Bend, Oregon

Population: 70,328

Bend's Steve Larsen picks up speed on the Deschutes River Trail     Photo: Ben Moon

My Town: Bend

"Bend's trail network is vast, and you can run year-round—even when there's snow in town, the desert trails are open," says local Steve Larsen, a retired pro triathlete, road cyclist, and champion NORBA rider. "I've always been astonished that there aren't more world-class runners living here."

Bend's central-Oregon mix-and-match topography—at 3,600 feet, it sits between the Cascade Range and the high desert—has spawned more hyphenated subspecies than Hollywood. It's even money that the woman on the next barstool over is a climber-snowboarder-dogsledder, a telemarker-triathlete who ties her own flies, or some other ambitious combination. "Trail runner" generally shows up somewhere on the résumé. Pity if it didn't, as the local stats are impressive: 48 miles of in-town trail, plus 11 miles of dirt path along the Deschutes River; 2.5 million acres of Forest Service land nearby; and almost 300 clear-sky days a year. Ultrarunners and 10Kers alike join in weekly club runs that start at FootZone, a shoe store downtown, where microbreweries and martini bars have replaced lumber mills. Bend's many charms, of course, are no secret—as a city official recently told The New York Times, "a new family [moves] in every hour and a half." But even with an influx of athletes as diverse as professional cyclist Chris Horner, formerly of San Diego, and Hawaiian surfing icon Gerry Lopez, who moved here in 2001, Bend can hardly be considered crowded. On a five-mile trot, you're more likely to see a herd of elk or deer than another runner.

REALITY CHECK:
Exurbanites from the Bay Area, Seattle, and Portland have helped drive up home prices—to the tune of more than 50 percent in the past two years.

NEXT BEST:
Charlottesville, Virginia. This one's a no-brainer, what with Shenandoah National Park, the Appalachian Trail, George Washington National Forest, and the rugged, waterfall-cooled Blue Ridge Mountains all within 20 miles. A burgeoning lineup of off-road races adds to an already sweet mix.

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