Running is possibly the best way to see any city. It’s fast enough to cover a lot of ground, but also slow enough to really see and notice things. You are also combining sightseeing with exercise, so it’s an efficient use of time on a business trip.
Running through the Back Bay and North End was my favorite part of visiting Boston, and it’s been a travel habit ever since.
There is a problem of running in a city you’re visiting – you have no real idea of where to run. Usually hotels in large cities are in heavily-trafficked areas that aren’t very fun to run in.
And if you go too far off the beaten track, you might get into a neighborhood where you don’t want to be (crime-y & confusing) or at least a neighborhood that is not fun to run in (no sidewalks; cars flying everywhere).
I’ve been living and running all throughout Atlanta for more than 3 years. And have run in 3 marathons winding throughout Atlanta. If you are a tourist in Atlanta for fun or business, here are the best places to run in Atlanta.
Aside – most start/end in Downtown or Midtown. If you are in Buckhead or Perimeter Center, I’ll cover your options at the end.
Downtown & Midtown via The BeltLine – 6 Miles
If you are staying in Downtown or Midtown – this is the route to run. You’ll see Atlanta’s past, present and future all along this route. It’s fairly flat and mostly away from heavy traffic. I have the route starting in Downtown at the Westin, but it has a long portion on Peachtree, so you can start wherever you are staying.
The route begins headed down Peachtree but turns onto Auburn Ave right at Woodruff Park. You’ll see the tracks for Atlanta’s new streetcar/light rail.
During segregation, Auburn Avenue was the heart of Atlanta’s black business elite (aka “Sweet Auburn.” The area went into decline in the 70’s and 80’s, but is slowly recovering. The route is a bit desolate as it passes under the massive I-75/85 Downtown Connector. You’ll start to pass some older, but historic buildings as you approach the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Monument. There’ll be tons of history passing – the Fire Station No. 6 and King’s birth home among others.
You’ll continue passing many beautiful homes as Auburn Ave. does zig zag past Randolph St down to Irwin St at the Old Water Tower.
Turn right onto Irwin St. and make a left onto the Eastside portion of The BeltLine. The BeltLine is Atlanta’s big city changing project to redevelop a series of abandoned railroad rights of way into a loop of grade separated trails and light rail around the City.
If you run the BeltLine on weekend – you’ll see how big of a deal it is. It’s also an incredible place to run – flat with skyline views and no car traffic.
You’ll run under several overpasses through the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. At the Freedom Parkway underpass, you’ll see a park on the left. There’s a bathroom and water fountain across the field if you need it.
Continue running the BeltLine past Ponce City Market – a $300 million commercial redevelopment home to an incredible food hall and collection of shops.
The BeltLine ends (for now) at Monroe and 10th Street at the backside of Piedmont Park – Atlanta’s showcase city park. This intersection is very confusing due to paths headed everywhere. I recommend running down the sidewalk on 10th Street until the park ends. If you don’t mind adding distance, then you can loop into the park. It’s beautiful but the paths go everywhere.
Continue down 10th Street to Peachtree Street. You’re now in the heart of Midtown across from the Margaret Mitchell House (of Gone With The Wind fame) and Federal Reserve.
Run south down Peachtree through the heart of Midtown and Downtown Atlanta towards the beginning of the route. Peachtree has traffic, but also has wide sidewalks and is quite lovely during Spring & Fall.
Midtown/Piedmont Park – 3 Miles
Piedmont Park is Atlanta’s showcase city park. It was built in the 1880s, and redesigned by Frederick Olmstead’s (of Central Park fame) firm. It has tons of skyline views, well-maintained trails and beautiful greenery (especially in the Spring). The main entrance is at 12th Street, but you can access the park at 14th and 10th as well.
You can easily fit in a 3 mile run by looping around the park and taking advantage of the Active Oval.
Downtown to Oakland Cemetery – 4 Miles
Oakland Cemetery is Atlanta’s first cemetery, dating back to the 1850s. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful and contemplative. It has skyline views and so many interesting nooks. The trails have some uneven-ness and it’s a bit small for a run. But, it’s a great destination for a run.
The route is an out and back from Downtown. From Peachtree, take Decatur St (same as Marietta St around CNN Center) east from Five Points.
You’ll run through the campus of Georgia State University. It’s a bit boring, but with wide sidewalks and views of the State Capitol.
Decatur St crosses over the Interstate 75/85 Downtown Connector and continues past some apartments. When you get to Grant St at the King/Memorial MARTA Station, turn right and go under the railroad tracks.
Turn left at Martin Luther King Jr Dr and head towards the entrance. Run through Oakland Cemetery as you feel like it. Stop and check out some of the tombs and beautiful Magnolias. Off in the distance, you’ll be able to see the Fulton Bag & Mill factory along with great views of the Downtown skyline.
Head back to the entrance and retrace your path back Downtown.
Downtown to Grant Park – 6 Miles
This route is very similar to the Oakland Cemetery route, but your destination will be Grant Park and the surrounding Grant Park neighborhood & national historic district.
This route is a great extended run if you are staying in Downtown, love architecture and are interested in seeing Atlanta’s neighborhoods.
Like the Oakland Cemetery route, you’ll start by running down Decatur St through the campus of Georgia State. Turn right at Grant St and continue to Memorial Dr.
Do a jog across Memorial and continue one block to Woodward Ave to turn left. Go a few blocks and turn right down Cherokee Ave.
Cherokee Ave continues south straight through the Grant Park neighborhood. Depending on your mood, you can continue down Cherokee with homes on your right and the park on your left, or your can turn right and zig zag through the national historic district checking out homes, or you can duck into the actual Park and enjoy a car-free nature run.
Retrace your path back to Downtown.
Downtown to Highland – 6 Miles
This route is a shorter version of the Downtown/Midtown Loop via Auburn Ave. It’s almost all car-free except for a section on Baker Street and Peachtree Street.
You’ll also pass Atlanta’s most iconic skyline vista (aka the one seen in The Walking Dead).
Start Downtown/Midtown heading down Peachtree until you get to Baker Street. Head East. Baker Street is not super-runner friendly. But you’ll be on it for only 3 blocks.
At the intersection with Piedmont on top of the Interstate is the start of Freedom Trail. It’s a separated running path. Hop on it and continue east.
At Jackson St., turn right. At the bridge overpass, you’ll see the vista. There will likely be photographers there. You won’t miss it.
Immediately past the bridge, rejoin Freedom Trail on your left. Follow it until you reach the BeltLine. Note that the intersection with the BeltLine is a bit confusing. You loop down to it and it’s not well-signed.
If you want a really long run, you can keep going down Freedom Trail all the way to Stone Mountain. Otherwise, turn right and loop down to The BeltLine.
You’ll follow the route described in the first Downtown/Midtown Loop past Ponce City Market to Piedmont Park to Peachtree Street.
Buckhead via North BeltLine – 3 Miles
Buckhead is infamous for its roads and lack of greenspace. However, in South Buckhead, there’s an amazing oasis of quiet that is a disconnected part of The BeltLine.
The best access point is at Ardmore Rd. From Peachtree Rd, turn down Collier Rd, then left on Ardmore Rd. Look for street parking near the park. It’s almost always open.
Head down to the park and turn left on the trail to start the loop. If you’d rather tackle a massive, long hill first, head right.
If you went left, the trail ends in a parking lot. Run the parking lot to the end, then left. Follow the road, always bearing right at intersections.
At Deering Rd, turn left. Stop at the Amtrak station for skyline views and a water fountain / bathrooms.
Turn left on Peachtree Rd. It’s busy but the sidewalk run isn’t bad. Continue down Peachtree until you get to Colonial Homes Dr at the base of a long downhill. Turn left and go down a very steep hill.
At the dead end at a golf course, turn left and you’ll see The BeltLine ahead on the right.
Enjoy running the North BeltLine until you get back to Ardmore Park.
Running Routes for Buckhead & Perimeter Center
If you are staying in the northern side of Buckhead, Perimeter Center, Dunwoody or Sandy Springs – your immediate running options are going to be a bit limited.
But there are a couple places nearby that offer solid off-road running.
First, check out Chastain Park. It’s a huge city park with tons of running trails. Just beware of the rolling hills.
Second, check out the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area. This is a giant park with tons of trails along the river.
You can check Google Maps for the closest area to you. Though the entrance with easiest parking and the most trails will be at the west side of Cochran Shoals.
Bring cash to pay for parking (last time I went it was $2). You can run as far as you want through the woods or along the river. There are miles and miles of trails. Check out the map at the entrance to plan your route.
That’s all! Have fun!