How to Find a Good Running Trail

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If you love trail running and are traveling or just moved to a new place—or you just want to try it for the first time—how do you know where to go? Here are a few tips:

1. Keep your eyes peeled

This approach can find numerous trails—some long, some short, some that lead to greater networks that go on for miles—while just out running roads and exploring. True, there’s the chance that small ribbon of dirt might end 50 feet later, but it might just wind through a neighborhood and pop out next to a babbling creek. And there’s something very rewarding about simply discovering a trail by exploring.

2. Team up

Local trail runners obviously know the trails in the area. They’ll know the steep ones, the flat ones, the rocky and the rutted, as well as what trails are ideal in different weather and different times of year. To find local trail runners, ask around. You might be surprised to find your neighbor, your son’s teacher or your friend’s friend is a trail runner.

3. Join a group run

Trail running clubs, and even road running clubs, usually have weekly group runs on trails. Most are friendly, casual, and made for all speeds and levels of runners, where no one will be left behind or lost. (Some clubs have speed-oriented runs, in which case the group run will be labeled as such.) Running specialty stores also host runs, often on trails, and many areas have trail running “meet-ups.” Search online for “group trail run” and the name of the town or region and you should find some options.

4. Ask around

Aside from specialty running stores, outdoor stores that carry hiking, camping and general outdoor equipment are not only great places to shop, but the salespeople are generally helpful and knowledgeable. (There’s a reason people work at outdoor stores; it’s because they love doing sports outdoors.)

5. Search online

It may be obvious to do a web search for nearby trail runs. But consider also searching for hiking and mountain biking trails in the area. Sometimes there’s more information on hiking and mountain biking trails than for trail running, and those trails may very well be prime for running.

Tip: Be sure to consider what types of trails you’re looking for—from smooth and flat to steep and gnarly—when asking around or searching online. Being specific will help you find the perfect off-road route for whatever your mood or experience level.

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