Pauline van der Waal

Trail runs for beginners – running off-the-beaten-track in the Netherlands

Edzo Boven

Trail runs for beginners – running off-the-beaten-track in the Netherlands

Running Collection by Pauline van der Waal

Trail running as a sport has rapidly been gaining ground in recent years in the Netherlands. Runners looking for more challenging terrain without too much asphalt as well as outdoor enthusiasts looking for a new sport are hitting the trails more and more.

Trail running similar to ordinary running, but much more fun! Instead of endless asphalt and straight roads, you run as much as possible on unpaved roads that are off-the-beaten-track. You run through the woods and through fields, jump over the occasional tree root and get your shoes dirty.

There are many advantages to trail running. As you don't run on through roads, you hardly encounter any traffic so you don't have to look three times when crossing the street and there are no exhaust fumes. At most, you can expect a hare or a deer coming out of the bushes.

When you start out trail running, you can expect to go a bit faster than a walker, but slower than a cyclist. That means the best of both worlds when it comes to enjoying your surroundings. You can cover quite a few kilometres, so you see a lot, but you go slow enough to take everything in.

The beautiful surroundings probably also make running easier. By focusing on all the pretty things around you, you can cover five kilometres (three miles), or ten, without even realising Still, the distance and speed you run is of secondary importance. You will probably have to walk some difficult sections or steep climbs.

Despite the fact that a trail run can be more challenging due to the altitude gain and trickier surface than a run on the road, it goes easier on your body. Your joints will be grateful for the soft surface and, by walking the last part, they get a chance to properly cool down.

Are you ready to hit the trails? I’m also eager to get going. But, it’s easy to back out on exchanging your usual circular through your neighbourhood for a more challenging route. That’s why I’ve put together a number of trail runs for beginners in this Collection.

All routes are fun and follow paved roads as little as possible. The distances vary from six to twelve kilometres (3.7 to 7.5 miles), without any significant climbs. I’ve also ordered the routes with the shortest distance first so that you can gradually build up your stamina and technique.

To completely switch off and enjoy your surroundings, you can download the route on your phone or smartwatch so you don’t have to worry about losing the trail.

And remember: of course you can just walk if you prefer. If it gets a little too heavy for you, or if the surroundings are too beautiful for you to rush through while you are running, then you just slow down a bit. Speed and time are not important. You should concentrate on making it to the finish line and having a nice run – have fun!

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    Intermediate
    00:44
    3.69 mi
    5.0 mph
    325 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Some sure footedness required.

    This trail run is not that long - just under six kilometers - but no less beautiful or challenging. Along the way you will encounter a number of viewpoints as well as large pieces of sand, which immediately makes the run a bit harder.From the parking lot you almost immediately dive into the forest, which quickly turns into heather. When you get to the first viewpoint, you have already covered more than a kilometer. From here the route runs slightly uphill to the Zijpenberg. This is immediately the highest point of your run, so stop at this 106 meters altitude to take in the surroundings 360 °.Once down, the heather turns into sand. This is going to be a spicy piece! Hold on, because before you arrive at the next viewpoint, that will change again.About 500 meters further you come to the namesake of this run: the Posbank. This stone bench is named after Mr. Pos, chairman of the ANWB. The bank has been there for more than 100 years and is located 90 meters above sea level. Reason enough to enjoy the view one more time. In clear weather you can see Germany from here.Time for the last bit. The path slowly but surely descends here, until you recognize the path where you started again. When you left you must have already seen Restaurant De Ruif next to the parking lot where your car is. So you can easily change your shirt or a warm sweater before you relax with a drink.

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    Intermediate
    00:44
    3.82 mi
    5.2 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Some sure footedness required.

    If you want to start trail running through the dunes, this route is a good start. Trail runs sometimes become quite a bit of a calf if you choose a run through the dunes, because you quickly make more vertical meters than you had anticipated. This route is a bit further from the sea, so you have to overcome less height differences.To get a taste of a climb, the viewpoint Starreberg has been included in the route. You can choose whether you run or walk up the stairs, or even just walk around the viewpoint.Eventually you will pass the Oosterplas, a swimming lake in the dunes. In the summer you often swim here, so if you want you can take a refreshing dip.You follow the course of the lake for a while, until you turn to the right, back towards the parking lot. When you get back to your car, you have covered more than six kilometers.You can also easily do this trail run by train. Then get off in Santpoort-Zuid and walk to the starting point Bleek en Berg in about 15 minutes.

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  • Intermediate
    00:49
    4.14 mi
    5.1 mph
    275 ft
    275 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The Brunssummerheide is the largest heathland area in Limburg. The area consists of pine forest, sand dunes and meadow, interspersed with frog pools. Because of the variety you can make a fun and yet not too long trail run here.From the parking lot you first walk to the highest point of the Brunssummerheide. Don't worry, the starting point is also quite high, so you don't start with a tough climb! The advantage is that you can properly absorb the environment from here.You continue towards the Roode Beek, which runs through both the Netherlands and Germany. You cross the brook via a wooden platform path, be careful not to slip. The stream is logically at the lowest point of the run, so from here the path slowly starts to rise again. On to the next viewpoint, where you are almost halfway through your trail run.When you turn to the right a bit further on, you walk completely sheltered through a birch forest. A narrow path leads you through the trees.Can't get enough of this beautiful area? Good, because there will be another viewpoint. There is a bench here, so if you want to rest, this is the perfect place. If not, it is only a mile to Restaurant Schrieversheide. Here you end your trail run with a drink on the terrace.

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    Intermediate
    00:50
    4.54 mi
    5.5 mph
    75 ft
    50 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Some sure footedness required.

    If you're a beginner trail runner, you probably won't be covering huge distances just yet. That means that you can often only make a small circle. For that reason, this route does not start and end at the same place, but you walk from station to station. This way you can see as much of the environment as possible.The trail run starts at Soest-Zuid station. After walking fairly parallel to the track, you cross the track and almost immediately dive into the Soester dunes nature reserve.You will soon see the enormous sand drifts for which the So soesten dunes are known on your left, next to the heather and forest. The Soester dunes are the largest drifting sand area in the province of Utrecht.In this route you follow the path that runs along the large sandy plain. If you want an extra challenge, or if you want to practice for a heavier trail run, you can grab a piece of sand. Because you sink further away, this is a bit heavier. The trick is to run on your forefoot as much as possible. Because you make contact with the sand with a smaller surface, walking becomes easier.After the sandy plain you keep following the path and walk towards the railway. The moment you cross the track, you are about halfway through your trail run. On the other side of the track you will again find forest and sand. You meander over narrow forest paths along the trees, which requires a different technique than the vast expanse of sand.You then turn back towards the track and walk the last part on a path parallel to the rails. You can already see Den Dolder and as soon as you cross the provincial road you are almost at the train. Walk the last bit to the station and get on the train home.Of course you can also reverse the route if that is easier for you, and walk from Den Dolder to Soest-Zuid.

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    Intermediate
    00:53
    4.91 mi
    5.5 mph
    250 ft
    250 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The name of the Mookerheide reveals that this trail run runs through a heather area. But that's certainly not all. The snow-white hunting lodge from 1904 on the Mookerheide estate is also on the route. In the past there was a rose garden and beautiful pond at the front.
    In addition, the castle had an ice house. The ice from the winter was stored in it, so that you had a refrigerator in the summer. Since 1985 the castle, the gardens and the surrounding nature reserve have been in the hands of Natuurmonumenten.
    If you want you can walk an extra circle around the castle to have a good look. A walk is also allowed here!Due to the height differences during the run, you have a beautiful view in various places. One of them is at the southernmost point of your run. From here you can see the Mookerheide and you can see the hunting lodge in the distance.In any case, you can see far from the Mookerschans. Here is a lookout tower of twelve meters high from which you can see the typical double church towers of Cuijk.And a little further is the Heumense Schans. Like the Mookerschans, this was a security post in the seventeenth century. Not surprising, because from this point you can clearly see whether the enemy is coming. The end point is also in sight from here. Another one and a half kilometers and your trail run of almost eight kilometers is already over. Don't forget to stretch well afterwards.

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    Intermediate
    01:09
    5.95 mi
    5.2 mph
    75 ft
    75 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Some sure footedness required.

    The Loonse and Drunense Duinen are a very special part of the Netherlands. It is one of the largest drifting sand areas in Western Europe. In addition to lots of sand, you will find woodland and heather here.It is a popular hiking area, but the chances of encountering riders on your run are also quite high. On the no less than 270 hectares of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen, I have set out a route of less than ten kilometers. Much of the route is on forest trails, with most of the sand in the middle section. This run does not actually have any paved paths or asphalt roads.In addition to all the sand and forest, you will also encounter a piece of typical heathland. When you go trail running in August you can see the heather in the beautiful purple bloom.Your run starts from the De Rustende Jager parking lot. This popular café is therefore the end point of the ropute. You did deserve a drink after completing this trail run!

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    Intermediate
    01:16
    6.67 mi
    5.3 mph
    150 ft
    150 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly paved surfaces. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This trail run runs through the beautiful dunes of Bergen, towards Bergen aan Zee. Considering these dunes there are some vertical meters, but you do not have to worry that this route will be very difficult. With just over ten kilometers, the novice trail runner can also get along well with this run.You park your car in the Schaapskooi car park. Here you almost immediately walk into the dunes, so almost the entire run consists of unpaved paths.Along the way you will pass several dune lakes. You can often spot birds here, so if you need a little break from your run, plan it at one of the lakes. Often there is also a bench where you can rest.This trail run runs on dune paths, through the forest and over heath. The landscape is varied and incredibly beautiful. The heather blossoms in August; an extra dimension during your running route.After about 7.5 kilometers you will arrive at Bergen aan Zee. Bergen aan Zee is a coastal village in the municipality of Bergen and was only founded at the beginning of the last century. It is now one of the most popular places on the North Sea coast. A beautiful spot on the beach, perfect for summer days. But it is also beautiful here in the other seasons and you can get a breath of fresh air along the coast and in the dunes.You can take a short break during your run at one of the beach pavilions, or you can start directly with the way back to the starting point. Via the village you dive into the forests around Bergen and after a few kilometers you are back at your car.To end the day you can visit the artists' village of Bergen itself. Many artists were inspired to create their works by the peace, space and impressive nature around Bergen. This movement is also known as the Bergen School. Works from this movement are exhibited in the Kranenburgh Museum, for example. In the summer you can also visit the art markets that are regularly organized here. Of course there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and terraces in the village for a snack and a drink.

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    Intermediate
    01:20
    7.20 mi
    5.4 mph
    125 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate run. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Some sure footedness required.

    Dwingelderveld National Park is the largest wet heathland area in Western Europe. In this Natura 2000 area there are two herds of sheep with a shepherd who graze the heather, keeping an open landscape. The varied landscape consists of wet lowlands - also called drenches - and high sand ridges. You see heather, forest, juniper bushes, drifting sand and more than forty fens. A number of these originated in the Ice Age, others were caused by peat excavations.During this trail run of approximately 11.5 kilometers you can enjoy all the variety that the Dwingelderveld has. This way you first walk through the forest from the parking lot. Nice training on a winding forest path, before you walk a little further on the vast heath.Via straight paths you walk through the heather bushes towards the Davidsplassen. To see the many birds that live here, turn left to the bird hide. If you don't want to get out of your rhythm, it is better to skip it and keep following the path.Chances are you will encounter one of two herds of sheep during your trail run. A special sight how these animals roam the heath. Real lucky birds see even more: all three Dutch snake species (the adder, the smooth snake and the grass snake) live on the Dwingelderveld. Do you spot one?

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    8
  • Distance
    40.9 mi
  • Duration
    07:45 h
  • Elevation
    1,375 ft

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Pauline van der Waal

Trail runs for beginners – running off-the-beaten-track in the Netherlands