Along the majestic banks of the Columbia River, running past historic buildings or weaving along paths on ridge lines and through beautiful forests, runners all around Clark County are experiencing the bliss that can only be found on the trails of our region. While many still run roads and routes around their neighborhoods, Vancouverites and those in the surrounding areas who want to save their knees are racing through beautiful terrain and loving every minute of it. If you have not discovered trail running yet, we have a handful of spots for all levels of runners, providing the best experience to fall in love with running off-road.
From simple trails to quad burners, these seven routes will leave you searching for more trails and connecting with more of the natural beauty around our communities. For more information on trail running routes and groups, check out the Clark County Running Club, a friendly and fun group who enjoy running around the region.
Lacamas Heritage Trail
Considered to be one of the best, local trail running destinations for all levels, Lacamas Park has a number of trails that are fun to run no matter what the weather. Wide, well-groomed and weaving through tall trees, the trails here take you next to ponds full of birds, cattails and blooming plants. Considered easy for most runners, the most popular run is a seven-mile, out-and-back trail that starts at the Camas Heritage Park trailhead and turns around at the Goodwin Road Trailhead. Gaining just 30 feet of elevation, this is a great training run or introduction to the enjoyment of trail running.
WSU Vancouver Cougar Trails
Located on the Washington State University Vancouver campus, the Cougar Trails are a fantastic place to get used to running off the roads. With six miles of walking, jogging and biking paths, the trails vary from an all-weather surface to dirt trails like those found in your favorite forested area. The most popular of the four main running routes is the 4.6 mile Red Loop, which circles the entire campus, alternating from pavement and cedar chips to a much more standard trail surface. With some elevation gain one or two loops here will have you hooked and looking for more trails to run.
If the previous trails were too easy, Dog Mountain is sure to test your skills and endurance as a trail runner. From the parking lot to the summit and back is just six miles, but with 2,000 feet of gain, you will be feeling every inch of this trail in your calves and quads. While the trail is a leg burner, the views and the running experience here are world class and worth every drop of sweat. Within a half of a mile, you catch your first glimpse of the river, and the views only get better the higher you climb. If you want a trail running challenge, this might be just what you are craving.
Waterfront Renaissance Trail
For those hoping to run next to the Columbia River, the Waterfront Renaissance Trail is not quite trail running, but it still counts. For five miles the paved path gives off incredible views of the river, the bridges spanning her banks and the always breathtaking view of Mount Hood. This spot is a perfect trail for sunrise and sunset runners, as the colors in the sky reflecting off the water offer a classic Vancouver view. Passing by Fort Vancouver, the trail is also a great place to appreciate the history of our town.
Whipple Creek Trail
With a perfect 5K route weaving through a classic Pacific Northwest forest, the Whipple Creek Trail provides a great introduction to running in the lowlands of the Cascade Range. Tall ferns and even taller trees line the dirt path, giving a slice of solitude in nature just outside of town. While there are a few trails to run in the park, the entire area has just four miles of trails all working around like a maze of forest beauty. The 5K trail gains 110 feet of elevation, making it suffice as both a great introductory trail to run and a appropriate training ground.
If Dog Mountain sounds a little too intense, scale back and enjoy the majestic views and trail found at Cape Horn. Also located on the Columbia River, Cape Horn is a seven-mile, round-trip trail that gains just 1,350 feet of elevation. Much gentler than Dog Mountain, Cape Horn also offers stunning views of the Columbia River and a delightful trail running experience. As you stand at the top of the trail, enjoy the panoramic wonderland expanding out before you. On a sunny day you will see Multnomah Falls, Beacon Rock and a handful of other iconic Columbia River destinations.
Klickitat River Trail
Finally, just outside of the county, an hour from Vancouver, one of the most gentle and overlooked trails awaits your running shoes. Following the Klickitat River from Lyle to Pitt, the Klickitat River Trail is well worth the drive. Along an old railroad bed the trail extends 31 miles in its entirety from Lyle to Warwick. While that distance is probably too intense and long for many, there is a 10 mile section starting in Lyle that runs parallel to the river, offering incredible views of wildflowers, eagles and the stunning Klickitat River. This run bridges the gap between eastern and western Washington, making it an ideal option in the spring and fall months.