10 Stunning Half Marathons at National Parks

© Martinmark | Dreamstime.com

© Martinmark | Dreamstime.com

Our national parks are amazing places. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit any of them, you’ve probably had the same thought I have — what an amazing place to run.

But the National Park Service doesn’t make it easy to hold running events inside them, and for very good reasons.

We found a handful of parks that do host them, however, and a few others where you can get almost close enough to call it a run at the park:

1) Canyonlands Half Marathon • Moab, UT

Utah’s majestic red rock formations surround you on all sides at the Canyonlands Half, which starts just outside Moab and runs along the edges of Arches National Park for nearly the entire race. This popular race often sells out, which isn’t a surprise given its jaw-dropping scenery.

Late March • Complete race info »

2) Grand Canyon Half Marathon • Tusayan, AZ

You’ll get to run a short drive from the “8th wonder of the world” at this race, a high-elevation trek through the Kaibab National Forest just outside Grand Canyon National Park. Visit the park after you cross the finish line, and be sure to stay for the sunset — it’s the most breathtaking you’ll ever see.

Early May • Complete race info »

3) Grand Teton Half Marathon • Jackson, WY

Also a high-elevation race that runs through Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, just south of Grand Teton National Park, this race makes its inaugural running this year. It features stunning views of the Tetons throughout the course, which crosses the Snake River and finishes at a golf course driving range.

Early June • Complete race info »

4) Acadia Half Marathon • Bar Harbor, ME

One of only two races that are permitted to run within Maine’s Acadia National Park, which spans more than 41,000 acres along this state’s rocky coastline and takes up much of Mount Desert Island, the Acadia Half boasts views of cliffs, coastline, and the sea. It starts and finishes in Bar Harbor, and is run largely on the Acadia National Park Loop Road.

Early June • Complete race info »


5) Yellowstone Half Marathon • West Yellowstone, MT

Spread across more than 3,400 square miles in parts of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park is a place filled with geysers, geothermal pools, canyons, mountains and forests — as well as a giant caldera volcano that would wipe out all traces of life across much of the U.S. if it were to erupt today.

Thankfully, that’s extremely unlikely (!) here at this race takes you just outside the park’s western entrance, along dirt roads and trails in the nearby Gallatin National Forest.

Mid-June • Complete race info »

6) Bryce Canyon Half Marathon • Bryce, UT

The first few miles of this race take runners through Bryce Canyon National Park, a geologic wonder that lures visitors from around the world with its incredible red rock formations, stunning views of amphitheater-like canyons like Inspiration Point, and wide-open skies.

Mid-July • Complete race info »

7) Rocky Mountain Half Marathon • Estes Park, CO

This very high-elevation race takes runners a loop around Estes Park near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The lowest point on the course lies at just over 7,400 feet above sea level, while the highest tops out at just over 7,900 feet.

By comparison, “mile-high” Denver lies at just over 5,200 feet, Atlanta at about 1,000 feet, and Salt Lake City at about 4,200 feet.

Early August • Complete race info »

8) Crater Lake Rim Runs • Crater Lake, OR

Filled with rugged Pacific Northwest mountain terrain that encircles one of the country’s most majestic and beautiful lakes, Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park takes runners around the rim of Crater Lake at altitudes ranging from 5,980 to 7,850 feet above sea level.

This majestic place was created by the collapse of Mount Mazama, which once stood 12,000 feet high but imploded in a violent volcanic eruption some 7,700 years ago.

Early August • Complete race info »

9) Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon • Maryville, TN

You’ll get to run just outside the nation’s most-visited park at this race here on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. The Appalachian Trail passes through it, and it features some of the most unspoiled natural beauty anywhere on the U.S. East Coast — perennial visitor favorites like Cades Cove and Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the park.

Mid-September • Complete race info »

10) Death Valley Half Marathon • Death Valley, CA

Run entirely along an out-and-back route on a 6.55-mile stretch of Highway 190 through the flat, desolate desert terrain of California’s Death Valley National Park, this race unfolds near the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, just a short drive from Badwater Basin, which lies 282 feet below sea level.

Thankfully it’s run at a time of year that won’t reach the 110- and 120-degree temperatures that Death Valley regularly sees in summer.

Late January • Complete race info »

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