Trail Running

Rules on the run

 2) Run only on officially designated open trails
Respect trail and road closures and avoid trespassing on private land. 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. Make sure the trails you run on are officially designated routes, not user-created routes. When in doubt, ask the land managing agency or individuals responsible for the area you are using.

3) Respect Animals 
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.

4) Keep your dog on a leash

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.

5) Don't startle other trail users
A quick-moving trail runner, especially one who seemingly emerges from out of nowhere on an unsuspecting trail user, can be quite alarming. 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. Keep in mind your announcement doesn’t work well for those who are wearing headphones and blasting music. Show respect when passing, by slowing down or stopping if necessary to prevent accidental contact. 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.

6) Be friendly
The next step after not startling someone is letting them know that they have a friend on the trail. Friendly communication is the key when trail users are yielding to one another. A “Thank you” is fitting when others on the trail yield to you. A courteous, “Hello, how are you?” shows kindness which is particularly welcome.

1) Stay on the trail
Well marked trails already exist; they are not made on the day you head out for a run, i.e., making your own off-trail path. There is nothing cool about running off trail, bushwhacking over and under trees, or cutting switchbacks up the side of a hill or mountain. Such running creates new trails, encourages others to follow in your footsteps (creating unmarked “social trails”), and increases the runner’s footprint on the environment. When multiple trails exist, run on the one that is the most worn. Stay off closed trails and obey all posted regulations.

Trail Running Etiquette

1) Safety Before Ego
Trail running is all about pushing your limits and living on the edge. It’s about adventure and excitement.

But safety should always be the #1 priority. Stupid, ego-driven outings or detours not only put yourself in danger but put your running partners and fellow trail lovers, and the safety rescuers who have to go find you, in danger.

Pay attention to the weather. Don’t bite off more than you can chew without an escape plan. Be mindful of the challenges of the trail.

2) Pack Out What You Hauled In

I’ll never forget that for the last 20ish miles of the 2013 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100, my pacer and I kept seeing wadded up paper towels thrown to the side of the trail. Then, with about 2 miles to go, a runner just up ahead reached into his pack, grabbed a paper towel, blew his nose, and threw it to the ground.

3) Share, Be Alert, Don’t Startle
The other half of staying safe on the trail is knowing how to share it. As much as we don’t always like it, trail runners share the dirt with other runners, hikers, bikers, and horses. Not to mention the wildlife that call it home.

The first rule in sharing is to be alert. That means keep music down low, or avoid it all together if the trails are busy.

  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black YouTube Icon