10 Epic U.S Trail Running Events to Test Your Grit

ultra marathonFrom the adven­ture-fer­tile lands of the Rocky Moun­tains to the oth­er­world­ly won­ders of the Amer­i­can South­west, whether you’re look­ing to go the dis­tance or race against the steep­ness, America’s wide vari­ety of epic trail races will give you some big goals to train for, and huge accom­plish­ments to brag about (if that’s your thing).

Moab Trail Marathon—Moab, Utah
Just on the out­skirts of Canyon­lands Nation­al Park, the Moab Trail Marathon takes run­ners in and out of canyons, across fixed-line tra­vers­es, and through an oth­er­world­ly red land­scape, all fixed upon the daz­zling back­drop of the La Sal Moun­tains. Using a vari­ety of hard sur­faces to com­plete the trail, includ­ing aban­doned jeep roads, sin­gle­track, and a few spots of slick rock, this trail marathon is no easy walk in the park—with your aver­age ath­lete fin­ish­ing between five and six hours. Race date for 2017 is Novem­ber 24th, which might just be enough time to train properly.

Gorge Water­falls 50k/100k—Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, Oregon
Whether you’re aim­ing for the Gorge Water­falls 50k or 100k, the good peo­ple at Rain­shad­ow Run­ning who put on the event rec­om­mend hav­ing some expe­ri­ence with ultra-dis­tance run­ning before try­ing their race. It’s not that they are try­ing to dis­cour­age peo­ple from run­ning in their scenic event, it’s that on top of the dense mileage required, the course comes with 6,000 feet of ele­va­tion gain (12,000 for the 100K), plus rocky and slip­pery trails through­out the entire way.

Ice Age Trail 50 Endurance Runs—La Grange, Wisconsin
Con­sist­ing of a point to point course, the Ice Age Trail 50 mean­ders through hard­wood forests and tall prairie grass along sin­gle­track and for­est ser­vice roads, pro­vid­ing a vari­ety of land­scapes the entire way to help ease the mind of the run­ners with the long-dis­tance task ahead of them. With first-aid and resup­ply sta­tions along the way, as well as apt­ly named Con­fu­sion Cor­ner sec­tion, the Ice Age Tail 50 is a pop­u­lar event for those look­ing to get their first ultra-event under their belt, or for those look­ing to add anoth­er medal to the collection.

The Rut—Big Sky, Montana
Locat­ed on the Big Sky Resort prop­er­ty in south­west­ern Mon­tana, the Rut 50K is an extreme alpine race that will not only test the runner’s legs, but dou­ble-check their fear of heights as well. What gains the Rut some­times the most atten­tion is the incred­i­bly exposed sec­tions that leave run­ners feel­ing like they’re hold­ing on to the side of the world. The Rut is real­ly a three-day cel­e­bra­tion of the moun­tain in Sep­tem­ber, with the 50K occur­ring on the last day.

Loon Moun­tain Race—Lin­coln, New Hampshire
While a race dis­tance of 6.6 miles doesn’t seem too epic, once rac­ers start dig­ging into the uphill route of the Loon Moun­tain Race in New Hamp­shire, they’ll real­ize just get­ting to the fin­ish line is quite the chal­lenge enough. Fea­tur­ing a lit­er­al­ly straight-up-the-moun­tain route, the Loon Moun­tain Race fol­lows a straight path up the North Peak of the Loon Moun­tain Resort, includ­ing sec­tions on the black-dia­mond ski route “the Boss,” which touts a falling-back­wards 40-degree grade at times.

Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon—Man­i­tou Springs, Colorado
While the 13.3 miles of the Pikes Peak Ascent is hard enough (7,815 ft. ele­va­tion gain), to com­plete the Pikes Peak Marathon you must fol­low the same path back down. Because of the gru­el­ing route and phys­i­cal demands of either of these two accom­plish­ments, run­ners who wish to par­tic­i­pate in either the Ascent or Marathon must first qual­i­fy to enter. Qual­i­fi­ca­tions can come from past half or full marathons com­ple­tions in a spec­i­fied amount of time (2:25:00 for ½, 6:00:00 for full), or com­ple­tion of either the Pikes Peak Ascent or Marathon with­in the past three years.

West­ern States Endurance Run—Squaw Val­ley, California
The old­est ultra­run­ning event in the coun­try, the West­ern States Endurance Run has been test­ing ath­letes for over four decades. Start­ing in Squaw Val­ley just out­side of Lake Tahoe, the West­ern States Endurance Run fin­ish­es 100 miles lat­er in Auburn. To par­tic­i­pate in this brag­ging-rights wor­thy event, run­ners must first com­plete an equidis­tant qual­i­fy­ing event. With 41,000 feet of ele­va­tion change and scenic areas along the entire way, run­ners will have plen­ty to keep their brains and bod­ies engaged.

Speed­goat 50K—Snow­bird Ski and Sum­mer Resort, Utah
Host­ed by the world-renowned ultra-run­ner ath­lete Karl Meltzer, the Speed­goat 50k winds its way up down the Snow­bird Ski and Sum­mer Resort of Utah, expos­ing run­ners to not only a good dose of ele­va­tion gain (14,000+ ft.), but also an array of amaz­ing views. The Speed­goat 50k isn’t rec­om­mend­ed for a first ultra-event, but with enough time on your feet and plen­ty of train­ing behind you, it can pro­vide a sense of accom­plish­ment like no oth­er, plus a pret­ty good brag­ging token.

Equinox Trail Marathon—Fair­banks, Alaska
Fea­tur­ing 26.2 miles of autum­nal equinox Alas­ka scenery, and two climb-up-and-overs of Ester Dome, this race pro­vides sights to see and legs that burn. Although com­pet­i­tive ath­letes always show up at the start­ing line, the Equinox Trail Marathon has a gen­er­ous cut-off time and relay option for any­one look­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the fun. For no oth­er rea­son than to expe­ri­ence Alas­ka in the autumn, the Equinox Trail Marathon will prove to be worth it every step of the way.

Hardrock 100 & Leadville Trail 100—Sil­ver­ton & Leadville, Colorado
The Hardrock 100 is first up in July, and pro­vides ath­letes a chal­leng­ing 100 miles through sev­er­al dis­tinct cli­mate zones and over 60,000 feet of ele­va­tion change. Fol­low­ing short­ly in August, the Leadville 100 has sim­i­lar qual­i­ties in its chal­lenges, but adds a whole new 100 miles of ter­rain to explore. Both the Hardrock 100 and Leadville 100 rep­re­sent some of the top chal­lenges in orga­nized ultra­run­ning, and even attempt­ing either is quite the exer­cise, giv­ing those var­ied few who have com­plet­ed both a gold-star run­ning status.