Dartmoor trail runs: dos and don'ts
- DO wear appropriate clothing – think waterproofs and trail running shoes
- DO be careful on roads, especially at junctions
- DO wear reflective clothing if running after dark
- DO stay alert and be careful of tripping hazards
- DO take a mobile phone in case of emergencies
- DON'T look at your phone or map while you're running
- DON'T wear headphones – they make you less aware of dangers
- DON'T embark on any Dartmoor trail runs alone unless you're very experienced
- DON'T forget the Countryside Code – take litter home and leave all gates as you find them
And a quick word about ticks. Yes, these little blood-sucking mites are quite common on Dartmoor and, in rare cases, their bites can cause Lyme disease. To stay safe on your Dartmoor trail runs, it's best to carry a special tick-removal tool and check yourself carefully at the end of the day.
Best for beginners: Dunsford Daffodil Trail
- Difficulty: easy
- Length: 6.3 kilometres
- Parking: at the trailhead (free)
- Postcode: EX6 7EG
Most Dartmoor trail runs take advantage of the National Park's famously formidable hills. But to kick things off, we're sharing something a little less taxing.
This woodland trail takes you through the Dunsford nature reserve near Exeter. It's very peaceful, rather short and not very hilly – at least by Dartmoor standards.
Dunsford is famous for its wild daffodils, so expect a golden gala if you tackle the trail in spring. The path follows the River Teign, so you might even spot an otter or kingfisher if you're lucky.
If you can muster a little more than a 5K, Dunsford will serve up a scenic, enjoyable and fairly easy-going trail run. The out-and-back route starts and ends at the trailhead on the B3212.
Best for experts: Ryder's Revenge
- Difficulty: hard
- Length: 28 kilometres
- Parking: Princetown car park
- Postcode: PL20 6QF
If Dunsford Daffodil Trail is a beauty, Ryder's Revenge is the beast.
This long-distance circular trail will challenge even the most competent cross-country runners. It's gruelling, it's gorgeous and it provides one heck of a workout. If you keep a decent pace, you can expect to burn about 3,000 calories – the equivalent of five-and-a-bit Big Macs.
And, like all the best Dartmoor trail runs, it has its ups and downs. Prepare for sudden climbs and equally rapid descents. At one point, the trail drops by 81 metres over a distance of just 0.6 kilometres.
The route begins and ends in Princetown, close to the National Park Visitor Centre. Don't forget to stop for ice cream when you reach the finish line.
Best for a quick afternoon jog: King's Tor
- Difficulty: moderate
- Length: 2.7 kilometres
- Parking: at the trailhead
- Postcode: PL20 6ST
If you don't have time for one of our more involved Dartmoor trail runs, try this short jog up and down King's Tor near Merrivale.
At only 2.7 kilometres, this trail can be conquered on a lunch break. However, you'll be tackling a fairly steep climb, so it will deliver a decent workout all the same.
Got a few minutes to spare? Great. Make sure you stop at the top to take in the view and admire King's Barrow. This rocky burial mound is believed to date back to the early Bronze Age.
You'll start at Four Winds Car Park, then head straight to the top of the tor and back again. Simple.
Best for endurance runners: Dartmoor in a Day 50KM Ultra
- Difficulty: off the scale
- Length: 50 kilometres (approx.)
- Parking: Ivybridge Community College (free for participants)
- Postcode: EX20 1EA
Yes, you read that right. This trail clocks in at a calf-crushing 50 kilometres – and as if that wasn't challenging enough, it expects you to pay for the privilege.
If you've got strong legs and love a challenge, though, it's well worth the entry fee. Sign up and you'll join dozens of other endurance runners on an ambitious trek between Dartmoor's most northerly and southerly points. Along the way, you'll pass through some of the National Park's most picturesque villages and scenic spots.
The event is the brainchild of Climb South West: an outdoor adventure firm that organises several Dartmoor trail runs, as well as similar events in Wales and Dorset.
The next Dartmoor in a Day will take place on 14 September 2024. If it follows the same route as 2023's event, expect to start in Okehampton and finish in Ivybridge.
The perfect base for your Dartmoor running expedition
You can't do all these Dartmoor trail runs in a day. So, why not turn a one-off workout into a full-blown Dartmoor running holiday?
Here at The Horn of Plenty, we're lucky enough to have Dartmoor on our doorstep. Our hotel is nestled in the Tamar Valley AONB: another unspoilt landscape that straddles the Devon-Cornwall border and connects with Dartmoor to the east.
Thanks to this prime location, we're within easy reach of all Dartmoor trail runs. Stay with us and you'll be up and running in no time.
And that's not even the best bit. After a long day pounding the turf, you can look forward to an evening of indulgent recuperation.
Perhaps you'll stop for a meal at our award-winning restaurant. Or enjoy a splash of Champagne as the sun sets over our terrace. Or just take a shower and sink into your comfy, luxurious bedding. It's up to you.
Go on. After all that hard work, you deserve it.