5 Awesome Athens Trail Runs


The Athens Trail at Strouds Run State Park. Photo by Joel Prince.


This May, Athens will host the Thunderbunny 50K, the county’s original ultramarathon. It will take runners on a 50-kilometer (that’s 30.1 miles, for those of you keeping track) excursion through the forested hills of Strouds Run State Park. If a 50K sounds a little steep for you, there’s also a 25K and a 12K route.

Of course, it’s probably a good idea to warm up for the big day by putting in some miles before heading to the start line. Regardless of which path you’re taking, these five routes are sure to get you in shape for the big day.


Route #1: The Thunderbunny Trail
The Thunderbunny Trail is the opening and ending trail of the Thunderbunny 50K course. The 2.7 mile, one-way trip is a gently rolling single-track and is easy to follow. The stopping point is the road after you’ve crossed the creek. Log some extra miles by repeating the trail in the opposite direction for a 5.4-mile round trip.
Route Mileage: 2.7 miles (one-way)
Thunderbunny 50K Course Mileage: Miles 2-5.7 and miles 28-30.5
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
Level: Easy to Moderate
Location: Pioneer Cemetery Trailhead (39.352754, -82.048256)




Route #2: The Sundown Trail
The Sundown Trail is the longest continuous trail at Strouds Run State Park. Park at the beach and enjoy the scenery as you run the entire single-track Sundown Trail for 6.2 miles to the Dow Lake Dam. You can either turn around to make it a long 12.4-mile run or complete the loop around Down Lake by running the Hickory Trail to make it 10 miles.
Route Mileage: 6.2 miles (one-way)
Thunderbunny 50K Course Mileage:  Miles 7.9-14.1
Elevation Gain: 750 feet
Level: Moderate
Location: Entrance to beach (39.354237, -82.036434)




Route #3: Sells – Trace – Finger Rock – Rock House
This route provides a preview of almost the entire backside of the Thunderbunny 50K course. Start at Sells Park just off East State Street in Athens, and run up the Athens Trail to the Trace Trail. Upon finishing Trace Trail, turn right to go up Finger Rock Trail and run that until you come to an intersection. At the intersection, veer right on the Athens Trail. Take the first left on the White Oak connector, which will take you to the Rock House Trail. Stay on this trail, and you’ll end back at Sells Park to finish this incredible 7.2 mile loop.
Route Mileage: 7.2 miles (loop)
Thunderbunny 50k Course Mileage: Miles 25-27.2; Miles 17-19; Miles 22-25
Elevation Gain: 1000 feet
Level: Moderate to Difficult
Location: Sells Park Trailhead (39.343563, -82.074518)



Route #4: Rock House + Connector Trail Hill Workout
If you are searching for a good hill workout before the race, try this route—it’s a dandy! Start at Sells Park just off of East State Street, and enter the Rock House Trail. The Rock House Trail is a casual 2.5-mile trail alone, but you can increase the difficulty by running all of the side connector trails. Every time you see a connector trail to the left off of Rock House Trail, run it to the top and back. There are six of these hilly connector trails in total. When you reach the end, either run the flat Rock House back to Sells Park, or make it a harder workout by repeating the hills again.
Route Mileage: 8.5 miles or 12 miles (out and back variation)
Thunderbunny 50k Course Mileage: Not specifically on course (Rock House is Miles 22.5–25)
Elevation Gain: 1250 or 1750 feet
Level: Difficult
Location: Sells Park Trailhead (39.343563, -82.074518)



Route #5: Hickory Trail
This is a great trail for an easy run or hike. Park just off of Route 50 at the Dow Lake Dam. Cross the dam and enter the Hickory Trail. You then have a 2.8-mile flat double-track trail until you reach the other side of the lake. Once you reach the Trace Trail, run up a bit to check out the old Pioneer Cemetery before making your way back to the parking lot.
Route Mileage: 2.8 miles (one-way)
Thunderbunny 50k Course Mileage: Miles 14.1-17
Elevation Gain: 100 feet
Level: Easy
Location: Dow Lake Dam Trailhead (39.335213, -82.016384)


Happy running!