No matter what time of day and year, the sidewalks and parks of Boston are full of runners and joggers looking to sneak in a quick (or lengthy) workout during their free time. These dedicated runners are out there on the hottest summer days and coldest winter evenings. There are also plenty of options from flat, paved surfaces to more hilly, cross-country paths. Whether you like to run down the side of a busy city street or feel a little more secluded in a local park, these are the best running routes in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Charles River is Boston’s main waterway. Lining the riverbanks is the Esplanade, a long stretch of greenway that extends from downtown all the way to Brighton, the western district of Boston. The Charles winds all the way down through the suburban towns of Newton and Waltham, which makes it a perfect setting for long-distance runners to practice and build up endurance and is especially useful for anyone practicing a half marathon.
One of the parks that make up the series known as Boston’s “Emerald Necklace,” Jamaica Pond is surrounded by a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) running path. For more of a challenge, and a longer loop that measures over six miles (9.6 kilometers), consider running south along the Arborway until you reach the Arnold Arboretum. This park is managed by Harvard University and features some of the most scenic foliage in the city. Both of these parks are also less crowded than other areas of the city, where some of the pathways might get clogged up with runners. With plenty of hills, this is a great course where cross-country runners looking for a challenge can train.
Starting from central Boston Common, located at the heart of the city, you can run through the beautiful Public Garden, past the famous Swan Boats and down Commonwealth Avenue, one of the most beautiful avenues in Boston. A long pedestrian park divides the two lanes of traffic, extending between the Public Garden and Kenmore Square. Since the distance isn’t particularly long, this route is good for more novice runners looking for a short, level-surfaced course.
This flat, paved trail makes for an easy-going run. It cuts from the Alewife train station in North Cambridge southeast through Davis Square and the heart of Somerville. If you’re a local runner, there’s always the chance that your run will be pleasantly interrupted by a friend or neighbor out taking a stroll with their children or pets. In total, this route lasts about two miles (3.2 kilometers) one-way.
The Charles River separates Boston and Cambridge. Memorial Drive runs along the banks of the Cambridge side, lined with a beautiful stretch of open parks with plenty of room for running, among other activities. In the summer, there are plenty of events going on in these parks, so you can work up a sweat on your run before sitting down in the grass to relax while you enjoy a live music performance. The Cambridge Esplanade runs about three miles (4.8 kilometers) and takes you past some of Cambridge’s most beautiful neighborhoods, including the campuses of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.
Fresh Pond serves as a reservoir for the city of Cambridge. The pond sees 162 acres of land and over two miles (3.2 kilometers) of perimeter trails and pathways, covered in a healthy layer of trees, surrounding it. Except for the occasional sight of roads and high-rise apartments across the pond, this park feels like a peaceful patch of forest that disguises the surrounding city.
The Fens is a parkway nestled in Boston’s Back Bay. The pathways around the park’s perimeter come out to about a 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) loop. On a summer day, the sports fields in the park are brimming with eager young athletes hoping to practice their skills, so runners are in good company surrounded by all of these intramural activities. The area is also home to the campus of Berklee College of Music and Northeastern University, as well as spots like the Museum of Fine Arts. All of this youthful creativity gives this route a very focused atmosphere, making it perfect for a pleasant run in the warmer months.