Winter Trail Running Pleasures at Moreau

by Bill Hoffman

Sometimes the most amazing places are right in your own backyard. One of the best kept secrets of trail running in the Capital District is the Moreau Lake State Park. Just looking at the State’s webpage does not scream out running. When you mention Moreau, most folks probably envision a sunny beach on a beautiful lake like this picture from the State’s website:

For activities the website has the following list:

Ice Fishing
Recreation Programs (Accessible)
Snowshoeing Trails
X-Country Skiing

I am not seeing trail running mentioned once!

The first time I heard about Moreau was the Moreau Lake Trail 15K race. I was training for my first marathon and my Chi Running coach at the time said there was a new trail race at Moreau. I pictured the sunny lake with a beach and imagined a smooth trail circumnavigating the lake. I ended up not going because it was too close to the marathon. The coach (who was 6 months pregnant at the time) went. She ran the 5K and got lost on the 15K course, barely making it out of the woods! She apologized for recommending the race.

I did not make it back to Moreau until I started training for the Wakely Dam Ultra. J took me on the 15K race course, or at least that’s what he said it was. We would get up early in the morning before work and run for 2+ hours in the woods once or twice a week at 5:30 am. I am pretty sure we got lost at least a little each time. In the years since, I have been on that trail so many times, I am pretty sure you could blindfold me and drop me on any trail anywhere in Moreau and I could find the fastest way out. According to Strava, after this weekend’s run on the 15k course starting from the free parking lot, I have run that route 58 times.

However, the 15k course is just a small part of the whole trail system. You can start from Bonita Lake and run a 12-14 mile loop.  You can start at the lake parking area where the official race starts. There are trails crisscrossing the larger loops, allowing for almost any distance and elevation gain.

If you want climbs and distance, Moreau is your place to go. One time V wanted to get some elevation in, and I wanted a 20 mile run, so we did loops, lots of loops.

We managed 5,100 ft of vertical gain that day: My dog was ready to get back in the car the last few times we passed the car heading out for another loop.

Passing on the next generation

When my son Max was 14, I took him out for the classic 15K race course. It was really hard for him, but he did well.  A few years later he talked one of his friends from the XC team into running the loop with him. The three of us and the dog set out, and they did great.

When we returned home, his friend made it in his front door and lay down on the floor in his living room and went to sleep! His dad asked me what I had done to him…  Neither of them has made it back to Moreau with me, but I am hoping someday they will return.


I know what you’re thinking -- Bill, this is great and I want to run lots of miles and climb, but winter is here and what about all the snow? Have no fear, check out my article on winter trail running Moreau is an excellent place to experience winter trails.

Getting there and run ideas:

I use three parking locations to access the trails. Once you get there are many possibilities for where to run. I will give a few examples for ideas, but the options are plentiful. 

Spier Falls road - free parking

Bonita Lake - free parking

Moreau Lake park entrance

Here are a couple ideas for runs:

Moreau from Bonita Lake loop:

15K loop from free parking:


Moreau is an amazing set of trails only 30 minutes from Clifton Park. You can run for hours without seeing a road and each time you set foot on the trail you are guaranteed an adventure. This summer I have seen more trail runners than I usually do at Moreau, but it seems like there should be more of us there. If you are looking for adventure not too far away, give it a try and you won’t be disappointed.

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