Thursday, January 12, 2012

Most Beautiful Colleges for Runners

Have a kid looking at colleges that's a runner? Or maybe you're the runner and you want to be able to run when you're visiting your kid at school? Or maybe you're the high school runner looking at colleges to attend next year or the following year? If so, check out the 14 Most Beautiful Colleges for Runners as selected by Best Colleges Online.

Ranking colleges is always difficult, but definitively ranking them based on something as subjective as beauty is impossible. Bearing in mind that every true and loyal alumnus/alumna thinks his or her school is the best, we made our picks for the 14 most beautiful college campuses for runners. We did our best to pick from all four geographic regions of the country, and we assumed optimal weather conditions (you’re welcome, northeast). Here are our picks, in alphabetical order:


  1. Colgate University

    Colgate claims to have one of the fittest student bodies in the nation. You can run inside the brand new Trudy Fitness Center, but you should run outside. Set in the beautiful Chenango Valley of New York, the campus sports gentle hills, a classy mix of old and new buildings, and the lovely, five-acre Taylor Lake surrounded by oak trees. In the fall, this place looks like a postcard.
  2. Swarthmore College

    The Scott Arboretum covers over 300 of the campus’ 425 acres and contains over 4,000 kinds of plants. In other words, the school is one giant garden. Take a jog down oak-lined Magill Walk, hit the running track on College Ave. that’s lined with flowerbeds, or do stairs at the grassy, shady Scott Outdoor Amphitheater.
  3. Williams College

    If you like to run, you’ll have plenty of company at Williams. At this small liberal arts college in Massachusetts, over half the students play a sport. And who could blame them — the 450 acres boast spectacular views of the Berkshire Mountains, coupled with beautiful architecture and well-manicured, rolling hills. Join the crowd and hike up Mount Greylock on Mountain Day.


  1. College of William & Mary

    If you want to run where Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe once walked, come here. One look at the buildings and it’s clear this school is historic. The impressive Wren Building is the oldest school building in the U.S. at over three centuries of age. The campus is also home to the gorgeous Wren Chapel, the elegant Brafferton building, and the picturesque Grim Dell Bridge. Take a jog around the pond and take in the azaleas when they’re in season.
  2. Florida Southern College

    FSC is another winner in the world of architecture, unsurprisingly as the campus was the only one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A run here will take you by the largest collection of his works in the world, including the eclectic Annie M. Pfeiffer Chapel, and the newly-restored esplanades, a 1.5-mile stretch of covered walkway.
  3. Furman University

    Furman is a runner’s dream. Originally a men’s academy, today both sexes enjoy the beautiful 450-acre campus here in Greenville, South Carolina. For a short run, there’s a two-mile trail through the woods around the sprawling lake in the center of campus. Marathoners can get their kicks on the 11-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail. Or just venture out across campus and take in the Place of Peace (a former Buddhist temple) or the Asia Garden, with its pond and bamboo trees.
  4. University of Virginia

    This campus was designed by Thomas Jefferson, and for a self-trained architect, he did an outstanding job. In 1973 the campus Rotunda was restored to his original design, and it is a fantastic landmark on this already historic campus. Stately Cabell Hall could almost be Constitution Hall, and the Chapel looks like something out of Westminster. But don’t shortchange the campus’ natural beauty — a jog through the gardens in spring or fall would be hard to beat.

    Being that RunnerDude is from North Carolina and a UNC-Chapel Hill grad, I'd be negligent and rude not to include some of our State's beautiful campuses...
  5. The University of North Carolina

    At the heart of campus stands the visual symbol of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For many years the Old Well served as the sole water supply for Old East and Old West dormitories.
    In 1897, the well was given its present decorative form at the direction of President Erwin A. Alderman, who described his beautification project as largely derived from the Temple of Love in the Garden of Versailles. In 1954 the well was given added beauty with brick walks, plantings, and benches. Students can bring good luck with a drink from the Old Well on the first day of classes. The perfect water stop for runners!
  6. North Carolina State University

    Enjoy a part of history when your run by State's famous Memorial Bell Tower. A letter from Vance Sykes (Class of 1907) to E. B. Owen, then serving as alumni secretary, is credited with the movement to construct a monument to those alumni killed in World War I. The memorial committee appointed Architect William Henry Deacy to design the tower in 1920. Its blending of Romanesque features and Gothic verticality are reminiscent of the towers of West Point. The 115-foot monument, called "a legend in stone" contains 1,400 tons of stone set on a 700-ton concrete base, and exceeded $150,000 in cost.    
  7.   Duke University 

    Duke offers many places to run including Duke Forest and the beautiful Sarah P. Duke Gardens. Often spoken of as "the crown jewel of Duke University," Duke Gardens occupies 55 acres in the heart of west campus, adjacent to Duke University Medical Center. It is recognized as one of the premier public gardens in the United States, renowned both for landscape design and the quality of horticulture, each year attracting more than 300,000 visitors from all over the world.


  1. Iowa State University

    In 1999, Iowa State was awarded the title of Medallion Site by the American Society of Landscape Architects. The campus has been praised for its use of trees and plants to tie together its mix of classic and modern buildings across the luscious 490 acres. Take a run past Lake LaVerne, through Reiman Garden, and circle back to watch the sun set on Beardshear Hall.
  2. University of Notre Dame

    This storied university is dotted with iconic spots like the famous Golden Dome. An easy two-mile jog around St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Lakes lets you take in the waters that give the school its full name, Notre Dame du Lac. For longer routes, seek out the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, a beautiful park and replica of the famous French shrine.
  3. University of Wisconsin

    Located on the banks of Mendota Lake in Madison, UW has a wonderful campus for runners and walkers alike. The main campus is nearly 1,000 acres and features the Lakeshore Nature Preserve on the north point. The Lakeshore Path is your destination for scenic running. It takes you up and down Picnic Point, the mile-long peninsula jutting out into the lake, and down the lane known as Willow Walk, named for the shady willow trees lining the path.


  1. Lewis & Clark College

    Nature is the star at Lewis & Clark College. Situated on a hilltop immediately adjacent to Tryon Creek State Park in Portland, the school is a breathtaking forest vista. Students are split on whether the reflecting pool with the view of Mount Hood, the ravine area, or the Rose Garden is the most stunning place to take in on a run. Don’t miss the terrific architecture of the sixteen-sided Flanagan Chapel.
  2. University of California, Santa Cruz

    UC Santa Cruz in the Santa Cruz Mountains of sunny California has it all: redwood trees everywhere, grassy hills, incredible views, and footbridges over ravines. With 2,000 acres of sheer outdoor goodness, one might expect the buildings to be an afterthought. Instead they are an accomplishment in their own right, with each college having its own unique style.
  3. University of Montana

    With majestic Mount Sentinel rising in the background, UM in Missoula consists of 200 acres of gorgeous Rocky Mountain real estate. The wide open areas and big, blue sky are as much a part of the beauty here as the vibrant green lawns and shady paths like Memorial Row. Check out the Kim Williams Nature Trail that starts at the north end of campus takes you along the Clark Fork River.
  4. University of Oregon

    The home of the Ducks in Eugene is another Pacific Northwest gem. With 3,000 trees in over 500 varieties, you’ll find plenty of shade for runs, not that you’ll need it given the cool mountain air. Visitors are regularly stunned by how green the campus grass is. And with an array of nice, modern buildings, plus two halls designated as historic landmarks, UO celebrates both the old and new schools of architecture.
What is your favorite College Campus for running?
There are tons of schools across the country with awesome campuses for running. Some small, some large. Be sure to leave a comment and let us know about about the great colleges in your area that offer great routes for runners.

Cast Your Vote! If so inclined, a vote of support for RunnerDude's Blog at The Top 100 Running Sites would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your readership!


    Miche said...

    Elon (Burlington, NC) is actually really nice as well.

    Great post!

    Bert said...

    Interesting. Have you ever been to the campus of Rice University in Houston?

    Kenley said...

    ECU in Greenville has some nice trails and is runner and walker friendly. My brother goes there now and I visited during Christmas. Take care. Oh, I will be doing the Outer Banks Marathon in November.

    Unknown said...

    Terrific post. I would have to say that running across one campus was the most beautiful place called Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

    RunnerDude said...

    Hi Miche! Excellent point. I agree! Beautiful campus and just down the road a bit from me!

    RunnerDude said...

    Hi Bert! No I haven't. Does it have a beautiful campus too?

    RunnerDude said...

    Hi Kenley! Yep, you pointed out another great NC campus. My sister-n-law and niece are ECU Pirates! Wake Forest in Winston-Salem is another great runnin campus. Part of he Mistletoe Half Marathon runs through it's campus.

    Christie S said...

    My first marathon ran through the University of Texas -one of my all time favorite 2+ miles in a marathon ever! Plus, my dad ran that portion with me-added bonus!

    Blog said...

    Florida Southern...are you referring to the trail around Lake Hollingsworth? Great running spot! My favorite!

    Anonymous said...

    I went to the University of Virginia... and it is where I first started to love running... It was and is beautiful! But man, I don't miss those HILLS!!!

    Medievalist said...

    I spent this past summer at UCSC, so I was very pleased to see it on your list - and you are right! The trails there are terrific (and the perimeter of campus offers some great hill-training opportunities).

    Calbbc said...

    Indiana University in Bloomington Indiana is a wonderful and beautiful place to run. Looking forward to doing my next half marathon in B-town this spring.