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The Detroit area may not be many people’s idea of a runner’s paradise, but that doesn’t mean we lack for runners — or good places to go for a run. After all, we’re home to the Hanson’s-Brooks Original Distance Project, a program that trains elite athletes like marathoner Desi Linden in Rochester, an international marathon and one of the nation’s largest Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot races.

If there’s a downside to running here, it’s that some of my favorite places to run in the area tend to be pretty far-flung. I love running dirt trails, and those kind of places tend to be located far from the urban core.

Here are six of my faves:

1. Island Lake Recreation Area

Island LakeThis quiet slice of nirvana features several small lakes and the bucolic Huron River as it snakes lazily through these forested hills. There are two different dirt trails here: one a little more than six miles, the other nine. The former is consistently one of the toughest 10K workouts I know of, while the other probably offers more scenic variety and open spaces. If you’re training for a long-distance run, you could do worse than to put them both together in a single run.

2. Detroit RiverWalk/Dequindre Cut

The new Dequindre Cut extension.
The new Dequindre Cut extension.

I can’t say enough about the efforts of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy over the years in reclaiming Detroit’s waterfront from a state of abject neglect and polishing it into a shining jewel. For runners, here’s an opportunity to take in the city without having to worry about vehicle traffic. Instead, you get cool river breezes, unmatched people watching, views of Windsor and our own downtown skyline, and the great public murals and other attractions that line the Dequindre Cut. While you’re at it, enhance your cardio workout with some strength training at the new Fit Park.

3. Stony Creek Metropark

Stony CreekAt nearly 4,500 acres, this expansive park features a flat, six-mile paved loop around Stony Creek Lake that is popular with runners, dogs and cyclists. There are also plenty of trails, including the mountain-biking trails on the park’s western end, that meander through forests, meadows, prairies and wetlands.

4. Belle Isle

Belle Isle offers superb views of the city.
Belle Isle offers superb views of the city.

Nothing wrong with a spin around Detroit’s signature island park, with its flat perimeter road, bike lanes to run in and views of the blue river, sailboats and freighters, and people barbecuing or just taking it easy.

5. Maybury State Park

Maybury State ParkA couple cool things of interest here. First, it’s the former home of the Maybury Sanitorium, built by wealthy real estate tycoon William C. Maybury during the 1920s to provide a pastoral retreat to treat tuberculosis victims from Detroit, and it once consisted of more than 40 buildings. The park in recent years has even been installing interpretive plaques highlighting various points of historic interest about the facility. Two, it boasts the highest point in Wayne County atop one of its many hills. For runners, the whole place is interspersed with hiking, equestrian and mountain-biking trails.

6. Hines Drive Trail

Hines DriveWhen it’s not overrun with Rouge River floodwater, Hines Drive offers more than 17 miles of paved bike and running trails, plus broad shoulders along the roadway, that stretch from Northville down to Dearborn, taking in several leafy Wayne County parks.

Where do you like to run in Detroit?

Creative Commons photos by T-R-V Imagez, Wigwam Jones, Mike, A Healthier Michigan and Eileen Maria Fox