Saturday, 23 June 2012

Paris Bois de Boulogne Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 6.85 km (4.3 miles), terrain contains gentle hills

Paris Running Routes:
Seine island of St. Louis, St. Paul, botanical garden  
Left bank and Luxembourg Gardens 
Paris' green heart: Bois de Boulogne

Canal St. Martin  
Rock formations of Parc Chaumont  
Seine loop with Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower  

Seine riverside run  
Bois de Vincennes
Versailles Palace Gardens 
For more running routes, see Route List

If you've ever wondered on a nice evening in Paris where all the runners are, they're all in the Bois de Boulogne. This is the only place in Paris where you can do a real trail run and soak in some honest fresh air and nature in this otherwise running-unfriendly city (I still love running in Paris, anyway!).
Lakeside running in the Bois de Boulogne
The Bois de Boulogne fills up most of a meander in the River Seine west of Paris. It reminds me of the Bois de la Cambre in Brussels: a changing landscape of woods and parkland, criss-crossed with a few roads, including a lake with its own island-restaurant, and a horse-racetrack on the edge.

There is a lot more there, too, especially for horses, reflecting its heritage as a royal hunting grounds. There are a lot of horse-related grounds set up in the park: not one but two horse-racing tracks, riding trails and other racing clubs.

The Bois can be reached by several Metro stations along its eastern edge: Porte Maillot in the north, Porte Dauphine, Avenue Foch and Avenue Henri Martin in the middle, and Port d'Auteuil at the south edge.

There is a freeway that tunnels through the eastern edge of the Bois, curving directly under Lac Supérieur, only being open to the air for a for a short section after leaving the lake.

This running route starts at Porte Dauphine, which you can reach with Metro line 2, or run the few blocks from the Arc de Triomphe along the elegant apartments of Avenue Foch. We'll stay mainly along the eastern edge of the Bois, letting you get familiar with the main attractions. Once you know it, you can then try out the many other trails that branch out all over the park.

The Route
Standing at Porte Dauphine, looking westwards into the parkland, head past the traffic circle and follow the Route de Suresnes street into the park. You are heading southwest. You'll go past the freeway at first, then things start looking like you had hoped: trees and grass everywhere you look.

After just a few hundred meters, you'll come to a lake: Lac Inférieur, a thin, north/south lake (not quite a kilometer long) which is the most frequented running section in the park. We'll run along most of the lakefront, but not quite yet.
Trail turnoff for the stream
First, we'll follow a little stream southwestwards from the north point of the lake. There is a theater across the street from the lake, and a water fountain. Just past the water fountain, take the little trail to the right that goes into the trees (see the picture above).
The stream branches here
Soon, one branch of the stream heads northwards, to the right, but keep heading straight southwest along the main stream for a half-kilometer. The stream water doesn't always look or smell healthy, but it's nice to run along anyway. Sometimes the trail is on the left side of the water, and sometimes it miraculously pops up on the right side of the stream, without you going over any bridges (the stream disappears now and again).
Running along the stream: what color is that water, anyway?
When you get to the point where the stream comes to a street with traffic, and cars are parked along the road, you have reached the Pre de Catalan gardens. You will see the gate and signs for Pre de Catalan. The gardens are located about right in the middle of the Bois de Boulogne.

Run into the entrance and turn left to cut directly south through the gardens. If you get there after 8 p.m., you'll have to just run counter-clockwise around the outside of the gardens. There is a very ritzy hotel and restaurant at the garden entrance.
The Pre de Catalan Hotel
You will come out of the garden on Rue de la Grande Cascade, another little street with a few cars driving down it. Turn left to head back east along the street to Lac Inférieur for a half-kilometer.

One note here: there is a lot of prostitution along the streets in the evening. Streetwalkers hang around along the roadsides in various locations. But still, there are lots of joggers, bicyclists and other hikers passing by.
Along Lac Inférieur
You will hit the lake in the middle, where you turn right to head south for another kilometer until you reach the turn-around point. There are streets bordering the two sides of the lake, but there is no car traffic from this point. There are also gravel sidewalks that most runners take. You can also run down along the waterside on a narrower path, which is where I prefer to go: it's more like a real trail run.

There's an island in the lake, a grotto along the water, and a little waterfalls at the south end. When you reach the south end of the lake, you'll cross another car street and continue southwards along the smaller Lac Supérieur.
The man-made waterfalls
At the south end of this lake, keep following the path to the left as it goes around the tip of the lake and then turns northwards, heading up the eastern shore. One of the horse-racing tracks is located here, the Hippodrome d'Auteuil. A section of the underground freeway surrealistically opens up here, too, in a big hole, south of the lake.
The peripheral road makes its appearance
Now, you just follow the path along the eastern shores of the two lakes going back north again. Halfway up Lac Inférieur, you'll see a beautiful little restaurant located on the island, with its own ferry carrying guests to and fro.
Island in Lac Inférieur
At the northern tip of Lac Inférieur, follow Route de Suresnes towards the northeast, back to Porte Dauphine, and you've just completed one of the nicest trails around.
The ferrry