The greater Puget Sound region is full of running enthusiasts, pounding the pavement each and every day. Solo or in groups, the running community of the Pacific Northwest is strong and dedicated to getting in shape and reconnecting with our communities, one stride at a time. While many will run on the road, local runners are starting to rediscover the joys of trails in and around Tacoma. Instead of hitting the pavement day in and day out, getting sore from the endless onslaught of asphalt, fleet-footed harriers are hitting the trails and experiencing the joys of trail running.

While there are hundreds of miles of trails to run in Pierce County, we have assembled five of our favorite destinations to start our trail runner adventures. Ranging from easy to advanced, these trails are classic routes, sure to get you hooked on the quickly growing sport of trail running.

Keep in mind that these five trails are by no means the only trail running options around the greater Tacoma area. In fact, there are groups of runners who you should get in touch with that can tell you even more awesome routes around the region. One of the most recognizable groups is the Tacoma Runners, who have been connecting the local running community since 2010. Offering fun 5ks over weekends, and a Thursday night beer run, the folks with Tacoma Runners are lively, encouraging and just might be your new best friends in the running world.

Snake Lake

Snake Lake
The trails at Snake Lake are well-maintained and easily accessible as the park is right in the center of Tacoma. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle

Through 71 acres of preserved forests and waterways, the trails at Snake Lake are a perfect introduction to trail running in Pierce County or a fantastic place to grab a few miles after work. Offering two miles of walking trails that weave through wetlands and beautiful forests, Snake Lake is a local favorite for all levels of trail runners. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset, Snake Lake has two bridges to cross, a good loop run around the lake and an upper trail that will get you some elevation. With each step along the shady and cool trail, watch for birds sitting in the trees along the trail and swimming on the water. When crossing bridges, watch for turtles and even salamanders in the water as you make your way around this small, but ideal trail system.

Swan Creek Trail

Located in East Tacoma, between Portland Avenue and River Road, Swan Creek Park is yet another great introductory trail system for those new to trail running. Perfect for a quick run on varying terrain, the trail system at this park is perfect year round (though it can be muddy in wetter months). Combining elevation with access to a salmon-bearing stream and fun trails, you have two fantastic options for mileage and relative solitude in the forests in this often overlooked park. Starting at E. 56th Street, jump on the Swan Creek Trail for nearly two and a half miles before heading back and running the mile-long Canyon Rim Trail. Offering nearly 300 feet of gain on the fun, wide trails, you’ll be returning to Swan Creek time and time again. Alternately, you can also start at the trailhead off Pioneer Way where there’s a small parking lot.

Foothills Trail

Mount Rainier is visible from many parts of the trail and provides scenery that's pretty inspiring to enjoy on your hike or bike ride. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle.
Mount Rainier is visible from many parts of the trail and provides scenery that’s pretty inspiring to enjoy on your hike or bike ride. Photo credit: Kristin Kendle.

While not quite a true trail, the 25-mile-long Foothills Trail System is a great way to avoid road running and take in the sights and history of our region. Resting on an historic railroad path, the path stretches from Puyallup to Buckley, with plans to connect it all the way to Carbonado. For the most bang for your buck, start at Orting and head toward Buckley. Here, you’ll find a stretch of trail along the Carbon River that gives a classic view of Mount Rainier in the distance. Stretching 12 feet wide, the path is simple to follow and mostly paved, offering a soft side trail for horses and trail runners hoping to avoid the pounding of pavement.

Five Mile Drive

Five Mile Drive
The Rhododendron Garden Loop on the Five Mile Drive.

There are few trails around Pierce County more iconic to run than those found in Point Defiance and along Five Mile Drive. Offering beach access, trails through gorgeous forests and blooming rhododendrons, and some of the best views along the Puget Sound, more than 10 miles of trails can be explored by foot, all of which are gorgeous and perfect for running. A few favorites and must-run routes are the 2.6-mile out-and-back Spine Trail run, the 4.6-mile Outer Loop Trail, and the 3.3-mile Inner Loop Trail. The outer loop will give you the best views and elevation fluctuations, as well as giving a true representation of the varied terrain around our iconic park. There are also four more miles of trails that don’t have signage, letting you explore the park and the forest for hours on end, if you desire. Five Mile Drive offers both a fully paved loop as well as dirt trails crisscrossing the park.

Dash Point State Park

Like most of the state parks in Washington, the trails found at Dash Point State Park along Puget Sound are remarkable and completely underrated. Considered hidden gems to trail runners, the park offers 11 miles of runnable trails. The most popular running route is the Dash Point Loop Trail, which runs the outer perimeter of the park. Gaining nearly 600 feet of elevation in five miles, the well-maintained trails have great signage spread throughout the area, including the occasional map marked with “you are here” markers. Whether you wanted views of the water from the beach, ferns and forests, creeks and bridges or just a bit of solitude, Dash Point State Park offers all of that and more.

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