Trail Running 101 – Learn Trail Running Etiquette


Trail running is a great way to add some variety to your workout.  You’ll work new muscles on the uneven terrain and be surrounded by new sights, sounds and experiences.  Also, running on a trail lets you enjoy nature at its finest.

Trail running is significantly different from street running.  As such, you need to be aware of certain precautions and rules.  Here are several tips that will help make the experience more enjoyable for you and other people on the trail.

1. Give a warning.  Make sure you always call out when approaching someone from behind.  Likely, they won’t hear or see you coming and will appreciate the heads up.  A simple, “passing left,” or, “passing right,” will do the trick.

2. Stay on the straight and narrow.  If you are running with a group, always run in a single file line.

3. Always run on the trail.  Don’t veer off to the side to avoid rocks, roots, mud, etc.  Run through those obstacles.  First, it is obstacles like those that make trail running great.  Second, the trail will eventually widen and erode if everyone goes around difficult spots, causing long-term damage to the trail.

4. Hills can be dangerous.  Always yield the right-of-way to runners coming down the hill.  All it would take is one misstep and everyone could come tumbling down.

5. Don’t get lost.  Before setting out, study the trail map carefully.  When possible, run with someone who is already familiar with the trail.  Always bring your cell phone – just in case you do get lost.

6. Don’t horse around.  Sometimes, runners stray onto an equestrian trail.  If you come upon a horse, proceed cautiously.  Always walk when you are near the animal.  Ask the rider for passing instructions.

7.  Don’t assume.  Bikers are supposed to yield to runners on a trail.  However, don’t rely on this rule to keep you safe.  Be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

8. Enjoy the sounds of nature.  Leave your mp3 player at home.  The music could distract you, causing you to be less observant of potentially dangerous obstacles.  Plus, you will have difficulty hearing others who are approaching you from behind.

9. Stay on the right side of the trail.  Running in America is like driving in America.  Be courteous of others!

10. Use the bathroom before you hit the trail.  If making an emergency pit stop in the woods is unavoidable, make sure you go far enough off the trail.  No one wants to see that!

11. Don’t be a litter bug.  Throw your trash away before you begin running.  If you snack while on the trail, carry your trash with you until the end.

12. Notify someone.  Even if it is a simple message on facebook or twitter, make sure someone – somewhere – knows where you are going and when you plan to be back.

13. Be prepared.  Trail running demands more energy than street running.  Plan accordingly.  Make sure you have enough water and snacks to get you from start to finish.

14. Obey the rules.  If you are a pet lover, you may find this hard to believe – not everyone likes dogs.  And even the biggest dog lover will find an unleashed pet annoying when running.  Keep your animal on a short leash while on public trails.

Abide by trail running etiquette and everyone will enjoy the experience!  Do you have a trail running tip we left off the list?  Let us know!

About the Author:
Jason Steen works for a Clearwater attorney (see their website at where he spends most of his day inside, so he tries to run outdoors in the local state park as often as possible. Over the years, Jason has learned a lot about trail running etiquette, and decided to share his tips with us today.

Photo credit: lululemon

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