|Especially if they happen to run through a forest by a river.|
This isn't always the easiest thing in the world to do, since I'm a bit time-limited, and trails are by their very nature not very highly visible in urban areas.
Therefore, I must deploy my secret weapon: milermeter.com (aka gmap-pedometer.com).
|That's how I found Jan's Trail near my office in Mississauga, ON|
|And my lunchride happy place - McKechnie Woods|
The MilerMeter not only allows you to pull up maps - all using Google maps data - but also allows you to plot a route that will show distance in either imperial or metric, with flags at each mile or kilometer along the way.
|Sample route on the trails around Riverside Park in Cambridge|
I use this tool all the time to calculate distances for running routes, as the tracking app I use on my phone is somewhat unreliable when it comes to telling me exactly how far I've gone. I can either map out the route after the fact (which is useful for running different combinations of familiar loops in my neighbourhood), or I can sit down in advance and figure out exactly where I want to fo. If I know I want to run 20km, I can just plot out a course of that distance; I have a couple of saved "routes" that are actually just starting points (my home and my office) which I keep bookmarked for speedy reference.
Apart from its constant usefulness in everyday route planning, what I'm rather fond of doing is looking for green spaces on the map in a general area, then seeing if I can find grey lines through the green space that would indicate a trail system.
|Even if it's just a path through a lovely park, like Woodington Green in Mississauga|
|Or possibly a crushed limestone trail along Cooksville Creek|
If you're curious about what you'll see along the way, you can use satellite view or even street view to take a closer look.
|Satellite view of Riverside Park route|
|Fly the little streetview guy in to where you'd like to look (not all locations available)|
|Street view imaging in Riverside Park, at a spot Tanker and I call the bunny field.|
|It won't necessarily show you where to find the little waterfalls, though.|
This has led to discoveries of little-known trails in all sorts of different places...which leads me to the greatest gift the MilerMeter has given me through the years: advance knowledge of places to run & ride while traveling.
Because it uses Google maps data, I can pull up maps of anywhere in the world. If I know we're going to take a holiday somewhere, I have the ability to check out interesting spots that I'd like to run, or at least places that look safe and decently accessible. As I've written about in the past, I am a huge proponent of active tourism - there's no nicer way to discover things about a new location than by human power, and running or cycling lets you cover more ground and see more things than just walking alone.
|Like trails with underpasses that let you avoid crossing busy roads|
If you're concerned about the effort you'll be putting out while traversing a potential route, you can even pull up an elevation profile of the course you've mapped out...assuming you actually want to know.
|My run route to the pool.|
Yes, it hurts as much as it looks.
So the next time you're feeling bored with the same old humdrum sights, why not pull up a map and see what else there is to explore? I've found two new routes in the last 3 weeks to cycle down to my Mum's place in Mississauga from my office, the latter of which I think may be one of my favourite urban trails of all time.
|This is the kind of commute I can live with.|
There are new trails and details being added all the time, too, so get out there and try something you've never seen before! If you're lucky, you might find something even half as beautiful as the Mississauga Valley Trail, on which most of these photos were taken Wednesday evening.
NB: I can't take any responsibility for what you do with any information gleaned from using MilerMeter, nor the accuracy of the data it provides. Please, be safe out there!