We all have our favourite routes when it comes to running trails. These routes can be run repeatedly and you will always appreciate different things about them whether that be a spectacular sunset, the colour of the sky on a certain day or the way they all seem to look different at different times. Finding new routes is something that we love whether it be by pure accident because we tool a wrong turn, using technology to pre-plan or getting out the OS map. We share our favourite methods of discovering new running trails and planning new routes.

Trial and Error 

You want to make sure you have time on your side for this. It is not wise to start experimenting with new routes If you are training and need long miles. If you are going for big miles, be sure to prepare your route beforehand. Otherwise, if you are planning a short run and have a couple of hours to spare, just go and explore. 

You can head out on the trails and just see where it leads you but you have to be prepared to get lost. This is not advisable if you are on your own unless you are confident that all paths will lead back to the same place. Always make sure you have your phone, a map, water, company and time on your side! Exploring is not always advisable at night, especially if it’s going to get dark fairly soon.

We usually save our trial and error runs for a Sunday morning when we have plenty of time and we are not training for anything specific.

I Wonder Where That Goes – Take the Path

This is one of our favourite ways of finding new running trails and usually starts with one of us uttering those 5 little words – ‘I wonder where that goes’. Usually followed by “let’s see”. We have found short cuts, long ways round, dead ends, bramble, barbed wire fences but most of all, a world that we wouldn’t find if we didn’t take the path.

We’ve followed other people as they do it and managed to take chunks of road out of our routes, finding new ways around our favourite routes. Only the other day we were shown a path that took out a narrow country lane and took us across the fields and around.

take the path to find new running trails

How do you know if it’s a public footpath? Well, public footpaths are clearly marked by signs like the below however the above markers show you particular trails, usually hikes. In our area we have the West Mendip Way, The Mendip Ring, Butcombe Trail and many more.

public footpath

If in doubt and unable to see any signs, you can usually see paths that have been worn in by regular footfall. Be careful that it’s not just farmer tracks. Taking paths that aren’t public can lead to trespassing. Even worse, you may come across a bull, a field of unfriendly cows or an angry farmer.

Creating Routes Using Strava 

For those of you that are tech savvy or prefer to have your route backed up to your phone or on your Garmin Fenix or Rugged Instinct, you can draw a route using Strava. Previously only possible on a computer or iPad, now you can use the Strava app with a subscription to draw your own routes. For ease of use, we prefer to use either an iPad or computer and use the browser version. Please note, using routes does require a subscription. Personally, I find the subscription worthwhile as I get many other features too. 

Step 1 – Go to – https://www.strava.com/routes

Step 2 – Enter your starting point in the search bar – mine defaults to somewhere in US so be sure to add England, Scotland, Wales etc to your town/city. You can also search by postcode.

Step 3 – Click on the place you want to start

Watch the mileage and elevation at the bottom

Step 4 – Zoom in on the lines to discover paths and roads. These are represented by much fainter blue lines which will have a broken link when you click.

Step 5 – Keep clicking to join up your route. If you make a mistake simply click the back arrow at the top right of the screen to undo that particular section. As you click to add various sections of road or trail, you will see the mileage and elevation calculating at the bottom.

You can save your route ready to use

Step 6 – Save your route. If you have the Garmin Fenix watch, you can then export the GPX to Garmin and upload to your watch. There is also a way to create routes in Garmin to however, I am a big Strava fan as I find it really easy to use.

OS Map

Using an OS map is the good old fashioned way. Not everyone can meet an OS map which is why we offer some help and advice here. If you want a good old fashioned adventure – get the map out and have a go at some self navigation. The last time I tried it, a 13 mile route took me 17 miles but I discovered a few new shorter routes could be created from it. Sometimes getting lost (but safely), can uncover new running trails you wouldn’t otherwise find. Again, like exploring new running trails through trial and error, you really want to save OS map adventures for a day when you have time and patience.

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