Trails vary greatly in difficulty. Some are flat, gentle, without confusing cross trails. Other trail systems are full of rocks, roots, erosion and other hazards. It pays to do your trail homework.

  • Some trails become a lot more difficult during and after a rain storm. Ask whether certain areas are prone to flash floods, quicksand, mudslides, or rock slides. Be aware of possible falling branches.
  • Consult local trail runners. A good local running sore or running club can probably help you connect with local trail runners. Tell the expert the type of trail you would like to run – and hazards you’d like to avoid.
  • Find a map! Some running and outdoor stores have trail maps. You may also find these at the local office of your state or US Forest Service or state or National Park office. The websites of many state and National parks and forests will often have trail maps.
  • Be aware of animal threats. Ask if there have been sightings of aggressive animals such as bears, mountain lions, wild hogs, wild dogs, etc. In wilderness areas, moose and even deer have been known to run over humans resulting in significant injury and death.
  • Are there poisonous snakes, spiders, or other threats? If so, find out where they have been seen, how to avoid contact, and what time of day is best to avoid them.
  • Some insects carry diseases such as Lyme disease or West Nile virus. The local health department usually tracks cases of such afflictions and where they were acquired.
  • Are you allergic to any plants or shrubs in the area? If so, cover yourself and reduce the possible skin contact. Carry medication in case you need it-to reduce the downtime. If you have problems with poison ivy or poison oak, look up pictures of leaf design and structure, and be vigilant. Cover exposed skin.
  • Make sure the trail area is safe. Most local trail runners can tell you about safety issues that are not covered here. Ask if cars have been broken into at the trail-head - or if other crime has been observed in the area.