Trail Running

Trail Running

Trail running is the best way to cover a lot of ground while carrying minimal weight.

Trail runs are on-trail activities in both semi-urban and very isolated areas, usually moving at a faster pace and with an emphasis on traveling light. They require a mix of skills for traveling across various types of terrain; anything from paved streets to forest service roads or single-track paths of dirt, sand, stone, snow, or another material.

Difficulty ratings for trail runs consist of two initial parts: a strenuous and a technical rating. The strenuous part of the rating ranges from ‘for beginners’ to ‘challenging’ and describe the leader’s thoughts on the physical difficulty of the run. It’s important to note that, especially in trail running, this can also include the technical skills needed to traverse specific terrain, conditions (like snow or mud), or the use of additional equipment (i.e. traction devices or poles) as will be outlined in the activity description. The technical part of the rating ranges from 1 (least technical and least exposed) to 5 (most technical and most exposed), which mostly describes route difficulty based on distance and/or elevation gained. You may also gauge how strenuous a trip is by the mileage and elevation gain provided in the online trip listing.

Crucial to each trail running activity and found in the activity description will be the pace of the trip. This should directly feed your personal calculation for whether or not you’ll want to run that specific activity. Please note that most runs will have different paces for running uphill versus down or for different conditions. (We’re not totally crazy; you’ll find that even most trail runners won’t run up steep hills.) Pace is generally listed in # minute miles (i.e. we’ll be running 12-15 minute miles translating to 4-5 mph).

Frontcountry Trail Routes

Frontcountry trail routes are established routes where the following conditions apply: cell phone reception is nearly continually available (access within 30 minutes of the runner’s location); the route is frequently used by others; exit points are easily reached; and help is easily summoned. Examples are city parks and state parks (e.g., Discovery Park, Bridle Trails state park, Redmond Watershed Preserve); urban and suburban trails (e.g., Issaquah-Preston Trail, Snoqualmie Valley Trail); the Issaquah Alps (e.g.,Tiger, Squak, and Cougar Mountains) and open spaces/greenbelts (e.g., Coal Creek Natural Area, Bellevue’s Lake-to-Lake Trail). There should not be significant off-trail travel as part of the route.

Anyone is welcome to sign-up for a frontcountry trail run. Gauge what you want from your running experience and select among the multiple types of runs posted throughout the region.

Backcountry Trail Routes

Backcountry trail routes are established routes in wilderness areas and other remote areas where the following conditions apply: help is not easily summoned; the terrain is rugged and difficult; the route may not be in frequent use by others; exit points are far apart or not easily reached; or in the leader’s judgment, the route does not qualify as a frontcountry route. Examples are national parks and designated wilderness areas (e.g., Alpine Lakes Wilderness, North Cascades National Park); long-distance trails which do not intersect with roads (e.g., Pacific Crest Trail Section J between Snoqualmie Pass and Stevens Pass); and primitive, unmaintained trails (e.g., the Enchantments traverse between the Lake Stuart trailhead and the Snow Lakes trailhead). There should not be significant off-trail travel as part of the route.

 Due to the remoteness of the location and the distance trail runners can cover in a relatively short amount of time, additional skills are needed to run or lead runs on backcountry routes.

Volunteer As a trail run leader

Trail Run Leaders have been approved by their branch's Trail Running Committee to lead others on frontcountry or backcountry runs.

There are two Trail Run leader types. Please visit each leader badge page to learn more:


FIND Trail Running trips