Best Trail Running Races in the US

What’s the best part of mountain sports? Compared to mainstream activities like basketball or football, the opportunity to participate with professionals in an event is MUCH higher. Instead of being in the stands, you’re more likely to be in the race itself standing next to an expert. This makes it more like a brother/sisterhood! Everyone is doing it for the love of the sport and not the money.

Over the past year, we’ve highlighted alternative pursuits like Nordic skiing and Enduro mountain biking. Another amazing way to experience the mountains that’s close to our heart is trail running. It might be as ancient as humanity, but it’s new when it comes to organized competitions. The biggest and baddest is the Altra US Sky Runner Series containing some of the most scenic and legendary races out there.

Best Trail Running Races in the US

Whiteface – July 8th and 9th

Wilmington, New York

Best Trail Running Races in the US Whiteface Mountain Upstate New York marathon

Whiteface is a beast even compared to mountains out West – Image taken by: Ron Heerkens Jr. // GF Media Entertainment

Best Trail Running Races in the US Whiteface Mountain Upstate New York marathon

Determination. That’s what is needed at Whiteface – Image taken by: Ron Heerkens Jr. // GF Media Entertainment

Home to the 1980 Olympics, Whiteface Mountain is a beast even compared to ski resorts out West. In fact, there are only 14 other ski resorts in North America that have a bigger vertical gain. This event covers two days with Saturday as the Vertical Climb competition followed by the Sky Race on Sunday with over 7,500 vertical feet gain across 15½ miles! In the end, your lungs and legs might be burned but you’ll feel like an Olympian. All this fun is brought to you by the awesome crew of Red Newt Racing.

Kendall Mountain Run – July 22nd

Silverton, Colorado

Best Trail Running Races in the US Kendall Mountain Run Silverton Colorado United States

The Kendall Mountain Run has been around since 1908 & shows how die-hard the people that call Silverton Home – Image taken by: Jubilee Paige – Aravaipa Running

Silverton is home to die-hard passionate people embracing the mountain life. Managed by Aravaipa Running, the first of two races dubbed the “modern” version of the Kendall Mountain Run, may be in its 40th year, but the original race was born from a bet during the silver boom. On Monday August 24th, 1908, a miner named Neil McQuieg bet that he could race to the top of the 13,066 foot Kendall Mountain and back to town in less than 90 min. He lost the bet but only by a minute and forty seconds! In 1978, this “bet” was revived as the Kendall Mountain Run. While running this race, imagine a miner with boots, a beard and maybe a bit of booze, rushing up and down this mountain in almost an hour and a half! A true foot race that deserves a big nod from any avid trail runner.

Audi Power of 4 – August 6th 

Aspen, Colorado

Best Trail Running Races in the US Aspen Snowmass Colorado Power of 4 Race Sunset

The sunset over the Audi Power of 4 is nothing short of spectacular – Image taken by: Aspen Skiing Company

It’s named the Power of 4 because this premiere endurance race embraces ALL four resorts, showcasing the topography and scenery that makes Aspen so majestic. Multiple different races are offered across the weekend from the Vertical K challenge, a 10K, 25K, and 50K Ultra.

The 50K Ultra event is one-third of the “Triple” crown Power of 4 race along with the following:

  • Ski Mountaineering Race on February 25th – 24 mile race consisting of 10,000 feet of vertical gain starting in Snowmass, traversing over to West Buttermilk and onto Aspen Highlands, finishing off at the classic Ajax Mountain.
  • Mountain Bike Race on August 5th – 33 mile race consisting of 10,000 feet of elevation gain

A true festival in everything endurance with access to one of the classic ski-towns in the World.

The Rut! – September 2nd and 3rd

Big Sky, Montana

Best Trail Running Races in the US Big Sky Montana Loose Rock Summer Tough Run

The Rut at Big Sky – Image Courtesy: Rut Mtn Runs

The sound of an Elk bugle booming over the large crowd of racers signals the beginning of what many consider the TOUGHEST trail race in North America. The RUT! With nearly 20,000 vertical feet of climb over high alpine terrain, it’s covered in loose rocks and consistent rockfall danger at every step! If the 50K seems a bit too much, you can attempt the “small” vertical climb starting at the base of Big Sky. From the village, it sends camo and blaze orange colored competitors up 3,466 vertical feet covering three miles to the top of Lone Peak. Once you’re done, don’t forget to check out the one-of-a-kind first place trophy made from elk hide!

IMTUF – September 16th

McCall, Idaho

Best Trail Running Races in the US IMTUF Idaho Mountain Trail Ultra Festival McCall Burgdorf Hot Springs Idaho

The IMTUF will challenge across its 100 mile race with nearly 20,000 vertical feet of climbing. Image taken by: Howie Stern

Best Trail Running Races in the US IMTUF Idaho Mountain Trail Ultra Festival McCall Burgdorf Hot Springs Idaho

The Salmon Mountain Range will have you smiling during the IMTUF race – Image taken by: Howie Stern

McCall may be known as Ski Town USA, but it offers a lot more than that. In the summer, this place transforms into a paradise filled with mountain and lake activities that rival any other town in North America. One of the amazing events that happens here deep in the forest is the Idaho Mountain Trail Ultra Festival or IMTUF for short.

In its sixth year, this is the most organic race on the list. Started by Jeremy and Brandi Humphrey, the goal of this race is to provide a challenging 100 mile race but at the same time bring the running community together. Just like the Rut, the course covers 20,000 vertical feet of ascents across its 100 miles. If the difficulty wasn’t enough to take your breath away, the scenery in the Salmon Mountain Range surrounding the Burgdorf Hot Springs will. Don’t worry if this competition seems a bit too daunting. Instead, consider checking out the Legend of Bear Peak 30K or the McCall Trail Running Classic.

Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon – September 16th

Enumclaw, Washington

The Pacific Northwest is home to the amazing Cascades with Crystal Mountain Resort sitting in the shadows of the massive Mount Rainier. On the

third weekend in September, you too can enjoy the views of this volcano. Run the technical mountainous Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon covering 26 miles over 9,400’ of climbing and see for yourself! A true mountain man or woman’s test to say the least.

Flagstaff Sky Race – October 6th and 7th

Flagstaff, Arizona

Best Trail Running Races in the US Flagstaff Sky Race SkyRace Arizona Snowbowl United States

The series finale of the Altra US Skyrunner® Series – Image taken by: Jubilee Paige – Aravaipa Running

Arizona Snowbowl’s base sits at 9,200’ above sea level and is home to the Sky Runner series finale. The single track trail for the 55K Ultra winds its way through:

  • Ponderosa pine forests
  • Aspen groves
  • A climb to the top of Mount Elden
  • A traverse below the San Francisco Peaks (tallest mountain range in Arizona)
  • Ascent to the summit of Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort

Besides the 55K Ultra, they’re also offering a vertical K climb and a 39K.

Trail running just like backcountry skiing isn’t about finishing first, but rather enjoying yourself and doing your best. Happy running!

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