Hunting down the best trail runs in Australia and New Zealand ain’t an easy task. Luckily The North Face put us in touch with 3 of their runners who’ve thrown many a mile under their battered and blistered feet, and know where to look.


Blake Hose

The Great Ocean Walk, Victoria, Australia // Up to 100km

@blackhose     TNF Athlete Page

The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, Blake Hose, Tasmania, photo by Mark Watson

Blake Hose, keen for trails. – Photo by Mark Watson | @inciteimages

As a local of Geelong, I’m fortunate enough to have some of the best coastline in the world on my doorstep. Having run on trails all over the globe in places such as France, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, the US and Hong Kong, I can still happily say that it always gives me immense enjoyment to come back home. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that it’s ‘home’ for me, or just the nature of the flowing trails on the rugged coastline, that keeps me forever wanting more.

The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, Photo by Rapidascent, Blake Hose, Surf Coast, Great Ocean Walk, trail running

Blake runs through a tunnel of trees on the Victorian Coast – Photo by @rapidascent

The trails around the Anglesea and Aireys Inlet area are beautiful, and being so close it works really well for me to do a large volume of my running there. However, my absolute favourite place to get out on the trails is the 100km stretch of incredible trail called the Great Ocean Walk.

This trail spans from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles and encompasses some of the most varied and stunningly beautiful trails any trail runner or outdoor enthusiast could ask for. For me it’s equally as nice to run there at any time of year, from the heat of summer to the cold and windy depths of winter. I just never tire of the sights, sounds and smells that make up the incredibly tranquil wilderness of the south-west coast.

The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, Blake Hose, Tasmania, photo by Mark Watson

Photo by Mark Watson | @inciteimages

In all of the times I’ve run the trail (except during races) the only company present has been a few koalas, some kangaroos, snakes and echidnas — it’s one of the things I love about it most!

Victoria Beck

The Skyline Hills Overlooking Dunedin, New Zealand // 22km loop

Although I live in North Queensland at the moment, I’m from Dunedin, New Zealand and the running in the hills around there is definitely my happy place!

My favourite 2 to 2:15 hour run is along the skyline hills overlooking Dunedin. It starts at Woodhaugh Gardens, where you begin on an easy trail that runs beside the Leith River and slowly works its way up to Ross Creek Reservoir. Here you can have a few minutes of flat doing a lap around before beginning an easy ascent up above the reservoir, heading towards the Pineapple Track.
The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, Victoria Beck, Photo by Jim Skouras, Blue Mountains, NSW, Trail running month

Victoria Beck – Photo by Jim Skouras | Skouras Photography

Once at the base of the track, I usually go left and run up through McGouns Track to join on to the Pineapple track. McGouns has some boardwalks over small creeks, native forest and a lot of good memories!
On the Pineapple Track, the real work begins! The track gets steeper and when you pop out above the bush line, the spectacular views over the Dunedin harbour appear. Once you’ve slogged it out to the top of the track, turning right and running along the Leith Saddle will take you along an undulating (though often boggy in parts) 4WD track to the aptly named Swampy Summit. From here you can enjoy a stunning 360-degree view out over Dunedin and its surrounds, looking across to Mount Cargill and over to Waitati as you run down through the snow tussocks and back into the bush line.
The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, Victoria Beck, Photo by Jim Skouras, Blue Mountains, NSW, Trail running month

Photo by Jim Skouras | Skouras Photography

At the base of this track you cross State Highway 1 and can then run back down Leith Valley Road (which is a quiet dirt road for the most part) and finish off right back where you parked your car, with 830m of elevation gain and 22km under your belt!
The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, Photo by Victoria Beck, Dunedin, New Zealand, trail running month, ocean, grass, trail

The view of Dunedin from Swampy Summit – Photo by Victoria Beck

I’ve run this in every kind of condition — sun, snow, wind, fog (where we momentarily lost our dog!) and I always love it. You’ll see the tiny fantails darting nearby as you disturb insects on the trail for them, hear the beautiful song of the bellbirds, enjoy the coverage of native forest — not hard to see why it’s my happy place!

David Byrne

Mt Solitary, Blue Mountains, Australia // 40km loop

@thelongrunau     TNF Athlete Page

Living in the middle of Sydney is both a blessing and a burden. It’s one of the most stunning cities on the planet but, as a trail ultra runner with a passion for nature I’m often left longing for the hills and the feeling of isolation that you only get in wild places.

The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, David Byrne, Photo by Mark Watson, Tasmania, trail running month

Dave Byrne -Photo by Mark Watson | @inciteimages

Thankfully, it’s only a couple of hours drive west to the Blue Mountains. It’s a place where you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to trails that combine spectacular scenery with challenging terrain. While the steep inclines and sometimes muddy paths can be both mentally and physically taxing, the rewards greatly outweigh the demands of the trail. By rewards I don’t only mean the views. It’s the sense of accomplishment of reaching a mountaintop or completing a difficult route that means the most.

For me, Mt Solitary has to be a favourite. Standing at the Echo Point lookout you can see this imposing mountain standing proudly in the middle of the valley. It commands attention and for any visiting trail runner, or hiker for that matter, you’re drawn to explore it. Due to the arduous climb to the top, and the fact it’s removed from the main hiking routes,  you can often find yourself completely alone for the entire Mt Solitary loop, which for me is about a 40km journey. Within the area that surrounds Katoomba, you’ve also got the Prince Henry Clifftop walk, National Pass, Narrowneck fire trail, Ruined Castle and Federal Pass to name just a handful of the trails worth exploring.
The North Face Pros Reveal Their Favourite Trail Runs, David Byrne, Photo by Mark Watson, blue mountains, trail running month

Dave Byrne clifftop running in the Blue Mountains – Photo by Mark Watson | @inciteimages

When time permits, I like to head to the Grose Valley. This is a place for the more experienced trail runner. The tracks in this part of the World Heritage Listed Blue Mountains National Park are arguably the most challenging you’ll find in the country, but the backdrop is hard to beat too. Parking at Govetts Leap you can see the vastness of the wilderness below. In the distance are towering escarpments with sandstone cliff faces that turn gold at sunset.
If you can handle the seemingly endless steps that take you into the canyon you’ll be rewarded with epic scenery, waterfalls, streams, wildlife and on a winters day — absolute peace! The climb back to the car is a different story. It’s long, steep and on a summer’s day, very draining. But like I mentioned earlier, the feeling of achievement when you sit on the car bonnet, soaking with sweat, longing for a cold drink, somehow makes it all worthwhile.

 


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