Trail characteristics: Brad Viers, manager of Charm City Run in Bel Air, says the MA & PA trail has a well-maintained paved or crushed-gravel surface and is wide enough for 10 runners at certain points. "There are a few large hills," he says, "but most are gradual inclines." Though the Bel Air portion of the trail is shady, in Fallston the trail crosses open fields and can be hot in the summer.
Why runners like it: Aside from its convenience — the trailhead is in downtown Bel Air — the MA & PA boasts a few boardwalks over marshland that Viers describes as "very cool."
More information: mapatrail.org/
Middle Patuxent Environmental Area
Location: Howard County
Where to park: On Trotter Road in Clarksville.
Length of run: There are three trails that can be combined a variety of ways; most runs are five to eight miles.
Trail characteristics: Howard County Striders member Donnie Chapman says the trail is "mostly smooth and easy running with a few challenging hills." The trails are shady, with some sections that run along the Patuxent River.
Why runners like it: Chapman says the trail is "good for beginners" and anyone looking for an easy run in a pretty, natural setting.
More information: howardcountymd.gov/DisplayPrimary.aspx?id=2298
Patapsco Valley State Park
Location: Howard and Baltimore counties
Where to park: Numerous lots in both counties.
Length of run: With 170 miles of trails (including 70 that are maintained), runs may range from brief to very long.
Trail characteristics: Trails vary within the park: Some are paved, while others are rougher and rockier. Howard County Striders' Chapman describes some of the runs as "rocky, steep and challenging," but also mentions that some parts of the park offer easier options. The park straddles the Patapsco River; on some summer runs, Chapman runs through shallow portions of the river. Other runs cross a pedestrian suspension bridge traversing the river.
Why runners like it: Chapman appreciates the park for its challenging course, its river views and features like the suspension bridge. Plus, the park is filled with family-friendly amenities, including bathrooms and playgrounds.
More information: dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/central/patapsco.asp
Quiet Waters Park
Where to park: Multiple lots within the park
Length of run: There are six miles of trails within the park.
Trail characteristics: Quiet Waters' trails are paved and flat, sunny in parts and shady in others. The trails loop through the park; some spots offer views of the Chesapeake Bay.
Why runners like it: Noelle Tarr, marketing director at Fleet Feet Sports in Annapolis, describes Quiet Waters as "cute and quaint." Though the trails are heavily trafficked (with people and dogs), the setting is relaxing.
More information: http://www.aacounty.org/recparks/parks/quietwaters/
Robert E. Lee Park
Location: On the northern border between Baltimore City and Baltimore County
Where to park: Near the Falls Road light rail station (6101A Falls Road, Baltimore).
Length of run: There are multiple trails through the park; runs can range from half a mile to several miles.
Trail characteristics: Robert E. Lee's trails are diverse, according to Cucuzella. "They're mostly shady," he says, "but there's some sun. Overall, the footing is pretty good. One trail skirts the side of Lake Roland — but running the other side of the lake is like bushwhacking sometimes." The park also has a popular enclosed dog park.
Why runners like it: "The city location is great," says Cucuzella. He also likes the scenic view of the lake and the diversity of the trails.
More information: baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/programdivision/naturearea/relpark/index.htm
Location: Baltimore City
Where to park: On the street in Roland Park or near the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.
Length of run: Two miles; runners often combine the trail with longer runs around the adjacent neighborhoods
Trail characteristics: The Stony Run Trail is riddled with history; it was part of Frederick Law Olmsted's 1904 park plan for the city. Running north from Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus to Roland Park, Stony Run is a dirt path running along a stream. The path is well-maintained and shady, with views of the water.
Why runners like it: Though runners can sometimes hear traffic, the path is a shady, pretty, convenient alternative to running on the street. John Roemer calls it "a great respite from pounding the roads."
More information: dnr.state.md.us/greenways/counties/baltimorecity.html
Susquehanna State Park
Location: Harford County
Where to park: Multiple parking lots near Havre de Grace.
Length of run: The park has about 15 miles of trails, with numerous options for loops.