Australia’s second-largest city is known for being the nation’s home of sport, and as such, there’s little wonder that you’ll find thousands of people out running around every corner of Melbourne at any time of year.
There’s no shortage of places to hit the pavement with both feet, whether it’s in the heart of the CBD, out by the beaches or in Victoria’s picturesque native bushland.
If you love running as much as we do, make sure you check out this list of the top trail running spots in Victoria.
The Tan Track - 4km
Known to be the most popular running trail in all of Melbourne, the Tan Track in the Royal Botanic Gardens is a mostly-gravel path that offers lovely views of the Yarra River, the city skyline and some of the garden’s best highlights.
Start from the Pillars of Wisdom, close to where Alexandra Avenue and Olympic Boulevard meet, and run in a clockwise direction, following the distance markers that are set out every 250m. This will mean you get to take on the challenge of running up Anderson St, a 30-40 degree incline that runs for 650 metres.
It’s very scenic and close to the CBD, so access is easy for most people. The entire track is lit up until midnight, so it’s perfect for a quick after-work jog too.
Check out the 10 fastest times by males and females posted on the pillar at the start, and try and get your own personal best every time you hit the track. The current record is a blitzing 10 minutes and 8 seconds by Craig Mottram.
It's also worth exploring the tracks that can be found surrounding the Botanical Gardens, while the grassy hill near the start of the Tan is great for hill sprints.
Mount Oberon, Wilsons Promontory - 7km circuit
If you're prepared for a drive out of Melbourne, Mount Oberon in Wilsons Promontory National Park is an iconic Victorian trail and a trail run to remember. The relatively short run, at 7km return, is made a lot harder by the 558m climb up. But the view at the top is the ultimate reward.
A great way to get the most of this trail run experience is to add on a day or two...or three...of hiking. You will need to book a spot, but the circuit which runs through Sealer's Cove, Refuge Cove and Little Waterloo Bay is one of the most pristine and spectacular trails in Victoria.
Yarra Bend Park
One of the best places for trail running that remains close to the city is Yarra Bend Park. There are hidden trails for exploring and stunning runs that follow the course of the Yarra River.
Access points can be found along the river in Abbotsford and along the Kew Boulevard. The trails that follow the river aren't always accessible or ideal during the colder months or wetter days, as they can become quite slippery and boggy. On the other hand, during those hot summer days, it is worth keeping your wits about you, as there can be some happy snakes trying to sun themselves on rocks and hot concrete trails. But that is just part of the challenge, right?
This area is great for trail runners as you can create a new route every time you run, while there are plenty of hills to get the heart rate going. Simply park along the Kew Boulevard if you are driving in.
St Kilda Foreshore - 11km
St Kilda is Victoria’s hippest town, the place to see and be seen, so a run along its foreshore is a must-do for anybody looking for the best trails in Melbourne.
This 11km-long track starts in Port Melbourne and follows the coast all the way to Elwood, passing by the pier, sea baths and the lovely Catani Gardens.
The entire trail is paved and is often quite busy, so we recommend hitting it first thing in the morning. If you love the people watching though, start your run just before dusk to really soak up the atmosphere.
St Kilda is also home to some of the best bars, cafes and restaurants in all of Melbourne, so you’ll be spoilt for choice for a place to grab a bite to eat if you’re feeling peckish at the end of your run.
Westerfolds Park - Varied distances
Westerfolds Park is a large park in Templestowe, in Melbourne's north-east. Similar to Yarra Bend Park, there are a range of options for trail running in Westerfolds Park.
Swap the bats of Yarra Bend for kangaroos at Westerfolds, which can often be seen bounding across open areas in the park.
The Yarra River continues up along the north-west perimeter of the park, creating opportunities for great trail running.
Albert Park Loop - 5km
Home to the Melbourne Grand Prix, Albert Park is a great place to go for a run for those who are just easing into their fitness regime or would prefer to not fully exert themselves.
The Albert Park Loop is a picturesque 5km-loop that is almost completely flat, making it perfect for beginners. It wraps around the lake, filled with swans and lovely views, with markers every 500m to help you keep track of how far you’ve gone.
There are also water fountains after each kilometre, so you can leave your water bottle at home and run light.
As a warning, the winds coming in off Port Phillip Bay can be quite strong, so make sure you’re prepared for it.
Dandenong Ranges National Park - 1.4km - 4.8km
If you’re looking for a break from the city, then heading out to Dandenong Ranges National Park is a perfect escape from the traffic.
There’s a range of different trails in the park to check out, but the most famous one is the Kokoda Memorial Walk, also known as the ‘1000 Steps’. This gruelling 1.4km-long flight of stairs was created as a tribute to the soldiers that suffered on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea during World War II. Trying to charge the entire length without stopping is a huge challenge, and will really put your body to the test, but also because of the number of people doing the same on a Sunday morning.
If you want to avoid the crowds, there is a wide access path to the left of the steps that few people run on but which offers the same verticle climb without the steps or crowds.
Once you’ve paid your respects at the top of the 1000 Steps, continue on a bit past where everyone takes a photo and a breath. Very few tourists go beyond this point, but you will find a stunning network of trails to run on with many lookouts along the way. Try the 4.8km-long Sherbrooke Trail while you're in the area. Surrounded by native bushland and chirping birds, it’s one of the most scenic running trails in Victoria.
Coastal Walk, Mornington Peninsula - varied distances
A wee drive out from Melbourne, but definitely worth the trip, is the Coastal Trail that runs down the Mornington Peninsula.
Many people walk along this trail, usually choosing to walk a section at a time. The trail officially starts at Cape Schank, and follows the coastline all the way to Point Nepean National Park, which ends up at almost 40km long. But this is also an ideal trail-running track, with some of the most epic views you can get near Melbourne.
Visit the official Coastal Trail website for detailed information about each section of the trail. This is ideal for two or more people, as you will need to park one car at your final destination.
Capital City Trail - 29km
One of the longest loops in the city, the Capital City Trail is a combination of many of Melbourne’s best running tracks, all linked up to form an excellent (and challenging) 29km jaunt.
Most people tackle the Capital City Trail in sections, focusing on parts like the Yarra River, Moonee Ponds Creek, Merri Creek and Inner Circle Rail, to explore some of the unique neighbourhoods of Melbourne.
There’s no shortage of places to stop along the way for a break either. Abbotsford Convent is filled with great cafes to grab a drink or a bite to eat, and by the river has lots of lovely spots to sit down and stretch.
If you’re training for a marathon doing the entire trail is a must-do, plus you’ll get bragging rights with all your fellow Melbourne runners.
Cathedral Ranges - 11km/18.2km
If you are feeling adventurous and really want to push yourself, trail running in the Cathedral Ranges is a must. One of the most popular day trips for those seeking a beautiful hike, it is worth bringing your camping gear here and spending the weekend exploring the trails.
The steep incline to The Green Hill peak, which sits at 1,241 metres above sea level will challenge you like nothing else, while the 18.2km ridgeline circuit will force you to slow down as you navigate some of the more precarious sections of the trail.
Most people walk these trails, but you will find yourself in the company of some other trail runners. This is not one to be missed!
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Find a trail with beaches, forests and award-winning architecture in one.