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Discover the Appeal of Trail Running

Posted by Loren D at Oct 24, 2012 12:05 PM |
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Running on trails is not just for the super-fit. Just like many things, the sky’s the limit, but for most of us, trail running is just another way to have fun, move on trail, and experience the natural landscape.Whether you’re sprinkling in some running on a regular hike, or challenging yourself to run long distances on trail, you might just be a trail runner.

WTA's Julie Cassata, one of our resident trail runners, has some tips for hikers or runners interested in starting to run trails. An experienced hiker and runner, Julie has thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and serves on the board of the Seattle Running Club.

Running on trails is not just for the super-fit. For most of us, trail running is just another way to have fun, move on trail, and experience the natural landscape.

Whether you’re sprinkling in some running on a regular hike, or challenging yourself to run long distances on trail, you might just be a trail runner.

What’s so great about trail running?

  • A different trail experience. Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be a deer running through the woods? While we might not be able to replicate that exactly, trail running can offer a more exhilarating experience than a hiking pace.
  • Trail running is flexible. Run when you can, walk when you can’t. Don’t forget to stop and admire the fungi!
  • The natural high. We all know that payoff views are especially satisfying when you are physically challenged while hiking up to that point. By trail running, your body responds to the workout by releasing endorphins and adrenaline. You might just find yourself weeping with joy when that next big view comes around!
  • Cover more ground. By trail running, you can cover many more miles in a day than you can by hiking. A route that may ordinarily be an overnight hike, may be achievable in one day running.
  • Make friends at fun events. There are many opportunities to do trail running events in the Pacific Northwest. A wide range of distances are available, generally from 5k to 50k and beyond. It’s a thrill to find yourself among an excited community of trail runners before the start, and then snake through the woods in a sinuous line of runners.

Five tips for getting started as a trail runner

  • Be prepared. You’re not running around the neighborhood, so you’ll have to carry the 10 essentials just like you do for a hike. You might run out of water; you might get lost; you might get stuck in nasty weather. Be prepared. You might not otherwise eat while you run, but just like a hike, you’re much better off bringing along, and consuming, plenty of calories.
  • Pack right. Figure out how you’re going to carry this stuff. You’ll want to try different things until you find out what works best. You’ll need a pack that is not too bouncy, will stay close in to your back, and ideally is designed for moving fast and light. There are many small packs on the market that are designed for running. You will also have to figure out whether you prefer to carry your water in your hands or in a bladder in your pack.
  • Start out slow! I know it’s exciting, but don’t get too ambitious right off the bat. It will take time to improve agility and coordination, strengthen the muscles and tendons used on uneven terrain, and gain cardiovascular fitness. Also keep in mind that the miles take a lot longer on trail compared to what you run around town. Round up big time when you’re reporting the time you expect to be home.
  • Don’t be ashamed; walk uphill. Over time, your transitions between running and walking will be seamless.
  • Keep under control on steep descents by taking short, quick strides. Refrain from loping down the hill like a triple jumper. Angle your toes slightly outward to keep your momentum from launching you to oblivion should you trip on uneven footing.


Wintertime is a great time to start trail running. Staying at lower elevations will help keep you from selecting hikes with more extreme, and therefore extremely challenging, changes in elevation. If you’re just starting out, find some hikes with undulating terrain and just roll with it!


Trail suggestions?

Could someone suggest some good beginner trails?

Posted by:

"Katie D" on Oct 24, 2012 08:37 PM


Katie -- where do you live? Discovery Park in Seattle has a great beginner trail running system. The Tradition Plateau area at Tiger Mountain is also a good one, as well as the area around Anti-Aircraft Peak at Cougar Mountain.

Posted by:

AndreaMae on Oct 24, 2012 02:30 PM

local trails

 If you are running solo it is nice to do places like St. Edwards State park ( near Kenmore/Juanita)... or there are even a few trails at Hamlin Park for easy mid week runs. Grand Ridge across from Tiger has a tough hill to start but then it is nice and rolling. Lord Hill up in Monroe is also a good starter place.. Sign up for one of the local trail races and you will learn things quick.

Posted by:

"sbh" on Oct 24, 2012 08:37 PM

Where to run

These are great suggestions. More suggestions in the Puget Sound area include Bridle Trails State Park in Bellevue (don't forget your Discover Pass and horse etiquette! For more on sharing the trail with horses, visit and the City of Redmond Watershed Preserve.

Posted by:

"Tiny Dancer" on Oct 25, 2012 01:06 PM

Trail running group

The Seattle Running Club organizes trail runs weekly, and helps organize many events - Find their upcoming activities and events on their meetup page -

Posted by:

"Tiny Dancer" on Oct 25, 2012 01:13 PM

Hoypus Point in Deception Pass State Park

Hoypus Point Natural Forest Area in Deception Pass State Park on Whidbey Island has several groups that run this area year round. A great place for beginners. It is located off the end of Ducken Road southeast of the main entrance to Deception Pass State Park off Highway 20. Some hills but none that will kill the beginner.

Posted by:

fox15rider on Apr 24, 2013 11:52 AM

Trail runs

Also, Northwest Trail Runs and Evergreen Trail Runs host organized trail runs every month (sometimes more frequently). They have well defined courses with aid stops, and can be a really nice introduction to trail running. A great beginner one is the Soaring Eagle Regional Park trail run. I believe Northwest Trail Runs also has a weekly Ravenna Park trail run series at some point during the year.

Posted by:

Kee B Lee on Apr 24, 2013 11:52 AM