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Lou’s Inbox: Running Trails at Walt Disney World

Lou’s email inbox is often full to overflowing with questions from listeners.  As such, he has enlisted the WDW Radio Blog writers to assist him in answering some of your questions.

“Hey Lou! (Obligatory beginning long rant). Want to say how much I love the podcast. I went to Disney World once as a kid, and while I grew up a huge Disney kid, I was never that concerned with going back. Several years, four years ago, I started dating, and am now engaged, to a lovely girl who grew up very close to Disney World and her whole family is obsessed with it. Her family took me last year for a week, and I fell in love all over again with Disney World. She and I are going again in March and your podcast has given me so many ideas of things to try and places to check out. With only us two, it will be much easier to just walk around and see all the little things that are so easily missed otherwise. (Now to the point of my email, haha) Last summer I got into running to help in some weight loss and have gotten into quite a habit. I looked on the DW website, and while they recommend a couple running paths, none looks super picturesque. (Granted, I am still learning the lay of the land, so I might be wrong in that assumption) Either way, I was hoping you, Mrs. Mongello, or someone with the WDW Running Team, might be able to recommend some good running paths, that might not be well known. I’d love to be able to run and maybe get a neat overlook of a park or something along those lines. Thanks for all that you do and I can’t wait to hear your next podcast. Alex Johnson”

Dear Alex,
Congratulations on your commitment to a healthier lifestyle through running!  And since you have been researching running paths to explore during your Walt Disney World vacation I would say you’re hooked—in a very good way.


Over my 17 years of participating in Walt Disney World races, I’ve discovered several places to run or walk. Some are using all or part of the WDW New Balance Running Trails and some are suggestions from running friends.  Are you ready? Lace up your running shoes and let’s go!


One of the most picturesque things you will see during your stay at Walt Disney World is a Florida sunrise.  If you are an early riser, treat yourself to a run at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn.  If you begin at the BoardWalk hotel and run the loop around the lake, the distance is one mile.  If you’re like me and want a challenge, take the channel path to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and back to the BoardWalk, which adds one mile.  If you run this path during the holidays and it is before the park opens, you can have a solo photo-op with the Hollywood Studios Christmas tree.  And finally, to add more miles, add the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel jogging path and the International Gateway path toward Epcot.  Running at the Boardwalk adds one more bonus—after your run you can treat yourself to coffee and croissant at the BoardWalk Bakery.


My next recommendation is a very scenic New Balance Running Trail, but it can be a challenge to access unless you are a guest of the Wilderness Lodge or Fort Wilderness Campground.  But if you can get there, you will be running through a lush pine and cypress forest and possibly see grazing deer or wild turkeys.  Start at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and take the Fort Wilderness exercise trail that is located near the resort bus depot.  Watch out for quickly approaching guests on bikes!  When you arrive at the campground, follow the sidewalk to loop the inner campsites, which will return you to the exercise trail to the Wilderness Lodge.  The loop total is 2.5 miles.  It is possible to extend your run through Fort Wilderness, but if you choose that option use extreme caution.  There are places where the sidewalk will end, forcing you to run on the road where there is a bustle of vehicular traffic.


The next option is best to run in the early morning hours before the Magic Kingdom opens.  If you begin at Disney’s Contemporary Resort you can run around Bay Lake Tower and the South Garden wing for a .89 mile run.  But if you take the brick path toward the Magic Kingdom and go past the entrance to the park, you can continue on the path until it ends at a water canal (another 1.5 miles).  This trail is not a long route but it does offer the benefit of running in the middle of the magic and the sounds and scenery on Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake is like no other.


My favorite running trail by far is the Hourglass Lake loop at Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.  The 1.28-mile loop is flat, is generally uncrowded whether you run in the morning or evening, and you can add miles through repeating loops around the lake or around the 50s and the 80s building loop.  Regardless of whether it’s early morning or late evening, I would recommend running the trail in the dark so you can enjoy the reflection of the neon lights on Hourglass Lake and so you can avoid mid-day sun (no shade).
One trail I have not explored yet is the New Balance Trail at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort.  The trails can take you a distance of .89 to 1.44 miles, but I have heard rumors that there are two trails, one from Carriage House and one from Congress Park that will take you to Disney Springs.  Once you’re at Disney Springs you can enjoy an early morning run to the West Side or to Hotel Boulevard.


So, Alex—the above are some of my favorite running trails at Walt Disney World, but I’ve only scratched the surface. When you get to your resort, check with guest services.  If you happen to find a Cast Member who also enjoys running, they can be a valuable resource.  Wherever you may run, bring water, use your sunscreen, and please be cautious at intersections and on the roadways—the vehicular traffic at Walt Disney World can be intense.
Happy trails!



(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)


To learn more about Kathy, the author of this post, and see her recent posts for the WDW Radio Blog, be sure to click her author link above.