Adelaide has to be up there as one of the most underrated capital cities in Australia. Within twenty minutes of the city center, you can be up in the scenic Adelaide Hills, enjoying some spectacular trail runs while looking back down over the entirety of Adelaide all the way to the coast. Trail running in Adelaide and South Australia is quite a niche sport. However, there are enough runners out there to have quite a solid community who have built, documented, and maintained some truly epic trail running routes in Adelaide, South Australia.
In this blog post, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite trails runs that I’ve personally enjoyed while based here in my hometown of Adelaide, South Australia. I’m no pro runner by any means but enjoy a good trail with some incline so the undulation in the Adelaide Hills and surrounds is a great training ground. Normally I love to take a photo at golden hour on my camera but most of the photos in this blog post are taken on my phone during a run (often while on the move) so don’t expect epic landscape shots but you will get a sense for what each trail offers.
20 AWESOME TRAIL RUN NEAR ADELAIDE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA
CHAMBERS GULLY LOOP
Strava Upload: Chambers Gully Loop Map
Chambers Gully is one of my personal favorite trail runs near Adelaide City Center. It’s really close to the city and just minutes from the suburb of Burnside. To get there you head up Waterfall Gully Road to the most popular hike in Adelaide “Waterfall Gully to Lofty’. Two kilometers before you reach the parking lot for Waterfall Gully, you will see the Chambers Gully sign on the right-hand side of the road. There is limited parking at the entrance to the trail but on weekends you will have to search up and down the road for a parking spot.
The trail is a 10km loop and can be run in either direction. However, if run clockwise from the parking lot it is a much steadier run with 7km of incline to the summit/viewpoint rather than 3km. I’d advise this direction for maximum enjoyment.
The trail begins on a paved section of road but only for a short while before the track turns into a dirt trail that follows a small creek up through the gully. Keep your eyes open for Koalas, I spotted a couple in the early moments of the trail.
After a few kilometers, there is a steep section before the trail begins to wind up the side of the gully to lead you to the top of the ridge. Once upon the ridge, the trail opens up onto a gravel service road and shoots you straight along the ridge towards the city of Adelaide, which slowly becomes visible in the distance. This upper region of the trail on the ridge is the Kangaroo hangout zone so keep your eyes peeled for some Kangaroos lazing under the trees. I ran into a mob of about 15 roos here. At the viewpoint, there’s a bench with a stunning view of the entire city of Adelaide similar to the nearby Mount Lofty view but without the infrastructure and with fewer hikers.
The trail then winds you down the hill on a single-track with some slight exposure. Take care during this descent rain as the muddy single-track can be slippery and there is a drop-off but with moderate care, there is little to fear. The descent is a great section to release the legs and drop some quick kilometers. Post-run coffee is no doubt at Base Camp Cafe, which is just near the start of Waterfall Gully Road.
FIFTY SHADES OF CLAY TRAIL
Strava Upload: Fifty Shades of Clay
The trail name is real before you question it. The ‘Fifty Shades of Clay’ trail is a handy track near O’Hallaran Hill, which makes it very accessible to those in the southern suburbs. While there are a number of variations to the route including crossing underneath the Southern Expressway to increase the distance of the route.
This track is a popular mountain-bike area so keep an eye out for bikes while enjoying the tracks. The route I did was a 10km loop with just over 200m of incline along the very muddy trail. If it’s been raining, you may want to give this trail run a miss because it just becomes so slippery it’s hard to get any grip on the track. Even on the day, I ran there was only light rain, but as you can see we ended up covered in clay spray.
This is a great trail run to choose if you don’t want to drive for a long way up unto the hills but still want a bit of an off-the-beaten-track adventure. Post-run coffee was at the Alimentary Eatery in Brighton, which is nearby.
KUITPO FOREST – TINJELLA TRAIL
Distance: 10.5 km
Strava Upload: Tinjella Trail in Kuitpo Forest
Kuitpo Forest is one of the top Sunday ‘Longy’ trail runs in South Australia. The rows of pine trees, soft surface underfoot, and peaceful surroundings make this the top choice for runners if they are willing to journey a little further out of Adelaide in search of tranquility on the trails.
It takes just a little over an hour to reach Kuitpo Forest from the city of Adelaide but there’s never been a time I’ve regretted the long journey. The drive out to Kuitpo Forest is a spectacle in itself with tree tunnels, expansive fields, and kangaroo sightings highlights of the trip. While there are many areas to run in Kuitpo, I stick to the Tinjella trail, where I enjoy a 10-kilometer loop with just over 200m of incline. If you are keen for a longer run, you can easily rack up 30km without repeating sections in Kuitpo Forest and the great part is you will probably meet more kangaroos than people.
The trail has quite a few turns so a map can be handy but you can make it up a bit as you go if you prefer. The route I use leads you in and out of the forest, along gravel roads and gives you some nice segments of incline but nothing too steep for too long. I always leave Kuitpo Forest feeling quite refreshed mentally even if my legs are drained. It’s just a special place with a calm atmosphere, perfect for a trail run. I usually stop off at Harvest Mylor Cafe for post-run coffee, which is about 1/3 of the way back to Adelaide.
MYLOR FOREST LOOP TRAIL
Strava Upload: Mylor Forest Loop Trail
This sweet trail run up near Mylor is a bit of a hidden gem. I wasn’t sure to expect when we set off on this route but this track ended up having it all. The 10.5km loop has 283 meters of incline, most of which comes quite early in the trail. The early section of the trail has quite a few twists and turns as the single-track leads you through some pretty thick bush.
After a few kilometers of the winding single-track, the trail opens up a bit and you attack a couple of extra hills before following the mountain bike track along the side of the road back to the Mylor Football oval. There’s a great little cafe next to Mylor Football Oval where the trail begins for your post-run coffee called Harvest Mylor Cafe.
KINGS BEACH TO NEWLAND HEAD (HEYSEN TRAIL)
Distance: 12km (Can do 20km+)
Strava Upload: Kings Beach to Newland Head
The Heysen Trail is a 1200km trail that that runs through some of the most scenic parts of South Australia. A few people have run the whole thing but most people just jump on a segment of the track for nice trail run. One of the most scenic parts of the Heysen Trail is in between Kings Head Bech and Newland Head Conservation Park.
The distance between the two is about 15km but you can do an out and back from either side if you just want a shorter distance. We started at Kings Head Beach and ran out 6km before returning the same way to finish back up at Kings Head Beach.
The trail hugs the rugged cliffs along the coast looking out over the ocean below. Keep your eyes out for whales, kangaroos, and the colorful Rosella birds throughout the route. The surface is a mixture of sand, dirt, gravel, rock, and an occasional set of stairs. Despite the incline, it undulates, so you are never on an uphill segment for too long.
It’s truly a stunning segment of rugged track and one of my favorite trail runs in South Australia. If you are committed, you can get out here for sunrise and watch the sun come up over the ocean, a rare sight for locals who are used to watching the sunset over the ocean. Post-run snacks and coffee is at BEACHES Cafe in Port Elliot
Wallowa Track in Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park
Strava Upload: Wallowa Track Run
The Wallowa Track is a pretty awesome trail run near Tanunda. It’s up in the Barossa Valley, which might seem fair but to get to Tanunda it is less than one hour from Adelaide. Once you are in Tanunda, it is just 20-minutes to Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park where you will find the Wallowa Track. It’s very well signed at the entrance and the track is quite clear throughout.
It’s a classic Aussie bush trail run with beautiful native plants and lots of wildlife to look out for while you are running. I saw lots of Kangaroos and birds on the trail with Echidnas also reported being aplenty in the park.
The elevation is not too taxing as the track undulates early then evens out. It’s an out and back route with an optional detour off the track to a lookout over the plains. Watch out for the famous ‘horse head rock’ after about 5-kilometers, which looks a bit like the horse chess piece and is about 7-foot tall.
Post-run snacks and coffee is back in Tanunda at Four Seasons of Nosh Cafe.
MOUNT CRAWFORD FOREST LOOP TRAIL
Strava Upload: Mount Crawford Forest Loop
Mount Crawford Forest is another perfect getaway from the crowds of the city. It’s a peaceful forest run among the pine plantations, much like you can find in the popular Kuitpo Forest. However, on a weekend Kuitpo can see a few visitors but because Mount Crawford Forest is a little bit further it is usually a peaceful forest run.
I did a 12.5km loop through the forest but you could do a route of up to 30km without repeating sections. There are many gravel and dirt roads throughout the forest so you can choose your route. The incline is dependent on the route but usually, the hills in Mount Crawford Forest are shortlived but the trails are undulating so the longer you run the more hills you will collect.
The trail I did begins from a service road and leads you along the boardwalk before the track winds its way through the forest and up to several hills. We spotted a number of kangaroos as we made our way in the early parts of the trail just after sunrise. It was freezing up there and our fingers only defrosted after 6km as it is a decent elevation in the hills.
The coffee and snack stop is at ‘The Good Pantry‘ in Gumeracha, which is on the route back to Adelaide.
BROWN HILL CREEK TRAIL RUN
Strava Upload: Brown Hill Creek Run
Brown Hill is another little gem not too far out of Adelaide. Just moments from the suburbs in the foothills you can find yourself up in the hills away from it all on this run. A quick disclaimer about the route I took so you aren’t disappointed. The first half was all good but I always prefer a loop so I ran up to Sheoak road instead of doubling back down through my Brown Hill route and ended up on some pretty crazy roads with no path, which were dangerous if any cars came through.
However, the running in the Brown Hill Creek area is super nice as you follow the creek, which is surrounded by dense greenery. Huge trees, thick bushes, and a chance of a Koala sighting make this a great little trail run. Halfway through the run, you will reach Pony Ridge Road, which is a picturesque set of switchbacks you can see pictured below.
This trail was a good mix-up from the regulars but not my favorite trail run near Adelaide compared to Chambers or Belair. Post-run coffee was at the ever-reliable ‘Pickle in the Middle‘ in Unley.
STURT GORGE LOOP TRAIL RUN
Strava Upload: Sturt Gorge Loop
Sturt Gorge is another one of these hidden gems right on the edge of suburbia. That’s why Adelaide is a great trail running area because you don’t need to travel for hours to get to some decent hills. Sturt Gorge is a popular mountain biking area and a number of the trails in this route are actually mountain bike trails.
The route I did was a 6km loop so I double back a few times and added in a bit extra to get a 10km session done but the main part of the loop is solid via my map. The trail undulates along the mountain bike track and then dips you down into the gorge. What goes down must come up and this trail has a short but vicious switchback section, which will separate the pack. I spotted a koala and a pack of kangaroos on this hike even though it’s just minutes away from the suburbs.
Post-run coffee is at the coffee truck ‘D.OSE‘.
CITY TO BEACH – RIVER TORRENS LINEAR PARK TRAIL
Strava Upload: Brewery to Henley Route
The River Torrens Linear Trail is one of the most reliable tracks for uninterrupted running in Adelaide. It’s popular among recreational cyclists and walking groups for its relaxed vibe and stunning scenery. The best part about the River Torrens Linear Trail is that it runs right through Adelaide, which means no matter what suburb you are in it’s not too far away to find your way onto the trail.
While the trail is paved the whole way, you will find lots of dirt or bush trail sections, if you prefer for a bit more of an adventure. While there are many great sections of the River Torrens Linear Trail, I like to start at the brewery, where you can easily find parking, and run all the way down to Henley. This way you finish the run with 2-kilometers along the coast and then get to enjoy a coffee at Henley Beach after. You will need a pick-up driver or to plant a second car if you only plan to run one way as I did on the Strava upload, which you can click on above. Otherwise, you can start further towards the beach or make it a long run and go out and back for a half-marathon.
It’s truly incredible how stunning this trail is, considering it is often only meters away from busy main roads. Don’t be surprised if you spot a koala or native birds as the sunlight creeps in through the trees creating an urban oasis perfect for an easily accessible city trail run in Adelaide.
Post-run coffee is at Acacia Coffee although many loyal Malobo fans will be disappointed at that choice. Either will give you a good caffeine fix but the almond croissant at Acacia and the friendly staff wins it the nod.
WATERFALL GULLY TO MOUNT LOFTY SUMMIT (TOP OF ADELAIDE)
Strava Upload: Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty
The Waterfall Gully trail is without a doubt the most popular trail in Adelaide. On a weekend morning you can guarantee the parking lot is full and you may have to park 2-kilometers down the road. The trails will be brimming with hikers and joggers of all abilities, out enjoying a challenge.
The reason for its popularity is the summit. From Waterfall Gully parking lot you will follow the trail up to Mount Lofty summit, which is the highest point in Adelaide at 727m. At the summit is a cafe and a large fire tower that looks out over the Southern Lofty Ranges. It is one of the best views in Adelaide and you can actually drive to the summit if you aren’t up for the fitness challenge. The summit has panoramic views of the city and the Adelaide Plains to the west, and of the Picadilly Valley to the east.
The trail itself is a mixture of gravel and paved pathways and quite well signed due to its popularity. Expect to share the busy trail with others and make sure you are patient with large groups of walkers who will block the way at times. The incline comes hot and heavy in the last 2-kilometers of the ascent with a grueling section of steep climbing, which is where the wheels fall off for many who are trying to run the whole way up to the summit. The Strava upload above is from a hike I did (parked a bit far away) but I have run it multiple times.
Keep an eye out for a couple of gurus who run up this track barefoot or holding bricks. This trail brings out the weird, freakishly fit and the average Adelaidian up for a weekend session. Remember, if you don’t get an Instagram snap at the top, did you even do Lofty?
Coffee after the session is definitely at BASECAMP back at the start of Waterfall Gully Road although Utopia Cafe is right there at the waterfall near the parking lot if you fancy that.
PARK 6 URBAN TRAIL
Strava Upload: Park 6 Urban Trail
Often the main motivation for a trail run is to enjoy some soft ground underfoot and be surrounded by greenery and nature. However, you don’t always have time to drive up into the hills or foothills to access a true Aussie bush trail run. Park 6 is my favorite go-to loop for a 100% soft-dirt trail run right in the center of the city.
The loop is exactly 2-kilometers and there is ample parking so you can roll up and do as many laps as you need for your training session right in the heart of the city. Inside the track are lots of paddocks where horses are kept and you have a view of the hills from the top of the loop so it’s actually pretty nice for golden hour. There is a little bit of incline but it’s very moderate so this is a great trail run for an ‘easy’ session. Post-run coffee options are plentiful on the nearby O’Connell Street but my personal favorite is Black Eye Coffee for a caffeine hit and a fresh juice.
MACKINNON PARADE UNI LOOP
Strava Upload: The Loop
Every city has one. It’s the mecca, the hotspot, the hub, the go-to, the classic. Call it what you want, you can always find the supreme athletes of Adelaide down at the Uni Loop on any given day. While its not the best ‘trail run’ on this list the surface is gravel along the entire 2.2km loop. In the heart of the city, this is a popular route due to it’s verified distance and sign-posts every 200m. These factors make it easy for intervals, time trials, and those looking to do multiple loops of a flat, uninterrupted track.
Although it is in the middle of the city (literally 500m from Rundle Mall), the surroundings are quite natural as the track borders the River Torrens and parklands. You might even hear the monkey howls in the evening from across the river at the zoo.
This is a great supplement to the ‘better’ trail runs in Adelaide and it’s just a staple of the Adelaide runner’s diverse options. Watch out for Team Tempo and elite runners as they burst past you at a cracking pace giving you the reality check you didn’t ask for!
Post-run coffee and acai bowls at Delicia on Melbourne Street or the Brady Brunch Cafe.
INDEPENDENCE TRAIL (KANGAROO ISLAND)
Distance: 7km ( Can add another 7km)
Strava Upload: Independence Trail
Kangaroo Island is a decent drive and a ferry away from Adelaide but there’s some great trail running out on the island so I thought I’d add a few of them in here. After all you can get out there in just a few hours so it’s not as far as we sometimes think.
The Independence Trail is a historic trail along the coast of the American River inlet near the town of Dudley on the eastern side of Kangaroo Island. There are placards, flags, and history lessons along the way explaining the story of ‘The Schooner’, which was the first ship built in Australia. However, if you are running the trail, there’s a fair chance you will skip the history lesson and just enjoy the scenery.
The trail is dirt for most of the route with blue wooden markers guiding you along the route. It’s a 3.5km out and back trail but we tacked on an extra 6-kilometers at the end of the trail on a gravel road to grab a bit of a longer run. The trail leads you along the swamp-like coastline of the American River, all the while winding through low-hanging trees and dense vegetation with lots of stimuli to keep you buzzing throughout the run.
Snacks after the run were at the American River General Store. It’s not the biggest town so I’m not sure if there is a cute coffee shop out there but we just grabbed post-run fuel at the general store, which had a good range of fruit, nuts, drinks, and all the essentials.
RAVINE DES CASOARS – FLINDERS CHASE NATIONAL PARK (KANGAROO ISLAND)
Distance: 7.5km Loop
Strava Upload: Ravine Des Casoars
Ravine Des Casoars is a bit of a strange name but it actually means Ravine of the Cassowaries, which is a large flightless bird from the tropics of Papua New Guinea. The gorge and an associated drainage basin are located on the west coast of Kangaroo Island about 95 kilometers west of the main town of Kingscote. There were never any Cassawories here but the first English settlers mistook the native Emu for a Cassowary and gave the ravine a factually incorrect name. There are signs of Indigenous presence in the ravine as far back as 7,500 years and I’m sure they never saw a Cassowary once.
To get to the trailhead, you will drive towards Borda Lighthouse in Flinders Chase National Park and then take a left at the Ravine Way road. Head down the road 6-kilometers until you reach the parking lot, which is well signed.
The run is an out and back, which leads you down into the ravine to the beach and caves, and then on the return, you have to climb back up the hill to the parking lot. It’s a truly stunning run, which really has it all. I visited after the tragic bush fires of 2020 but it was still incredible. The run begins by winding through the forest down into the gorge and then follows the river all the way to the beach, which seems like an oasis that must be part of a dream. When you reach the beach, be sure to explore the caves on the right side of the gorge before heading back up the hill on the return leg of the trail run.
Post-run coffee and snacks are BYO cause this run is remote!
VIVONNE BAY TRAIL RUN & RED ROAD ADD-ON (KANGAROO ISLAND)
Distance: 10 km
Strava Upload: Vivonne Bay Running
Vivonne Bayu is one of many stunning beaches on Kangaroo Island. With crystal clear blue waters beneath the iconic jetty, it provides a stark contrast to the adjacent fiery red of the dirt track that leads to the beach.
There are lots of ways to enjoy a trail run in this area but what we did was park the car out at the bitumen/paved road and run into the beach along the track. We likened the surroundings to a training camp with Eliud Kipchoge in Kenya. It’s 3-kilometers into the beach and then you can hook a right at the coast and run along the rocky trail, which heads straight down the coastline. It’s a bit rough and tough to keep any pace but a fun adventure nonetheless. Regardless of which surface you choose, it’s a beautiful area and if you visit in the summer, you can enjoy a refreshing dip in some seriously blue water!
Post-run feed and coffee are at the Vivonne Bay General Store. Honorable mention to the veggie burger and incredibly large ‘small’ chips.
SCOTT CREEK CONSERVATION PARK TRAIL RUN
Distance: 11.5 km
Strava Upload: Scott Creek Conservation Park Trail Run
Scott Creek Conservation Park is a great trail run if you are looking for some incline but also want some ‘runnable’ roads. Basically, throughout most of this route, you have some solid gravel paths without too many single-tracks, rocky descents, and overrun trails.
On a sunny day, this is is just beautiful. The trail will lead you around the perimeter of Scott Creek Conservation Park but also darts through the thick of it once or twice. The highlights are a couple of roads that seem to be on a ridge or at least they seem elevated above the shrubbery below. These parts were just a dream to run and made the kilometers tick past very quickly!
The incline comes early with most of the hills climbed in the first half of the run before you enjoy the descent in the second part of this trail run.
Coffee and snacks are back in Adelaide as this one is quite remote but you could stop at the Perfect Note Cafe in Blackwood, which is on the way back to the city. The classic Clarendon Bakery isn’t too far off either.
ONKAPARINGA GORGE TRAIL RUN
Distance: 13.5 km
Strava Upload: Onkaparinga Gorge Trail Run
The Onkaparinga Gorge is a spectacular ravine an hour south of Adelaide. It’s a beautiful spot to be when the first light begins to flow into the gorge so I highly recommend this trail run for a sunrise mission.
The trail begins right near the Long Shot Cafe and then heads straight out of the suburbs and across a small footbridge into the wilderness. It will be the first and last time you cross the river although you will follow it along the gorge throughout the trail.
This is a spectacular route but I found it difficult to run at a good rhythm with lots of rocks, narrow sections, and a fair amount of scrambling, ducking, and weaving. It was fun stuff but hard to run at a consistent pace.
After following the gorge for 5-kilometers you will climb your way up out of the gorge on the steepest section of the trail to arrive at the viewpoint with a very scenic beach. It’s a good spot to catch your breath before getting stuck into the second half of the run. It’s worth noting that I got a bit lost so don’t follow my map exactly although the first half of my run did follow the Alltrails route that is accurate.
Coffee and a bite to eat after the run are right where you started at Long Shot Cafe.
MOUNT GEORGE TRAIL RUN
Distance: 7.5 km
AllTrails Map: Mount George Trail Run
Mount George Conservation Park is a bit of an unsung hero. You won’t hear much about this beautiful little area but it sure delivers. With an abundance of strikingly tall gum trees towering over the trail, plenty of Koala sightings and a spectacular rocky viewpoint, this trail really has it all.
The trail has two loops on either side of the parking lot that are connected as part of this route. You will be on a road for about 1-kilometer but for the rest of the route, you can expect to be fully immersed in the wild Aussie bush with a backdrop of Kookaburras laughing away as you wind through the trees along the trail.
The viewpoint up on Mount George Ridge is a great spot for a quick pit-stop to grab a photo or take in the view and it would be an epic location for golden hour. I did the whole route but when I logged my Strava I thought the gates were locked so didn’t do the second part of the loop and ran down the entry road instead. I then hiked it after to enjoy the full double loop so I shared an accurate map for your reference in the link above.
Coffee and snacks after the run are at Piccadilly Kitchen just a short drive away.
As a local, you can be sure I will keep adding to this list as I continue to explore and enjoy more trail runs around Adelaide and South Australia. If you have any suggestions of great trail runs near Adelaide that you think I should have a crack at and then add to the list just leave a comment below. Stay safe on the trails and happy adventuring guys!