Running Outside in the Winter

By Rad Dad and Fitness Expert Apr 10, 2023
Looking to change things up for some fitness outside this winter? Your lowest hanging fruit is running!
Running Outside in the Winter

Looking to change things up for some fitness outside this winter? Your lowest hanging fruit is running! Nearly any one of us can grab a pair of trail running shoes and get out for some adventure. My goal is to give you some resources on where to go, what to expect and how to find some trails that would suit you well. 

Screen Shot 2022-03-02 at 34115 PMpng

First off is finding trails that are either dry or hard pack with snow. Elevation, aspect, and previous weather conditioning will play a big role in this. One of my favorite resources for finding trails to venture out on is trailforks. Many of you may be familiar with this if you are already an avid mountain biker or trail runner. You can go to their website or app and find the nuts and bolts of what you need to know about the trail.


-Total Elevation Gain
-Suggested Running Direction
-Difficulty Level (ranging from green to black just like skiing)
-Location (if you have the paid version of the app you can track your location as you are out on the trail)

Additional features that are helpful but not always as reliable are:
-Trail Conditions
-Photos or Videos

The main reason these aren’t as reliable is they may be dated and not true to the current state of the trail, or people’s experience and perception of difficulty may be much different than yours. Regardless, it’s a great tool and one that I would strongly suggest. 

If you’re looking for “dry” trails I would suggest staying further south in the Corner Canyon area south of Salt Lake City. This is a large trail system that runs by the point of the mountain in Draper and allows you to stay lower in elevation if desired. The Bonneville Shoreline Trail is a great example of this. Depending on the time of year and snowfall this will likely be an area that you can get on the trails late fall/early winter, and early spring. 

If you’re looking for more adventure you can always run on hard-pack snow! If you plan on doing this I would suggest investing in some Yaktrax or other form of spikes. They come in a variety of options with one being specific to running. This will give you the added traction you need to truly enjoy the running experience on hard-pack snow and not be slipping all over the place. They are also generally inexpensive and can be used on any of your running shoes. 

Park City offers a host of groomed trails that allow for nordic skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing. You can find the most up-to-date trail information with the Mountain Trails Foundation. They offer interactive maps along with current trail status including what has been groomed. These maps are easy to read and will keep you out of trouble if you aren’t sure where to go. Keep an eye out for the solid orange line which is intended for snowshoeing. You will be in good company running on those trails. The Round Valley Trail system will be your best bet for trail running as it offers more variety. The White Pine Touring Center and UOP are geared mainly toward Nordic Skiing. 

Screen Shot 2022-03-02 at 34559 PMpng

You can also make use of the Rail Trail in Park City. This is a great option if you’re looking for a wider trail or just want to get started. It would be an “out and back” route. If you start in town off of Sidewinder Drive in Park City, you can make your way back to where you parked and grab a coffee or lunch in the Prospector area within minutes of being back at the car. The 224 connector is a fun one that is often hard pack snow and will take you from Kimball Junction, through Snyderville Basin, and up to the white barn on 224. If you’re still feeling good you can take this all the way into town connecting with the Mcleod Creek Trail which may offer some pavement further toward town. Another option similar to this that is an “off leash” friendly area for dogs is “Mormon Flats”/Jeremy Ranch Rd North on apple maps. This connects the Jeremy Ranch neighborhood with East Canyon and is roughly 10 miles one way! It’s wide open, and almost NO elevation gain! Again, it’s likely to be an out and back route. 

Things to note with both of these options is that they are not groomed trails like you may find elsewhere. They will have varied conditions and could have quite a number of people on them or you could be out there on a solo mission depending on the time of day and year. Both offer some adventure and relatively flat trails to get started and in some cases bring your dog along with you. 

Other additional resources to tackle are asking around at a local running store and seeing if they have added insight. Ideally, you’re finding people that have recently been out on the trails, know the conditions, and can give you some good insight on what to expect. I would strongly suggest this if you aren’t one that enjoys surprises as we all know trail conditions can change from day to day.

Another thing to keep in mind is simply trail etiquette.

If you are planning on finding some “dry” trails that are not covered in snow we should avoid traveling on them if they are wet. What does that mean? There is a general approach that if you have foot prints or tire marks that are a ¼” or less in the dirt you’re good to go. Anything more than that and it can lead to more substantial foot prints or ruts in the trail that will last into the summer and make for less than ideal conditions that are also bad for the natural habitat. If this is that case and you’re itching to run outside there are a variety of options in parks, other paved trail systems or bike/running paths that are maintained throughout the year.

Grab those running kicks or get a new pair and make way for some adventure. There is plenty more to explore but these are some good starting points if you’re a newbie and looking to hit the trails. Now let's keep our fingers crossed for an epic March so you will be too busy slashing pow with legs too tired to run!