Three routes, three distances, three ways to see the big Texas town flash before your very eyes.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Gracious and bold, San Antonio blends deep, Mexican roots with a down-home cowboy culture that puts even the most uptight traveler at ease. Like most cities on the rise, the art-and-food scene is booming, breathing life into downtown and creating countless juxtapositions of old and new. Loft apartments sidle up to colorful bungalows and Victorian mansions, and historical sites surprise at every turn. Public art pops-up in the most unlikely places, and — in terms of price, flavor, and creativity — it's giving Austin's food scene a run for its money. Simply put, San Antonio is well on its way to becoming a not-so-hidden Texas gem.
But I digress. Folks, this is Texas and there’s no time to mess around. Yes, you’ve landed in an oasis of breakfast tacos, brisket, and beer, but that is no excuse to skimp on your long run or forget to do hills. Unhand the tamale, lace up your running shoes, and rev the engine — you'll (mostly) have to drive.
BEST TOURIST ROUTE EVER: South Town/River Walk
This easy-to-access route takes you through the heart and soul of the city. The touristy (but worth-it) River Walk is full of historic sites best seen on foot. The loop begins at Tito’s Restaurant in south town — the city’s artsy, bohemian enclave — where the owner is more than happy to let runners use the restroom. Rumor has it that he’s a triathlete himself, and besides, you’ll stop post-run to refuel! Be sure to hit the roads early as crowds pick up mid-morning.
Where: Begin at Tito’s Restaurant in south town, run downtown, past the Alamo, through the revamped Pearl Brewery complex, along the banks of the San Antonio River, and back up through the Historic King William district.
Length: Six miles.
When to go: Early morning is best to avoid the heat and the crowds.
Good to know: Don't hesitate to hop on and off the River Walk or take a short detour to see the sites. I suggest buying a handcrafted souvenir at La Villita Historic Art Village, an art community located in one of the first neighborhoods in San Antonio.
What you'll see: La Villita, the Alamo, Pearl Brewery, San Antonio Museum of Art, Cathedral of San Fernando (the oldest cathedral in the nation), historic houses in the King William district.
Route map: See here.
INCLINED TO INCLINE: Hills and Dales Ice House 3-Miler
Uh-huh, Hill Country. This run starts at Hills and Dales Ice House (15403 White Fawn Drive) because nothing screams Texas like a good, old-fashioned biker bar. Dump the car in the lot, grab your turn sheet, and head out for a glorious loop that includes serious hills (you can see downtown from the top, promise).
Since H & D doesn't open until noon, morning runners should plan on finishing up next door at Aguascalientes Taqueria (25020 Blanco Rd). Endless mugs of coffee and the most delectable breakfast tacos await you — after tackling High Mountain Road, of course.
Where: Begin at Hills and Dales Ice House/ Aguascalientes Taqueria. You’ll run through neighborhoods that are about as close to hill country as you can get while still being in city limits.
Length:3 miles (do another loop or two for more!)
When to go: Early morning for breakfast, evening for beer.
Good to know: This route winds through a few different neighborhoods, so be sure to take a turn sheet.
What you'll see: The start of hill country, deer, nature, and a view of downtown San Antonio from High Mountain Rd.
Route map: See here.
THE MULTI MILER: 9-Mile Mission Reach Trail
This freshly paved, eight-mile stretch of greenway, an extension of the River Walk, follows the San Antonio River out to the 18th century missions. Part of an eco restoration project, you'll find that amenities like parking, bathrooms, and water fountains are readily available. The trail features mile markers, too, so run free, but be prepared —the hills feel decidedly harder on the way home! When you're finished, you can rent a kayak and cover the same course from the water.
Where: San Antonio Mission Reach Trail picks up on Lone Star Blvd by Roosevelt Park. Parking is available at the park.
Length:16 miles out and back
When to go: Saturday morning. That way, you can head over to the Pearl Brewery Famers Market for post-run eats and live music.
Good to know: If you find yourself at Pearl midday, Cured is a new restaurant located in the former Pearl Brewery admin offices. Aside from the architectural eye candy, highlights include a 9x11 meat display.
What you'll see: Ruins of the Hot Wells Hotel, a 19th and 20th century spa popular with the Hollywood set. Also, the missions are stunning, and it is worth following the signs off-greenway to experience them for yourself.
Route map: See here.