Trail Running Safety: Navigating San Diego’s Wilderness with Confidence

Men Running on dirt trail surrounded by rocks and shrubs

Trail running in the diverse landscapes of San Diego offers an exhilarating experience for runners, but it also brings unique challenges and potential encounters with wildlife. The San Diego Fish and Wildlife Service has shared some essential safety tips with us to share with all you brave trail runners!


Snakes: A Calm Approach

Encountering a snake can be startling, but staying calm is vital. If you see a snake, stop immediately and maintain a safe distance. Most bites occur when people get too close. Never try to handle or provoke the snake. 

After ensuring your safety, you can continue your run, watch for any other potential snake sightings, and let other trail users know about your encounter. Remember, snakes generally avoid humans and are not often venomous.


Ticks: Prevention and Awareness

Ticks can be a concern in outdoor areas. To prevent tick bites, wear long sleeves, pants, and high socks, ideally in light colors, to spot ticks easily. Use EPA-approved tick repellent and stay on the trail to avoid brushing against tick-infested vegetation. 

After your run, conduct a thorough tick check and shower immediately. Be aware of tick-borne disease symptoms like fever or rash, and seek medical attention if needed.


Mountain Lions: Facing the Challenge

While rare, encountering a mountain lion can be intimidating. Maintain eye contact, stand your ground, and try to make yourself appear as large as possible. Do not run, as this can trigger their chase instinct. Make noise to seem intimidating, and back away slowly while remaining upright. If needed, use objects as weapons for self-defense. Stay calm and avoid approaching cubs. Call 911 for help if the situation escalates.


Equestrians: Respect and Courtesy

When encountering someone on horseback, slow down and communicate your presence. Yield the trail, typically to the right, and avoid sudden movements that could startle the horse. If you have a dog, keep it leashed and controlled. Follow any instructions from the equestrian for safe passing.


Mountain Bikers: Mutual Understanding

With mountain bikers, awareness and communication are key. Stay alert for approaching bikers, yield the trail when necessary, and use hand signals or verbal communication for safe passing. Stay to the right and control any pets. Respect trail rules and right-of-way guidelines.


Injured Wildlife: Responsible Action

If you encounter injured wildlife, keep your distance and assess the situation without approaching. Contact local authorities for assistance, avoid feeding or watering the animal, and prevent further distress by keeping others away. Leave rehabilitation to professionals.


Staying on the Trail: A Shared Responsibility

Staying on designated trails is crucial for environmental conservation, personal safety, erosion prevention, and respecting others’ experiences. Venturing off-trail can damage ecosystems, pose safety risks, and lead to legal consequences.


Trail running in San Diego’s wilderness is beautiful. Thanks for taking a few minutes to better educate yourself on trail safety. Respecting wildlife, being prepared for encounters, and staying on designated trails are key elements to a harmonious and safe trail running experience. Happy trails!

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