Hill City is a runner’s paradise
By Laura Lee
The ultimate runner-friendly city, Lynchburg holds miles of trails that vary in elevation and snake past jaw-dropping vistas. These trails not only appeal to residents out for a breath of fresh air; they also make Lynchburg the perfect host city for competitive races. The Road Runners Club of America bestowed the city a “Runner-Friendly Community Designation®,” and Lynchburg has been named among the “Top Trail Towns” by Trail Runner magazine.
Whether you’re an aspiring runner or are ready for a new challenge, the city of Lynchburg’s Parks and Recreation department maintains a network of urban trails totaling some 40 miles of paved and natural pathways. Read on for some of our favorite places to kick up our feet.
Considered the crown jewel of Lynchburg by local runners, Blackwater Creek Natural Area includes 3 miles of paved trails built along an old railway bed. Along the way, runners can veer off the main drag to explore miles of natural footpaths through pristine scenery.
RiverWalk trail connects the Blackwater Creek Trail to the James River through historic downtown. Runners can even cross the boardwalk over the river to hit the paved trails around Percival Island, Lynchburg’s own urban sanctuary.
Owned by Liberty University, Liberty Mountain Trail System encompasses 60 square miles of trails. Open to the public, the trails are the brainchild of Dr. David Horton, an avid runner and professor of health sciences.
“We offer a little bit of everything, from hiking to running to biking,” says Katy Ward, Liberty University’s assistant director of Outdoor Adventure. “We have some gravel trails and mostly natural trails, which runners really like.”
While multiple access points to the trails are available, Snowflex trailhead is the most popular . “Another great access point is the Hydaway Outdoor Center, which is open during the school year,” says Ward. “Our awesome staff are ready and available onsite to assist with any questions about the center”.
Liberty University is also home to one of the nicest indoor tracks in the country, luring top NCAA Division I athletes. In addition, the University of Lynchburg currently boasts some of the fastest runners in NCAA Division III.
Lynchburg Road Runners Club and Blue Ridge Trail Runners both feature an active local membership dedicated to bringing runners together through training and special events. Both provide an excellent resource for visitors looking to train while visiting Lynchburg or wishing to participate in an upcoming race.
Now in its 48th year, the Virginia 10 Miler is the oldest 10-mile race in the country. Held in September with plenty of fanfare, the rolling-hill race is both challenging and fun. Elite Runner Coordinator Bret Boman recruits professional runners from all over the world to participate.
Boman, who also serves as president of the Lynchburg Road Runners Club, love bringing in runners and giving them the full Lynchburg experience. “Our locals enjoy hosting the runners, providing them with home-cooked meals and showing them a good time. Instead of flying in and out for the race, participants can really get immersed in Lynchburg.”
Locally owned and operated, Riverside Runners was founded in 2000 by former University of Lynchburg athlete and coach Jeff Fedorko. Today, the business is a one-stop shop for runners, with specialty footwear, stylish apparel, training advice and information on upcoming races.
“As a company we’re involved in over 40 races each year, which is really unique for a city our size,” says Fedorko. “Each of our races benefits a non-profit. Races are open to locals as well as visitors and we encourage everyone to check out Lynchburg’s trails, too. The roads are always open.”
Running Tips in LYH
- Join a running group like Lynchburg Road Runners or Blue Ridge Trail Runners
- Join apps like Strava and Map My Run to see popular routes in Lynchburg or follow other runners
- Check Lynchburg Parks and Recreation for updates on trail closures
Laura Lee is a Virginia-based freelance writer who loves to explore the state with her husband, two boys, and dog, Lillian.