hard-packed gravel surface.
The Stay: You could camp within the park — or glamp at Shawnee Inn, which is about a mile or so from the southernmost trailhead. It has waterside and island tents, as well as private archery sessions and campfires; a recreation attendant can help you get your personal blaze going should you be too worn out post-run. 100 Shawnee Inn Drive, Shawnee on Delaware.
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The Run: Consider the more than 140-mile D&L Trail. From the Bethlehem Sand Island trailhead, you can journey up the 3.9 miles to Allentown. The mostly gravel path has views of the Lehigh Canal on one side and the Lehigh River on the other side. Or head down to Freemansburg, a 3.5-mile trek. You’ll see the Bethlehem Steel site; about halfway between the two towns, there’s a picnic area. You can also run various segments of the trail (this interactive map helps you plan your haul). The D&L is a popular marathon and half-marathon course (the Via marathon runs a portion of its route).
The Stay: The historic Sayre Mansion is a short walk (or warmup) to the trailhead, and the Conservatory room, with its gorgeous window-clad rooftop, is tops for where to rest your weary legs. (Imagine basking under the sun in the post-run glow!) Running with your partner? The inn is offering a couples’ spa package with nearby GM Beautiful Spa. (Take note: The package isn’t available if you’re staying in the Conservatory and is offered through July.) 250 Wyandotte Street, Bethlehem.