If you’ve ever run the Wildwood Trail through Forest Park, you’ve likely wondered if the blue diamond distance markers were really accurate. Inevitably when you finished the route, listed at 30.2 miles, your GPS watch or Strava would credit you with a roughly 28 mile run due to “trail tax” we all encounter. During more than one of my previous half-dozen, E2E runs I joked that someone should take a wheel to Wildwood and see how far it really is.
Given the various changes to the route – the Barbara Walker Crossing over Burnside & Archery Range reroutes chief among them – and “trail creep” that has happened since Wildwood was finished in 1999, we knew that the published 30.2 number was likely off. By how much though? We decided it was time to find out, and I just so happened to have a new professional-grade Lufkin measuring wheel with a kickstand at my disposal.
Joined by Jacob Nigro, we ran at an easy pace to avoid any hopping and skipping to make sure that the reading was as accurate as possible. Running southbound from Newberry to the Zoo, we generally following the center of the trail and taking a “runner’s line” through corners and made sure that roots, stairs and other larger obstacles you’d generally find didn’t add extra distance due to the vertical lift of each. Additionally, we stopped at each major trail junction to record distance readings. I pushed the wheel while Jacob recorded the data, adding an extra layer of consistency in running/wheel styles that should further improve the accuracy.
After 10 miles (52,800’) on the wheel, my Coros Pace 2 read 9.23 miles while Jacob’s Garmin Fenix 6 was quite a bit more off than that. According to the wheel, the Mile 1 marker was at 1.02 miles and the Mile 10 marker was at 9.96 miles – remarkably close considering you needed a good tree growing on the East side of the trail at the exact distance.
When it was all said and done, we found that the 30.2 number was in fact inaccurate, but not in the direction most had guessed. We finished with 160,260’ which translates to 30.35 miles. Not bad given the changes a trail undergoes over 20+ years of use, damage, and just nature in general. Either way, it sounds like it’s time to add a 30 ¼ mile diamond to the Newberry end!
Donate your money or time to Forest Park Conservancy: https://forestparkconservancy.org
The full table of readings, including segment measurements and both SOBO (as measured) and NOBO (as calculated): https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nOdeYy-djkMwKVApLftqGpqgw1qFswUG7j-lPvqbFLk/edit?usp=sharing
Strava Activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/5799641536