Best Places to Train for ZNV

Take the advice of our ZNV Ambassadors; there are some great places to train for ZNV. Here’s a list to get you started.

South BayErin Mink Garvey

The San Francisco Bay Area of California is home to many amazing and breathtaking places to run. Whatever your preference–roads or trails, flat or hillier-than-all-get-out–there’s somewhere here with your name on it. Add the beautiful landscapes to the Bay Area’s year-round temperate climate, and no wonder there is such a vibrant running community here.

My family and I have lived in San Jose, in the south bay, for just over a year now, and the following are just a few of my favorite places to run. There are tons more out there though; just look for large patches of green next time you look at a map, and you generally can’t go wrong!

Guadalupe River Trail – an approximate 9-mile pedestrian and biking flat trail system that extends from Alviso (at its northern most end) to downtown San Jose, passing by the SF 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, San Jose’s airport, and downtown San Jose in the process.

Hellyer County Park / Coyote Creek trail the longest, continuous stretch of the CC trail extends from south San Jose, near Tully Road, to almost 17 miles south into neighboring Morgan Hill. Like the GRT, the path is pretty flat.

Alum Rock – if trails and hills are your jam, check out Alum Rock on the city’s northeast side. Your options are endless here; it all depends on how many hills you’d like to climb or switchbacks you’d like to conquer 🙂 From AR, you can also connect to other nearby trail systems.

East Bay Laura Moir

Lake Merritt, Oakland
At last count, I’ve run Lake Merritt about a trillion times over the past 7 years; nevertheless, it still holds a very special place in my heart. I’m born and raised in Oakland and even as a child growing up here, always looked at Lake Merritt as this amazing place, truly the beating heart of my city by the bay.

LakeMerrittLake Merritt
photo credit: Laura Moir

It is approximately 3 miles around the lake but depending on what construction is going on and depending on if you take the inside path or the sidewalks along the outside of the lake, it can vary up to 3.5 or so if you try hard enough. Over the years, the paths have been re-paved and are very easy to run along, except watch out for those non-runners and get very used to saying, “On your left!” It’s a very popular spot and can get a tad crowded with runners, walkers, strollers, and your token crazy homeless person, even at 6am!

Lake Chabot, Castro Valley
What can I say, I really like a good lake! Lake Chabot is a short drive from Oakland and oh so very worth it. With lots of nice and challenging rolling hills, over 300 acres of land, the beauty of the lake and wildlife, I could run here for hours but usually one hour is good enough as those rolling inclines can be serious butt-kickers.

LakeChabotLake Chabot
photo credit: Laura Moir

Lake Chabot isn’t as busy of a lake as Lake Merritt probably because it’s so much larger, people are just spread out better, and the paths are nice and wide so you can really find a sense of peacefulness and isolation if that’s the sort of thing you go for when you run. I also really like that it is part paved and part trail so you can get the best of both worlds in just one run at Lake Chabot.

Redwood Park, Oakland
Another sentimental spot for me because when I was in high school 20+ years ago, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I would cut class and go to Redwood Park to make out. Good times. Not to mention the countless BBQs and picnics and play dates here over the years; however, I never really appreciated Redwood Park’s beauty until I started running it.

RedwoodRedwood Park, Oakland
photo credit: Laura Moir

Trails, hills, trails, hills, and more trails, hills. Usually muddy. Sometimes fell trees that you have to climb over-under-over to get through, lots of dogs off-leash. Often, I won’t see a single other soul out there and my phone will lose service so it can get a tad eerie in all that extreme silence so I usually only go with a running buddy for safety reasons.

When I was training for my first marathon with Team in Training, we ran a 14 miler at Redwood and my Coach said, “If you can run 14 miles at Redwood, then you can definitely run a marathon.” It was, to date, the MOST challenging training run I have ever done but that sense of accomplishment when I finished was undeniable and for that, I’ll keep going back (WITH a friend, of course!).

Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley
This is, currently, my “Go To” spot for a run. Ample parking, clean porta potties, gorgeous scenery and all along the water! On the clearest of days at Cesar Chavez Park, you can see all 3 of our local bridges, including the infamous Golden Gate Bridge.

CesarChavezCesar Chavez Park
photo credit: Laura Moir

I’ll start at the park entrance, make my way all the way around the park (few good rolling hills included) and can then chose to proceed on the paved path either towards the Emeryville marina, or into the Berkeley marina, or past Golden Gate Fields and all the way to Richmond if I want!  (Saving that effort for those 20 mile training runs, of course!)

Cesar Chavez happens to connect with the San Francisco Bay Trail that is a continuous 300 mile path (500 miles when completed!) of biking/hiking/running/walking trails. It connects the shorelines of all nine Bay Area counties and will cross all the major toll bridges in the region. I CANNOT WAIT when the Bay Trail is finally completed and I’m able to run directly from Oakland to San Francisco- how cool is that?!

So that’s where I’m running right now yet there are so many other fantastic running spots here in the Bay Area- Lafayette Reservoir, Tilden Park, Moraga Commons, Quarry Lake, the Iron Horse Trail, Heather Farms- I could go on and on and on…  but I won’t, I’ll just go for a run instead!

 San Francisco – Tricia Poblete

Running in San Francisco is pretty amazing. Two of my favorite spots to go through is the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.


According to the FAQ’s on the Presido’s website, it was one of the oldest continuously operating military posts in the nation.  Now it is a park site within the 75,000-acre Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).  It is home to twenty four miles of trails routes and eight overlooks.Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 12.32.03 PM

My favorite trail in the Presidio is the Golden Gate Promenade (Bay Trail) . This trail is part of the Bay Trail. It starts at Crissy Field to Fort Point and up to the Golden Gate Bridge. The trail if flat and about 4.3 including the loop around Mason Street. Throughout running this trail, you will have a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. The picture below was during a run last month.  With views like below, what’s there not to love?

Golden Gate Park 

Golden Gate Park is an urban park located in San Francisco. It is accessible through Ocean Beach on Great Highway  or you can enter on Stanyan Street. The park is 1,017 acres and home to the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences and Japanese Tea Garden.

From my experience, runners either dislike or like running in the park. I enjoy my time running around and seeing all the sights. The park is not flat but a series of rolling hills.  I usually start my run on the Ocean Beach side of the park and enter on JFK Drive and work my way up to the north end up to Stanyan Street.

On my way up JFK I will pass the Bison the Paddok. These creatures have been in the park since 1899.  They are cared for in conjunction with the San Francisco Zoo.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 12.33.23 PMphoto credit: Tricia Poblete

I will also pass through a waterfall like the one below located about almost two miles into a run on Lloyd Lake before crossing Transverse Drive continuing on JFK.

Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 12.34.34 PMphoto credit: Tricia Poblete

There are many sights to see in Golden Gate Park and the Presidio I never get tired of it.  It is a total escape and gift to SF to be able to run in such beautiful places. I encourage everyone to explore the beauty.




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