Where are the best places to run in the Tampa Bay area? I’ll share my favorites and I look forward to hearing yours as well. I live in Safety Harbor so I will share my top five locations in Pinellas County and a few other favorites from around the area and the Sunshine State.
- Safety Harbor – one of the several reasons I moved to Safety Harbor last September was the beautiful paths to run and ride. The Safety Harbor Marina serves as a central point for the area just off of Main Street (downtown) and adjacent to the Safety Harbor Spa.From here you can head north through Safety Harbor Waterfront Park & Boardwalk, hug Tampa Bay and enter Philippe Park. It feels like you are on two different runs with the tropical feel of Tampa Bay and then the much shaded county park that was featured in Runner’s World in 2017. Round trip on this run is around 4.5 miles.
If you head south from the marina, you hug the bay to start and then have an option. Continue on the Ream Wilson Trail through some shady paths as you head west or remain on the path south till you get to the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Both are great options with this important note. If you continue to the Courtney Campbell Trail it is exposed to the sun with no water options. It is a beautiful route but be careful if you are running long distance and in sunlight.
If you choose the Ream Wilson Trail route you will encounter a lot of coverage from direct sunlight with some elevation climbs mixed in including a bridge over McMullen Booth Blvd. and a few water options (located near softball and soccer fields). With both routes in play you can certainly log long miles if desired.
- Clearwater – a great place to run with inclines and three bridges somewhat close to each other. From Coachman Park you can head west towards Clearwater Beach up and over the Clearwater Memorial Causeway. There is a wide path separated from the road where bikers, walkers and runners are doing their thing.If you looking for a long run you can head south over the Sand Key Bridge, continue along Gulf Blvd. to the Belleair Causeway where you then go up and over the bridge heading east. Once you get over the bridge you head back north snaking through back roads and through the Belleair Country Club ultimately finding yourself back to downtown and Coachman Park. This route covers 12.5 miles but you can certainly make the route as short as you want from the start and as I do sometimes, simply do bridge repeats over the first bridge…what a workout that is!
- Clearwater Beach – running on the beach is both glorious and grueling. I love running on Clearwater Beach after a bike ride. It’s a perfect end to a triathlon workout testing your fitness level as you tread through sand. I do run near the water so it is packed down but still requires additional effort.From Life Guard Station 7 near Palm Pavilion you can head south under Pier 60 to the rocks where the beach ends to the boat channel. That is roughly one mile so when doing a u-turn, passing Life Guard Station 7 on the way back you can finish with a two mile run or continue north for an additional roughly three miles (6 miles round trip).
The scenery is tough to top. Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. for 2018 by the popular travel site TripAdvisor reclaiming the crown two years after it won it for the first time in 2016.
- Fort DeSoto – The park is the largest in Pinellas County with amazing views of the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Tampa Bay to the south and east. Fort Desoto was named America’s Top Family Beach for 2014 by USA Today. It hosts several run, duathlon and triathlon races.I love running from the north beach on the one mile path of hard packed sand/gravel leading on to the sidewalk headed to the fort. This is the course for triathlon races. If you would like to run long you can start at the north beach and head all the way to the circle u-turn on the east end of the park. There and back totals about nine miles.
- Safety Harbor Middle School (Track) – the only track I am aware of that is open to the public in Pinellas County. It is not a soft surface track but I am not complaining when it is only 1.5 miles from my home and the only one in the county open at all times other than when school is in session.Every Tuesday morning at 5:30 we work on our speed with track specific workouts. The track is also home to team practice on Wednesday evenings at 6:30.
- Suncoast Parkway (Lutz Lake Fern) – from the parking lot south to Van Dyke is a three mile winding paved path. This is perfect after a bike ride north on the Suncoast Parkway.
- Lake Rogers Park – a few miles north of Westchase off of Race Track Road is this park with a 2.2 mile loop. It’s a combination of grass, dirt and some sand. They did have to reconfigure the park a few years ago after a major flood resulting in the original path remaining under water.
- Bayshore Boulevard – a sidewalk wraps around the bay. This is home of the Gasparilla Race Series in February and provides a nice view of downtown Tampa.
- San Antonio – if you want hills and are tired of running bridges this is the location near Tampa. It’s also the place to bike if you are training for races up north with hills. Some of the roads from the San Antonio Sports Complex are clay and/or dirt so it provides a nice relief from the paved roads.
- Clay Loop – incredible 10 mile loop on rolling, clay roads. This destination has been chronicled in Runner’s World as well and is located west of Disney World.
- Boca Raton/Deerfield Beach A1A – I have had the pleasure to explore South Florida with my daughter attending Florida Atlantic University. The running path adjacent to the A1A is lively with runners and Deerfield Beach also has a mile plus path lining the Atlantic Ocean.
- South Beach (Miami) – an amazing view along the several mile path lining the Atlantic Ocean makes you feel like you can run all day. This is the longest path I have been on to have direct view of the water.
Please share your favorites as I’m always looking for a new place to explore.
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