5 Trail Races Worth Traveling For

If you’re going to endure a trail-running race, you may as well do it someplace beautiful

Sep 19, 2016
Outside
Outside Magazine
Trail running

This year's TransRockies Run saw competitors tackle 120 miles and 20,000 feet of elevation in just six days    Photo: Raven Eye Photography

Whether you want to run three miles or 100, there’s a race out there for you. And sure, you could sign up for a 5k in your hometown, but why not make an adventure out of it and travel to someplace stunning to don a race bib and sweat your way to the finish line? The scenery alone will be worth it. Here are five trail running races worth taking a trip for. 

TransRockies Run, Colorado

Held each August, this unique, six-day trail running race challenges runners to crisscross the high peaks of the Colorado Rockies. You’ll run alongside a partner—or you can do it solo—and cover 120 miles and over 20,000 feet of elevation gain as you traverse from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, Colorado. Each night, you’ll arrive to a fully set-up tent camp, where meals and hot showers are provided and your belongings have been shuttled from point to point. There’s a shorter, three-day solo version of the race as well. 

Moab Trail Marathon, Moab, Utah 

Organized by world champion adventure racer and Moab local Danelle Ballengee, the Moab Trail Marathon, held each November for the last eight years, includes a full marathon, a half marathon, and a 5K. You’ll wind through slot canyons, rolling singletrack, old mining trails, and slickrock as you take in views of Canyonlands National Park and the 12,000-foot La Sal Mountains. Plus, late fall is a great time to visit Moab and the surrounding National Parks, since temperatures have cooled and the throngs of summer visitors have departed. 

Orcas Island 25K, Orcas Island, Washington

You’ll start by taking a ferry from Anacortes, north of Seattle, to Orcas Island, which is one of Washington’s scenic San Juan Islands. From there, you can sign up for a 25-kilometer, 50-kilometer, or 100-kilometer trail race, which take place over separate weekends in January and February. You’ll run through old-growth forests and be treated to glorious views of Puget Sound with the giant, volcanic Mount Baker looming across the water. You can camp, stay in a hotel, or bunk up in a communal lodge alongside fellow racers. Spots fill up fast, so sign up right when registration opens in August.

Mount Marathon Race, Seward, Alaska

One of the oldest trail races in the country, Mount Marathon Race in Seward, Alaska, has been held on the Fourth of July each year since 1915. What the race lacks in distance, it more than makes up for in vertical gain. You’ll cover around three and a half miles and climb a crushing 3,022 feet over loose shale, rocky outcroppings, and muddy snowfields. It’s a popular race with a strict number of participants, so cross your fingers you’ll get picked in the lottery.  

Mount Bohemia Trail Running Festival, Michigan

Show up on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula in October and you’ll be rewarded with golden hues of fall foliage and a weekend-long trail running festival at the ski area of Mount Bohemia. Book a cabin or yurt at the base of the mountain and sign up for a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, or a 50-kilometer ultra—or go all in and sign up for the “Yurt Crazy,” where you’ll run the 50K on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday. Several of the races involve ascending steep, zig zagging trails to the mountain’s summit—the half marathon, for example, logs 2,100 vertical feet of climbing. 

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