Multi-use Trail Tips

Single-Track Trail Tips

Beyond safe running on trails, following environmentally-sound and socially-responsible practices of Leave No Trace will enable runners to enjoy continued access to their favorite trails and trail races. Learn more about trail running from our friends at The American Trail Running Association (ATRA).

Well-marked trails already exist. When multiple trails exist in a park, run on the one that is the most worn if trails are not well-marked. There is nothing cool about running off trail, bushwhacking over and under trees, or cutting switchbacks up the side of a hill or mountain. Never make your own trail in a park with existing trails.

Let at least one other person know where you are planning to run and when you expect to return.  Take a map with you in unfamiliar areas, and don’t depend on your cellphone, as you may have no cellular service once on the trail.  Understand that mating or animals with babies may behave differently at certain times of the year, especially bears with cubs.  Be prepared for sudden weather changes, plan for the worst, given the likely duration of your run. Carry plenty of water, electrolyte replacement drink, or snacks for longer runs. Rescue efforts can be treacherous in remote areas so do everything possible to avoid having to be rescued. 

Get permission first to enter and run on private land. Obtain permits or authorization that may be required for some wilderness areas and managed trail systems. Leave gates as you’ve found them. If you open a gate, be sure to close it behind you. When in doubt, ask the land managing agency or individuals responsible for the area you are using.

Run single file in the middle of a trail, even when laden with a fresh blanket of snow or muddy. Running around mud, rocks, or downed tree limbs widens trails, impacts vegetation, and causes further and unnecessary erosion.

Go through puddles, single file in the middle of a trail, not around them. If the terrain is exceedingly muddy, refrain from running on the trails so that you don’t create damaging “potholes” on the surface. Moisture is the chief factor that determines how traffic (from any user group) affects a trail. For some soil types, a 100-pound runner can wreak havoc on a trail surface in extremely wet conditions.

There are many situational factors to consider when making your trail running decision. Trails that have been constructed with rock work, or those with soils that drain quickly, may hold up to wet conditions—even a downpour. But, in general, if the trail is wet enough to become muddy and hold puddles ALL user groups should avoid it until the moisture has drained.

Leave natural or historic objects as you find them, this includes wildflowers and native grasses.

Removing or collecting trail markers is serious vandalism that puts others at risk.

Understand that some parks may exist on archeological or native lands and artifacts may be protected by law and their removal illegal.

Do not disturb or harass wildlife or livestock. Animals scared by your sudden approach may be dangerous. Give them plenty of room to adjust to you. Avoid trails that cross known wildlife havens during sensitive times such as nesting or mating. When passing horses use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders. Running cattle is a serious offense. Consider turning around and going another direction when faced with disturbing large herds of animals, especially in winter when animals are highly stressed already.

Unless otherwise posted, keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times. Dogs running off leash may result in adverse impacts on terrain and wildlife and degrade the outdoor experience of other trail users. If an area is posted “no dogs” obey signage. This may mean that you leave your dog at home. It is also imperative that you exercise Leave No Trace practices with respect to removing any dog waste, packing out what your dog may leave on the trail. Be prepared with a plastic bag and carry the waste until you come across a proper disposal receptacle.

A quick moving trail runner, especially one who seemingly emerges from out of nowhere, can be quite alarming. Especially if someone is out on a solo run.

Give a courteous and audible announcement well in advance of your presence and intention to pass hikers on the trail stating something like, “On your left,” or “Trail” as you approach the trail users. Be ready to yield to all other trail users (bikers, hikers, horses) even if you have the posted right of way. Uphill runners yield to downhill runners in most situations.

Split larger groups into smaller groups. Larger groups can be very intimidating to hikers and have a greater environmental impact on trails.

Most trail systems, parks, and wilderness areas have limits on group size. Familiarize yourself with the controlling policy and honor it.

Volunteer, support, & encourage others to participate in trail maintenance days.

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