A great trail race promises incredible scenery, varying terrain and maybe even a little bit of an uphill challenge (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Every year runners in the U.S. have about 1,400 trails races to choose from, according to Runner’s World. Of course, the most popular take place amidst some of the country’s most celebrated landscapes and have something unique to offer for all types of trail runners.
The following trail races feature everything from rugged mountain trails and rolling ridge lines to lush forests and clear coastal views.
And those are only a few of the highlights that make them worthy of being added to your racing bucket list.
Whether you’re in search of a relaxed course that allows for the enjoyment of all that Mother Nature has to offer or you’re after a relentlessly rugged challenge, these must-run races represent some of the most highly rated trail events across the United States.
Rock/Creek River Gorge Trail Race—Tenn.
Except for a half-mile start on forest roads, this 10.2-mile race is run entirely on singletrack, following Mullens Cove Loop in Prentice-Cooper State Forest just outside of Chattanooga. Runners are greeted with stunning views of the Tennessee River Gorge and a rich forest landscape, plus the challenge of “rock garden’s” rugged, technical terrain at Short Creek. Proceeds from the race benefit the Tennessee River Gorge Trust for trail maintenance through Southeastern Conservation Corps.
La Sportiva Vail Mountain Trail Running Race Series—Colo.
No doubt, Colorado is essentially a trail running mecca, so it only makes sense that an annual race series held at Vail Mountain has become a somewhat iconic event. This surely scenic race series—which includes everything from the Boneyard Boogie 11k Trail Run and the Vail Half Marathon to the Berry Picker 5k and the Annual Vail Hill Climb—has been touring runners up Rocky Mountain roads and in and around Vail for 18 years and was named the “Best Race Series” by Colorado Runner Magazine in 2005 and 2008.