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Planning Urban Trail Routes - What to Look Out For

paper map with a diary, some pencils and a hand holding a pen

We’ve decided to open-source our process for creating and planning urban trail routes! In another post, we let you in on the tools of the trade.

Here, we will talk (write) about on-ground realities when it comes to creating and planning urban trail routes for running, especially in India.

Trail Popularity and Clarity

To the extent possible, we seek trails that are popular among locals. This could be for commute or recreation in the surrounding communities - but any ‘active’ trails are more likely to be permanent and map-friendly and are, therefore, our best bet for future-proofing trail routes. An added bonus is if there are women frequenting these trails, because that also ensures a level of safety and security and inclusivity.

Clear trails are fun. While the occasional bushwhacking and duckwalking adds to the adventure quotient, we like our trails to be as clean and clear as possible. Again, this ensures more activity on the trail which, in turn, enhances discoverability, safety and popularity.

single track trail in a forest with bushes, thorns and kikar trees
Clear single-track, straight ahead

Scenery, History and Stories

Our routes are characterised by having scenic experience enhancers. Whether it’s a short Sunday group run or a full-blown Nilgai Trails route, we always add scenic spots, even if it means increasing distances. The NCR forests are abound with lakes, valleys and beautiful sunrise and sunset views and it’s impossible to give these a miss.

History and culture are the other half of our trail running philosophy. Delhi is home to some of the richest and most beautiful history of the nation and we’re super fortunate to have such historical treasures in our forests. Forts, monuments, ancient settlements, modern-day cultural highlights, local urban legends - these add that extra dimension to our trail running narrative that we simply can’t do without.

fort ruins in a city with another fort visible through the haze at a distance
Tughlakabad Fort ruins from the 15th century, with the Adilabad Fort looking through the haze

Human Settlements

The NCR is also home to hundreds of small settlements and urban villages. Unfortunately, there are also loads of illegal settlements, and all these contribute adversely to the cleanliness on and off trails. Most settlements have fecal dumpyards on their outskirts and these end up severely affecting the trail quality. We try our best to avoid such areas, but the harsh reality is that these are inevitable - we simply look at it as one of those ‘hold your breath’ adventures.

huge garbage dump in a forest with a man and a pig in frame
The ugly reality, the unfortunate outskirts, the multi-coloured trails

Gates, Walls and Boundaries

NCR, of late, has been seeing a lot of restoration and ‘modernisation’ activities in its forests. While some of these initiatives are genuinely going to help various aspects (e.g., archaeological sites, wildlife corridors etc.), some are, unfortunately, mere vanity projects that are bound to create more harm than not. These don’t go anywhere beyond the quintessential ‘building of walls and setting up fences’ - which only create hindrances to the quality of routes. While planning routes through forests, we need to be aware of such sudden blockades, walls and gates and their opening times and general accessibility.

broken stone wall in a forest
A broken wall in one of the nearby forests


Cover photo by oxana v on Unsplash



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