What is Trail Culture?

Share the trail love:
Dylan Bowman

By: Dylan Bowman

Head Freetrailer and co-founder.

Those who have followed Freetrail for a period of time will know that we gratuitously promote #TrailCulture on social media, on merch, and in everyday conversation. Though it’s become our tagline and the guiding philosophy of our business, we’ve never explicitly defined what we mean by Trail Culture and what the specific attributes of Trail Culture are.

Part of our mission at Freetrail is to spread #TrailCulture to as many people as possible, knowing that the sport and the community have the power to change the world. Even though our team shared a common general instinct as to what the phrase meant, we agreed it was important to create a definition for Trail Culture that would clarify our decision-making and our purpose for existing. In an effort to maintain transparency and hold ourselves accountable, we agreed we should share our definition publicly.

Moments before the start of the 2023 Lake Sonoma 50 mile race

Trail Culture represents the spirit of the global trail running community. We define it using these four principles:

Inclusivity – Trail Culture is welcoming to all people regardless of background, identity, experience, or skill level. Trail Culture respects that individuals have different life experiences that shape who they are and how they approach the world. Trail Culture is aspiring to make all people feel welcomed, celebrated, and loved. Trail Culture reserves judgment and seeks to find common ground.

Community – Trail Culture is building enduring, healthy relationships. It is giving back through volunteering, crewing, trail work, or simply encouraging a friend through a tough moment. Trail Culture is positive-sum. Trail Culture apologizes and Trail Culture forgives.

Effort – Trail Culture is an acknowledgment of the value inherent in trying hard at anything. Trail running teaches us to model effort with grace and to persevere through challenging times. Trail Culture celebrates hard work and commitment in all its forms.

Stewardship – Trails have been part of human civilization for thousands of years. They provide a link between people and places and provide a sanctuary to challenge, refine, and improve ourselves – a sacred human process! Therefore, trail runners are responsible for protecting and preserving these natural spaces for others to enjoy.

We are certainly not pretending that Freetrail is a perfect embodiment of Trail Culture as defined above. Nor are we suggesting that our definition of Trail Culture necessarily maps to the vision or lived experiences of every member of the global trail running community. We are merely setting a standard for our team to embody and our business to aspire to.

It is our intent to be leaders in the sport. Rather than rely on words, we will aspire to lead by example, hopefully exemplifying our definition of Trail Culture in everything we do. We hope our audience, our members, and the broader trail running community will hold us accountable to these values.

For the Culture.

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