Trails and Tips

Kevin Richardson offers information and tis for those wishing to "Run" while at Walt Disney World


Even though most people find a day at Walt Disney World full of enough activity already, there are literally thousands who do not want to forgo their daily runs, even during vacation. Information on where to run, including maps at some resorts, can be picked up at the front desk of your resort. Some are even included in the resort section of this website. Below is a compilation of information that should be beneficial for any of you planning on running during your stay at WDW. It is derived from various sources, but mostly from personal reports. Hope you find it helpful!

Contemporary Resort Hotel

The best choice for guests staying at the Contemporary is to head toward the Magic Kingdom. Once you reach the main entrance to the park, stay on the brick walkway, going past the boat launches to the resorts and to the left of the monorail station. The course continues for a short distance along the Seven Seas Lagoon until it ends at a small canal. This is a very flat course, about 1.5 miles long, and one that is heavily traveled between the hotel and the Magic Kingdom. It is particularly crowded during the hour leading up to park opening and on until lunchtime. It is also completely unshaded, and is best suited for early morning runs, or runs later in the evening.

Polynesian Resort

Another of the original resorts at WDW, the Polynesian offers a running course throughout its lush grounds. A jogging map can be obtained at the front desk as you check in.

About a third of the path passes along the Seven Seas Lagoon, before essentially outlining the resort grounds. This is a very pleasant path, particularly in the morning. The path offers little shade, despite the wealth of tropical vegetation along the way. The course is somewhat winding, and therefore requires runners to exercise caution to avoid collisions with others.

For those who wish to add on some distance, the path can be extended by continuing past the Tahiti building towards the Transportation and Ticket Center. But the most pleasant choice would be to continue on past the Fiji and Aotearoa buildings, following the signs directing you to the Spa. The brick path will lead you beside the shore of the Seven Seas Lagoon, where you can hear the small waves lapping at the white sand beach. The path turns to sidewalk as it continues past the Wedding Chapel, eventually reaching the theme swimming pool at the Grand Floridian. This relatively wide path provides excellent visibility ahead of you, making this a true treasure of a run. The lack of shade makes this a better choice for cooler periods, however.

Grand Floridian Resort

The Grand Floridian sets the standard for elegance at WDW. For guests wishing to run, the path which runs along the Seven Seas Lagoon offers the best opportunity. Runners can join the path easily from Buildings 5, 7, 8 or 9, but it is quite convenient from anywhere on the resort. The path is unshaded, but offers a lovely view of the resort. As described in the section on the Polynesian Resort, more adventurous runners can take the walkway past the Wedding Chapel on to the Polynesian Resort (or even on to the TTC!). The paths are wide and have an easy view of what is in front of you, as well as a view of the lagoon, the Magic Kingdom, and the other monorail resorts.

Caribbean Beach Resort

One of WDW's moderate resorts, CBR provides a pleasant 1.4 mile promenade around the lake at it's center. The promenade is a paved path and is easily accessible from any of the villages which encircle the lake. This course offers excellent views of the resort grounds. As you pass from one village to the next, you never lose the lush island feel of the resort. Along the way, you will encounter several varieties of birds. In the morning, you will also encounter people walking to Old Port Royal for their first cup of coffee, so be alert.

Port Orleans Riverside

A paved path is provided for either running or walking at this resort. Covering 0.7 mile, this course follows the scenic, meandering Sassagoula River, forming a closed loop. An idyllic course, the scenery provides plenty to look at, as you wind along. The paths are wide and provide some shade along the way. They also provide a good view ahead of you, helping to prevent "unplanned introductions" to other guests.

Old Key West Resort

The designated running course for this resort begins at the basketball and volleyball courts in the recreation area. The path follows Peninsular Road south, passing Buildings 54 and 55 before turning north again along the river. This course is quite wide and provides excellent visibility. What it does not offer is shade, and is therefore best used during cooler periods.

Coronado Springs Resort

This moderate resort is built around Lago Dorado ("Golden Lake"). Surrounding the lake is a 3/4 mile path for runners and walker to use. Most of this course provides wide walkways with good visibility. On the portion that does not, near the theme pool and the Ranchos, use a bit more caution. The view is mostly of the buildings and the lake. Do not look for any shade. A brief excursion can be made from the normal course by taking the walkway that leads to the Ranchos and Cabanas. This path features a wooden path through a genuine wetlands area. The view of native vegetation, with large evergreen trees draped in Spanish moss, makes this little section a real gem.

Epcot Area Resorts

Your hosts at WDW have identified 4 running courses in this area, which are identified on the map. The first path covers 7/8 mile and runs along the Boardwalk Canal. Very little shading makes this one of those courses which should be reserved for cooler times of the day. This course is most easily accessed from the Dolphin and Swan, as well as the Boardwalk Resort.

Course #2 is essentially a large loop around the Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts, while following Epcot Resorts Boulevard. It covers 1.3 miles and is fairly easy to reach from any of the resorts. The map also identifies a 1/4 mile section of course from the Dolphin and Swan hotels that can be added on to either of these courses.

The third course is roughly 0.8 mile and travels around Crescent Lake. This is the most central course to the area, and can be reached easily from all of the resorts. This course in particular gives the runner a chance to sample the varying "flavor" of each resort as you pass through it. These first three courses cover wide wooden walkways as well as paved paths with excellent visibility.

Throughout this area, you can catch glimpses of Epcot, including Spaceship Earth and the Eiffel Tower. In addition, distance can be added to these courses by following the walkways to Epcot and to MGM Studios. Course #4 is the longest course, following along Epcot Resorts Boulevard and part of Buena Vista Drive. The scenery is largely devoid of water views, which is a change from the other courses in the resorts. The winding sidewalk and rolling terrain for parts of this course require the runner to use caution. There is very little room on the grass beside the sidewalk in places, so it is not always easy to avoid pedestrian traffic. It is only partially shaded, and therefore not a good choice for the hotter parts of the day.

Pop Century Resort

Pop Century remains incomplete several years after the completion of the "Classic Years" (1950s-1990s), and running opportunities will no doubt change if and when the second half is completed.  For now, though, a combination of the walking path that adjoins Hour Glass Lake and the outer perimeter of the parking area makes a nice near two-mile lap.  Be very careful to avoid the high traffic entry drive.  Starting at the front entrance (where DME drops off guests), run straight out the drive, turning left into the main parking area.  Run along the outer perimeter to its end, joining up on the sidewalk that begins to the left.  Run along Hour Glass Lake to the turn for "Generation Gap Bridge." Turn right, runnning the bridge round trip.  Turn right, completing the run along the lake.  At the end of the trail, follow the outer perimeter road, back to the entry drive.

Fort Wilderness Campground

Wilderness Swamp Trail offers runners/walkers a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the primitive nature of this part of Florida. Begin at the Fort Wilderness Trading Post and follow the gravel road through the woods along the edge of Bay Lake for about 400 yards. The path crosses a small bridge, which is where the Swamp Trail actually begins. This trail winds throughout an actual swamp. All along both the path and the trail you are surrounded by cypress trees draped with Spanish Moss. The swamp trail is comprised of sandy soil which is refreshing to your legs, but can require extra care for proper footing. This part of the trail is roughly 500 yards, for a total out and back distance of approximately 1.1 miles.

Fort Wilderness also boasts a Fitness Trail/Bike Path, which begins just past the petting farm. Crossing the road, the paved path begins. It meanders along, running parallel to West Wilderness Road, eventually arriving at Wilderness Lodge. Along the way, the path is shaded by tall pine trees, covered with Spanish Moss. Because the path is shared by pedestrians and cyclists alike, caution must be used for safety. The width of the path, and the lines of sight for users of this delightful course add greatly to making it as safe as it is refreshing.

Wilderness Lodge

The Wilderness Lodge Nature Trail begins behind the lodge at the boat rental area. As with the Swamp Trail at FW Lodge, this path is sandy soil which is very easy on your legs. The trail runs behind the Wilderness Lodge Villas, then turns right and intersects with the Fitness Trail/Jogging Path. A sign indicates that going left will take you to the FW Campground, and going to the right will take you to the bus stop in front of Wilderness Lodge.

During spring and summer months, the trails and paths at both FW Campground and Wilderness Lodge will have gnats and mosquitoes. This is to be expected, as they run along Bay Lake and pass through a wetlands area. This situation will be worst during the early morning and early evening hours. Despite this fact, these paths and trails are among the most pleasant for walking or running at any of the Disney World resorts. Because these parts are relatively well shaded, they can be suitable for use even during the hotter parts of the day, while other family members are either napping or enjoying the swimming pools.

To Hotel Boulevard & Beyond

Staying at one of the Hotel Boulevard hotels gives vacationers plenty of opportunity for running or walking. The boulevard, running from Highway 535 up to the Disney Marketplace is 0.8 miles in length. At the top of the boulevard, you can turn left on Lake Buena Vista Drive. There is a sidewalk here that runs for 0.5 miles before crossing the street. It then continues for another 0.9 miles to the entrance of DisneyQuest. A word of caution; while Hotel Boulevard is quite shaded, LBV Drive is not. An alternative to turning left on LBV Drive would be to turn right at the top of Hotel Boulevard. A sidewalk will lead you for about a quarter mile. After that, it is grass along the side of the road for another 0.7 miles until you reach a sign that says no jogging beyond this point. This is interesting, in that it is the only place in the Disney area of which I am aware that officials will tolerate pedestrians along roadways in the absence of a sidewalk.

WDW Good Neighbor Hotels

Those staying at one of the Good Neighbor Hotels along Palm Parkway can run along the sidewalk there, for a distance of 0.8 miles. By crossing US 535 and turning left, you can run 0.3 miles up to the bottom of Hotel Boulevard and run along the course described in the section above.


10 Tips for Running at Walt Disney World

1. Orlando can be a pretty steamy place for much of the year. When possible, try to run early in the morning. It is much cooler then. Morning runs have the additional advantage of your legs being fresher than they will be later in the day. Trying to motivate yourself to put in a few miles after standing in line much of the day is not always an easy task.

2. If you have younger children, you may want to consider running during an afternoon break from the parks. While the rest of the family naps or lounges at the pool, you can slip in your run. Your legs will be fresher than if you put it off until later. This also allows you the chance to take a dip in the pool, yourself. If this idea appeals to you, try to find a course that is reasonable shaded. Drink plenty of water, and pay attention to your body, to prevent overheating.

3. On courses that also serve as bicycle or surrey paths, pay extra attention to the vehicles that may be coming up on you from behind. This includes some of the goodhearted cast members who ferry guests and their luggage to the more distant parts of the resort in those large golf carts. It is a good idea to not wear headphones when running along a path that has any traffic at all. The last thing you want to do is step to one side of the path to avoid a playing child only to introduce yourself to the front end of a cyclist coming up from the rear!

4. Use extreme caution when passing through the parking lots. Many of the cars which will be entering or exiting the lots contain children and lots of luggage. As most of you are aware, there are enough distractions going on in these vehicles to keep the driver from seeing you in time. It is often a good idea to assume that the driver of any vehicle cannot see you.

5. You may want to reduce your mileage some to account for all of the time you will be spending on your feet in the parks. If done properly, your running should help your legs recover from all of the time you will spend standing and walking at a more leisurely pace.

6. When you go out for your runs, wear a pair of shoes strictly for running. Do not try to wear the same shoes that you will be wearing in the parks. This will allow your running shoes to dry thoroughly between uses, maintaining healthier conditions for your feet. It will also keep the odor down.

7. Pay attention to the scenery as you run. The good folks at WDW go to extremes in making the landscaping enhance your experience, rather than having it serve as simple window dressing. It is just too beautiful to miss.

8. If you are planning on doing any form of speed work (i.e., speed play or intervals), be careful to avoid other people. This is not only a matter of courtesy, but one of safety. For faster running, make sure that your course allows a clear view of people who may be in front of you for at least 30 yards.

9. Do not run along any of the golf courses at WDW. While many courses around the country allow walkers/joggers/runners during times of low usage, these are not among them. Remember that these are PGA courses, and require a higher level of upkeep and maintenance.

10. Don't forget that you are on vacation. Keep your runs in the proper perspective. Let them be more relaxed and restful. Don't allow them to be a distraction for the rest of the family.