Asphalt is nice for an easy neighbourhood jog, but if you’re keen to get some mud on your knees, some leaves in your hair, and maybe even some leeches in your socks, you need to suss out the best trail running routes in and around Sydney.
OK so leeches aren’t exactly a selling point, but with sweeping ocean views, tree-lined groves and rocky coastlines, Sydney’s trail running scene has it all.
Tucked away amongst the concrete jungle, there are some epic trail runs in Sydney that are perfect for both beginners and seasoned bush runners alike.
Here’s the lowdown on the best running adventures to be had in the north, south, east, and west of Sydney!
8 of the Best Trail Runs in Sydney
1. Bobbin Head & Sphinx Tracks, Turramurra
Stoke level: 6/10 – Sparkling water views with a bit of everything
From a side track off Bobbin Head Road, this trail has a bit of everything: open stands of smooth bloodwoods, marshy mangroves, Aboriginal heritage sites, posh marina views, a historic boatshed and… a Sphinx complete with mini pyramids.
The trail starts at this memorial carved by a returned soldier, then winds through the bush and along Cowan Creek before an uphill slog back to the trailhead.
2. Cape Solander to Cronulla, Kamay Botany Bay National Park
Stoke level: 7/10 – Great tracks and magic ocean views, but this popular spot can get busy with walkers
Kamay Botany Bay National Park is a great spot for trail running, with tracks that hug the coastline and the possibility of spotting whales in migration season (typically around May to July).
A network of tracks takes you from the whale observation platform at Cape Solander, over wind-eroded sandstone, through ferny glades, across grassy coastal pathways, and finally along Wanda and Eloura beaches. Finish up with a bite to eat or just recover on the sand at Cronulla.
3. A Great North Walk Teaser in Berowra
Stoke level: 10/10 – This is the stomping ground of some of the country’s best trail runners!
The Great North Walk is a monster, 250km of unrelenting trail running from Sydney to Newcastle. Whilst some bat-shit crazy trail runners complete this end to end, you can still get a great feel for the track and enjoy a tough day out covering just 12km or so.
Try Berowra to Cowan via Berowra Waters for an undulating adventure, or take a look at these three runs nearby:
4. A Hidden Gem in The Hills: Murri-Yanna Loop at Bidjigal Reserve
Stoke level: 8/10 – This is an incredibly pretty rainforest run only 10 minutes north of Parramatta
Tucked in the middle of residential streets and close to the M2, this lush rainforest trail is all dark mossy boulders, trickling creeks, twittering wrens, and towering shady gums.
An out and back track, this 8 – 12 kilometre track (depending on how many side trails you explore) covers multiple creek crossings, mixing flowy single track running with rocky technical sections.
5. Stay High or Get Low at Garigal National Park
Stoke level: 9/10 – Feel like you’re miles from anywhere on quiet bush tracks
Start at Manly Dam to get some extra time on feet or head straight to the guts of this national park, sandwiched between leafy St Ives and Belrose. Choose to stay high, rock-hopping across sandstone plateaus with views to Middle Harbour Creek below, or get some vert and drop down into the gullies for quad-burning Type 2 fun.
The Casuarina Track is a tough trail that hugs Middle Harbour Creek, starting near St Ives high school and finishing at a grassy picnic area. Check out the Davidson trail for pure hill-climbing hell.
6. Sunday Long Run in The Royal National Park
Stoke level: 8/10 – This track is so good there’s a race held here in September
If you’re looking for longer trail runs around Sydney, you can’t go past the variety and views of the Coast Track. Running for around 30km from Bundeena to Otford, this trail comprises technical root-covered tracks through thickets of palm trees, sweeping open boardwalk sections, stairs, rock shelves, and a smattering of tiny deserted beaches that will quickly fill your sneakers with sand.
Take this end-to-end run starting at either Bundeena or Otford, or pike out halfway at Wattamolla if your legs have had enough of the deceptively tough climbs.
7. Go West: Powerline & Perimeter Trails at Castlereagh Nature Reserve
Stoke level: 6/10 – Nice and relaxed but no epic views, unless you’re a birdwatcher
OK so Castlereagh Nature Reserve borders a juvenile detention centre, but hear us out: this 500 hectare park in the Western Suburbs offers nice easy running on wide flat fire trails.
Add in frequent wallaby sightings, robins, honeyeaters, and the odd rabbit, and it makes for just a nice calm run. Perfect for recovery days and easy social runs.
8. Foot of The Mountains: Knapsack Reserve
Distance: Choose your own adventure – 3km on flat fire trail or 20km+ through the rabbit warren of MTB tracks
Stoke level: 7/10 – This pocket of bush would be trail running’s best-kept secret if there wasn’t a race here every Australia Day
This disused rail trail packs a tonne of fun into a compact package. Great for runners and riders alike, a mind-boggling network of MTB tracks mix with fire trails and extreme stairs, loose rocky climbs, and flat kid-friendly walking paths.
Don’t let its highway location fool you: there’s a lot to love about this spot in Lapstone, including a pocket of dense green rainforest that hugs the creek, wallabies, black cockatoos and access to the architecturally satisfying underside of Australia’s oldest mainland bridge.
Feature photo by @tim_ashelford