Our Favorite Runs

Next Opportunity Race Directors weigh in on their favorite runs in Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee!

We all have our favorite runs. It might be an easy, familiar loop around the neighborhood or long, arduous climb through the mountains. As we move into the second half of this year we here at Next Opportunity wanted to share a few of our favorite runs from our neck of the woods. These are necessarily race routes or clearly defined workouts. These runs are simply descriptions of the routes and locations we enjoy running the most.

Mike’s Favorite Runs

Compton Peak Summit

Location: Front Royal, Virginia

Distance: 12 Miles

Route Type: Out-And-Back

Why I Love It:  Compton Peak is a breathtaking high point in the northern reaches of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I used to run this route as an intense climbing workout with one of the most rewarding mountaintop views I’ve ever seen. Parking by Lake Front Royal near Bear Hollow in the Town of Front Royal this route follows the Appalachian Trail southbound as it climbs up the mountain entering the National Park, crossing the famous Skyline Drive, and culminating at the turnaround point at Compton Peak. On the outbound trip you will log 6 miles with roughly 2,500’ of elevation gain. The 12 mile round trip totals out with approximately 2,900’ of climbing. The run down the mountain could not possibly be more fun!

View this run here: https://www.strava.com/activities/499271391

The Breaks Park Loop

Location: Breaks, Virginia

Distance: 5 Miles

Route Type: Loop

Why I Love It: It’s simply not like anywhere else I’ve ever run. This short loop around Breaks Interstate Park in southwest Virginia has some of the steepest climbs and descents I’ve ever seen anywhere! On top of that it is simply gorgeous with rocky hillsides, flowing creeks, running along the Russell Fork River, and climbing on all fours up the Grand Canyon of the South.

View this run here: https://www.strava.com/activities/1421108544

The Redbird Crest Loop

Location: Hyden, Kentucky

Distance: 20 Miles

Route Type: Loop

Why I Love It:  Completing this loop is one of the most satisfying feelings I’ve had other than crossing a finish line. It’s a tough, technical 20 mile loop with several opportunities to “bail” and get back to the car. Resisting the urge to quit, tackling the long mileage, dealing with the heat and humidity that seems ever-present in that forest, and navigating the rough terrain make this an insanely rewarding run to complete.

View this run here:  https://www.strava.com/activities/1224508538

Lake to Linden on the AT

Location: Front Royal, Virginia

Distance: 14 Miles

Route Type: Out-And-Back

As you descend to Manassas Gap in Linden, VA this sign reminds you that you are running alongside history.

Why I Love It:  This is another great run I used to do regularly when we lived in Front Royal, Virginia. The out and back route follows the Appalachian Trail northbound from Lake Front Royal to the community of Linden, Virginia 7 miles away. It’s a great “everything” run with climbs, descents, ridgeline running, mountain top meadows, and razor sharp rocks. It has it all but not too much of one thing. It is probably the best run I’ve ever done that works out every part of your trail running game.

View this run here: https://www.strava.com/activities/506499009

Brandy’s Favorite Runs

The Pinnacles

Location: Berea, KY

Distance: 5ish Miles

Route Type: Out-And-Back from Parking lot to East Pinnacle, West Pinnacle, then back to parking lot

Why I Love It: It’s a challenge!  The terrain is a mix of mud, sand, rock, and root. The first half mile is steady climb, then it levels out for a little, then you’re climbing again.  The view is definitely worth the climb! Aside from the fact that it’s a great place to run, Berea has always held a special place in my heart, the East Pinnacle in particular.  I met my husband and we started our family there. Mike proposed to me on a hike at the East Pinnacle. So many memories are attached to this area.

One of the many great views at the East Pinnacle.

Jefferson Memorial Forest

Location: Fairdale, KY

Distance: 6ish

Route Type: Red Loop

Why I Love It:  This adventure started with no real destination in mind, so I ended up at Tom Wallace Rec area, next to a little lake. I took off across the dirt damn, fishermen looking on probably wondering what I was doing, when I came across a gaggle of geese. I attempted to continue on to the trail, but the alpha goose wasn’t having it. He chased me, y’all! I pulled some Usain Bolt time making my way back across the damn.  It was incredibly scary and I had flashbacks to when I was five and chicken chased me and pecked me on the head! Also, for reference, the inside of a goose’s mouth looks like this:

*not the actual offender

Terrifying. I ran back to my car and ended up over at the Red Loop near the Horine Center. So, basically I love the Red Loop because I didn’t see a single goose on it.

Windrock Mountain

Location: Oliver Springs, TN

Distance:  Any distance you want

Route Type: Out and back, Loop, choose your own adventure

Why I Love It:  I grew up on this mountain and love to go back to visit. I would take off from my Gran’s house and spend the day on the yellow dirt road, running around with my cousins and spending the entire day exploring new trails. Going back always reminds me of those days.