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The best summer trail races in the United States

best summer trail races

We recently shared our trail running tips for beginners. As the temperatures get hotter, it becomes the ideal time to take up trail running. The shade provided by the trees on the trail can keep you cool and protect you from the heat of the sun.

So, why not sign up for your first trail race this summer? Or if you’re a seasoned trail runner, cross some of these favorites off of your bucket list:

  • Palm Bluff Trail Race and Ultra, Palm Bluff Conservation Area near Osteen, FL, May 4, 2014 – 12k, half marathon, 50k, and 50-miler. Each participant is asked to bring their own water bottle to reduce litter at the conservation – don’t worry, you can fill up your bottle at the aid stations every 2-4 miles. At the end of the race, your bottle will be filled up with a celebratory margarita in honor of Cinco de Mayo.
  • James River Scramble, Richmond, VA, May 17, 2014 – 10k. This is not your average trail race and the race’s website says it’s not for walkers. Runners tour some of Richmond’s most scenic areas, including the Canal Walk, James River Park System, and Floodwall. But be prepared to climb the floodwall, hike up steep staircases, and possibly outrun stray bulldogs.
  • Sehgahunda Trail Marathon and Relay, Finger Lakes, New York, May 24, 2014 – marathon, 2- and 4-person marathon relay teams. The Sehgahunda marathon is touted as one of the best trail races out there. The race takes you through part of the scenic Finger Lakes Trail. It’s also a challenging, single-track course complete with river crossings, fallen trees, steep climbs, and low-hanging trees.
  • Dipsea Race, Mill Valley, CA, June 8, 2014 – 7.4 miles. Dipsea is the oldest trail race in America – it’s been held since 1905. The point-to-point route from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach is known as one of the most beautiful courses in the world. The most unique feature of this race is its handicapping system – past winners include males and females of all ages.
  • Western States Endurance Run, Squaw Valley, CA, June 28, 2014 – 100 mile ultramarathon. Western States tops many ultrarunners’ must-do list. It’s the oldest and most prestigious 100-mile trail race there is. But not just anyone can run it – runners need to meet qualification standards and enter a lottery. Runners climb over 18,000 feet and descend nearly 23,000 feet before completing the course. Racers who finish in under 30 hours earn a bronze belt buckle, while those crossing the finish line in 24 hours receive a silver belt buckle.
  • Loon Mountain Race, Lincoln, NH, July 6, 2014 – TBA, around 5 miles. This trail race isn’t for the faint of heart. Runners literally race up a mountain with an average grade of 10 percent, but some sections are as steep as a 40 percent incline. Ouch!
  • Half-Wit Half Marathon, Reading, PA, August 10, 2014 – half marathon. If you’re looking for a good time on the trails, search no further than the Half-Wit half. This race serves “alternative beverages” at aid stations and comes with on-course surprises. Just read the race’s registration site if you want a good laugh.
  • Turkey Swamp Race Day, Freehold, NJ, August 17, 2014 – 10 mile, half marathon, marathon, and 50k. This 2.5-mile looped race is a great course for trail running first-timers. Tracks are wide, flat, and free of debris. Plus, the short looped format makes it easy to connect with your spectators.

Written by Jen Matz / Photo Creative Commons