While much of the country is confined to the horror of the treadmill for the winter months, this is the best time of year to get out and explore the South on foot. Take advantage of our mild winters and spectacular surroundings to make your exercise routine more enjoyable by hitting the pavement – or trail – for one of these scenic Southern routes.
Tybee Island, GA / McQueen's Island Trail
Just 15 miles east of downtown Savannah, the McQueens Island Trail offers a six-mile stretch of trail along the old Savannah & Atlantic Railroad line that used to take passengers from Savannah to Tybee Island. The trail runs parallel to the south channel of the Savannah River, offering views of salt marshes and the opportunity to spot a pod of dolphins. The crushed limestone trail is flanked by native flora such as cordgrass, cabbage palms, yaupon holly and coastal cedars, providing a setting for various forms of wildlife to present themselves. The eastern trailhead is near the Fort Pulaski National Monument.
Between the two bridges from the mainland to Hilton Head Island lies the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, which provides a complete escape into the solitude of the Lowcountry. The island features nearly 15 miles of trails, including a main gravel path stretching the length of the island with several grass trails shooting off to offer further exploration of the refuge and offer views of the intracoastal waterway to the east and Mackay Creek to the west. The refuge is teeming with wildlife, naturally, including alligators, turtles, deer, armadillos, and numerous waterfowl. Oh, and plenty of sand gnats and mosquitoes, so if you forget your bug spray, don’t stop running.
Downtown Savannah / Forsyth Park
Two of the Hostess City’s signature parks provide a great setting for a short run, or you can make the trek between the two and incorporate both into a longer jaunt. Forsyth Park is the quintessential Savannah scene with the iconic fountain and an endless canopy of live oaks draped with Spanish moss, not to mention some top-notch people-watching to keep things interesting no matter how many one-mile laps you make around the park. A 1.5-mile rubberized jogging trail loops Daffin Park, which includes Historic Grayson Stadium. It’s about a mile between the parks, and you can choose your own route to keep things fresh on future runs.
Savannah / Lake Mayer Park
The paved 1.4-mile loop around Lake Mayer is a convenient place to get in a quick run, and there’s a sufficient berth of dirt and grass adjacent to the pavement if you need a more forgiving surface. If you’re looking for a longer run and going in circles is not your thing, it’s about 1.5 miles from Lake Mayer to Wormsloe Historic Site, where you can run down the stunningly beautiful Oak Avenue beneath a canopy of Spanish-moss drenched live oaks.
Savannah River / The Talmadge Memorial Bridge
We don’t really do hills in the Lowcountry, so runners looking to train for elevation changes are limited in their options. The biggest “hill” in Savannah, of course, is the towering Talmadge Bridge, but crossing it on foot can be dicey. We only recommend running the bridge early in the morning and always against traffic, but if you’re bold enough to take it on, you can also incorporate a loop around the Savannah Harbor Road Course – a 2.1-mile race track on Hutchinson Island – before heading back across the bridge to Historic Savannah.