From the Arctic Circle and scaling active volcanoes, retracing Roman walls and rugged coastlines, nothing beats the challenge and memories these epic trails present.
Local trail races and hand curated trail maps can take you on some outstanding routes, however its worth making a holiday out of the best trail running trails in Europe (also check out my guide of The Best UK Running Trails – Coastlines, Islands & Castles). Running was invented for trails such as these.
Below you’ll find epic routes that will stay with you for a lifetime.
(note: some are trials are entirely exposed to the elements, so read this article for tips on how to safely run in hot weather)
The 13 best bucket list trail running trails in Europe
#1: Alta Via, Italy – Dolomite region’s best trail running trails
Alta Via 1 is a 150km public footpath that doubles up as the most exquisite trail running trail in the entire Dolomite region and, indeed, Italy.
You begin at the largest natural lake in the Dolomites, Braies Lake. With mirror-like emerald waters you might take some persuading to set off at all but, trust me, it’s worth it. The trail covers beautiful mountain landscapes, dramatic glacial cliffs, icy glaciers, and lush forests.
The running trail ends in the charming village of Belluno. A well-earned meal at one of its pizzarias is a must.
#2: Lycian Way, Turkey – set of new trails along the Mediterranean coast
The Lycian Way is a fun running trail following the traces of the ancient trade route of the Lycians along the Turkish Mediterranean coast.
This path is a relatively new creation, opening up in the 1990s. The 509km Lycian Way is a marked footpath around the coast of Lycia in southern Turkey, from Fethiye to Antalya. It connects 18 ancient cities.
The trail consists mainly of Roman roads, old footpaths and mule trails, so the uneven terrain keeps you on your toes. Most runners will want to complete a small section of Lycian Way. Thankfully, there is good public transport and access points all along the trail.
Turkey is unbelievably hot, so when is the best time to visit the Lycian Way? There’s 4 solid months to do so: April, May, September and October. Don’t forget your hydration pack!
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#3: Jurassic coast, England – a UNESCO natural World Heritage Site
Running the Jurassic Coast involves 95 miles of breathtaking coastline from East Devon to Dorset, and a field trip of 185 million years of the Earth’s history.
The Jurassic Coast is a trail runner’s delight of steep climbs, rugged coastline and beautiful views. It stretches from Orcombe Point near Exmouth in East Devon to Old Harry Rocks near Swanage in East Dorset, a distance of 154 km.
One of the UK’s most popular trails in the Summer months, the diversity of the area is something to behold. You’ll explore mixed terrain, including chalk hills, high cliff tops, sandy beaches and hiking tracks.
#4: Neuschwanstein, Germany – hilly hike to the fantasy castle
Every year 1.4 million people visit fairy-tale castle (and inspiration behind Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle) and its well-maintained hiking trails make the perfect Alpine setting for an unforgettable trail run.
The 19th-century palace is nestled on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangau near Füssen in southwest Bavaria. From here, the grueling trail commands a steep vertical climb up the spine of Tegelbergkopf, topping out at 5198ft. The effort is worth it, promising stunning views stretching hundreds of miles.
You descent is a joyful one, of weaving forest paths popular with hikers, walkers and other runners, making the pilgrimage to arguably the most iconic castle in the world.
#5: Hadrian’s Wall, England – run 135km of Roman history
The mammoth Hadrian’s Wall route covers three counties and a beautiful part of the world that I was lucky enough to experience firsthand. Hadrian’s Wall path elevation profile is kind as the highest point on the path is only 345 meters (1130 ft) with a total elevation gain of 2,300 meters.
The trail from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend crosses through a mix of majestic landscapes and terrains, particularly in the popular middle section through Northumberland National Park.
One of my favorite trails, you’ll hug the coastline, encounter farm tracks and remote paths, see Roman ruins and fully intact sections of the Wall, cross urban areas long built on top of it, and take in the best of the British countryside.
Check out my full Hadrian’s Wall run review.
#6: The Arctic Trail, Norway – valleys, canyons & mountains
The Arctic Trail (Nordkalottleden) is a 800km hiking trail crossing the borders spanning northern Norway, Sweden and Finland. It is the most northerly epic trail in Europe, entirely above the Arctic Circle.
This spectacular route enables you to hike through several countries and experience the beautiful Arctic nature. The most popular running trail can be found in a remote region situated at the Northern reaches of the Reisa National Park and can only really be conquered in the Summer months. Free from snow and other obstacles.
The Reisa river has cut a valley and a canyon in the mountain plateau, where making home for peaceful lakes, lush waterfalls and lively rapids.
The Arctic Trail runs along the bank of the Reisa river, lined with traditional cabins and unmanned huts to sleep in. You won’t be alone in the wilderness – keep your eyes peeled for Arctic Foxes, wolves and reindeer along the route.
If the weather forecast is nippy, check out our tips for running in the cold.
#7: Mount Teide, Tenerife – altitude trail run with attitude
With a height of 3,718 metres, Mount Teide watches over Tenerife like a guardian of the island.
Short but steep, this loop route involves some 1,575m in climbing along its 25km length.
It’s not every day you get to take on active volcano. Your reward being a summit with a to-die-for sunrise. You’ll also be treated to views of mountains and sea, other Canary Islands and hot steam escaping the otherworldly fumaroles. The smell of sulphur burning your nostrils.
Starting and ending at the Cañada Blanca visitor centre, the long ascent to Pico del Teide’s summit is certainly daunting but so should the third largest volcanic structure in the world be.
Due to the popularity of the mountain, you’ll need to obtain a permit in advance of your run if planning to do it between the hours of 9am to 5pm.
#8: Pic du Midi, France – the most accessible Pyrenees summit
The Pic du Midi de Bigorre summit offers some of the best Pyrenees views above the clouds.
You’ll part with $47 for the cable car from La Mongie. Covering an elevation of 1,000m in 15 minutes and depositing you at an altitude of 2,877m. Braver souls can run the 6km up, instead. The best starting point to do so is the parking lot down the mountain to the northwest of the Col du Tourmalet.
You’ll pass over the icy Le Garat river, tracing its origins to the deep, blue lakes high above. Once at the summit, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea to one side and the Atlantic to the other.
#9: Sark, Channel Islands – a 10-mile trail running paradise loop
The smallest of the four ‘main’ Channel Islands, Sark, is perfect for every trailhead. It’s colorful history has seen it be home to monks, pirates and militia. You too can marvel in its dramatic coastline in a circular route covering 10 miles, and a maximum elevation of 337ft.
There are no cars or streetlights on Sark, making it the perfect escape from modern life. It’s no wonder it’s a favorite trail among trail runners, mountain bikers and hikers looking to disconnect for a few days.
The highlight of any journey round Sark is La Coupée: the railed pathway atop Sark’s isthmus. The concrete path weaves along the narrow cliff edge, undulating with the rock beneath and is quite something on a clear day.
#10: Zagori region, Greece – epic trails through two national parks
This off-the-radar slice of wild beauty is a cluster of 46 picturesque traditional villages in the wider area of Timfi, Pindos and Mitiskeli.
Zagori is also a forest bather’s nirvana with orchid-lined trails winding against a backdrop of the Pindos Mountains.
The Zagori region boasts a number of local trails in magical settings, including two national parks, alpine lakes, ancient villages and vertigo-inducing ravines. While many visitors to Greece obsess over the islands, it’s this remote, wooded region in the Pindos mountains that many Greeks and trail runners cherish.
#11: Vereda do Fanal, Madeira – known as the Hawaii of Europe
Madeira is lovingly referred to as the Hawaii of Europe. Bursting with lush vegetation, unpredictable micro-climates and cinematic landscapes. I personally loved the tropical beauty of Madeira for its striking resemblance to one of my favorite TV shows, Lost.
Yes, you could run the touristy spots in Funchal, but I’d suggest venturing to the North West of the island for the adventure trails.
Vereda do Fanal has a bit of everything. You have never-ending vistas over Rabacal Valley, the enchanting Laurisilva Forest and Fanal Forest, and jagged, imposing seacliffs. The landscape and weather changes very quickly in Madeira – one moment I’d find myself running amongst twisted trees on bouncy moss, onto waterfalls, plunging hillsides, and sun-blasted rock. Rock, sea, sky, forests.
If you’re looking for a carrot at the end of your run, I’d recommend Porto Moniz’s natural pool (pictured below). Heated by Madeira’s underwater volcano, the Atlantic’s waves wash into the lava pool’s leading edge, creating a dramatic yet perfectly-safe sheltered swim spot.
#12: Five Polish Ponds Valley Lakes, Poland – trekking mecca in Tatra National Park
The Valley of Five Polish Lakes (Dolina Pięciu Stawów) is a 17km round trail run of spectacular views but moderate undertaking. Best conquered in Spring, Summer, or Autumn.
The Five Polish Ponds Valley Lakes are found approximately 1700m-1900m above sea level, within the Polish Tatra mountain range. They are located in an old glacier bed that stretches over 4 km and covers an area of 6.5 km².
Imagine this, standing on the water’s edge, taking in the granite peaks of the High Tatras. Surrounded at lower levels by dense forests of spruce, pine and fir, pierced with swirling rivers, some 650 caves, and stunning waterfalls, including Wielka Siklawa, the highest waterfall in Poland at 70 metres.
Most tourists opt for the more accessible Morskie Oko in High Tatras—a beautiful lake surrounded by a wall of granite peaks.
That said, the Tatras are also home to the tallest mountain in Poland, Rysy. The highest point of the trail is 2,500 meters above sea level where you’ll be rewarded with a ridge that runs the length of the Slovakian border.
With all abilities catered for, it’s no surprise the Valley of Five Polish Lakes is a mecca for hikers, runners, cross-country skiers and off-road cyclists.
#13: Cinque Terre Blue Trail – Italy’s Most Beautiful National Park
The Cinque Terre UNESCO National Park is a trail runner’s paradise, offering a postcard-perfect views along the Sentiero Azzurro. The path connects all five villages of Cinque Terre – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
As you navigate through ancient stone walls and climb steep steps, you’ll be surrounded by lush vineyards and olive trees, secluded picnic stops, and dreamlike views of the Ligurian Sea. The path takes many twists and turns, climbs and descents, against an impressive mountainous backdrop.
All five villages double-up as unforgettable food stops, featuring regional delicacies such as artisan gelato, fritto misto (cones of fried fish) and pesto genovese. Yum!
Related reading: How to Start Trail Running