When picking a southwest half marathon, you’ll want to consider the following: time, terrain, and trip-worthiness. Time: Pay attention to the time of year the race takes place. Disclaimer: Arizona in August has an average temperature of 103° F. Terrain: Some races are on pavement, others are through the desert (read: sand in your socks). Trip-Worthiness: Running through locations like the Sonoran Desert or Grand Canyon are reasons enough to pick a race. The southwest United States harbors some of the most breathtaking views on the planet.
Here’s our selections of races that are the cream of the crop in all categories.
Saguaro Half Marathon • Tucson, AZ
February 18, 2023
If you’re a fan of Westerns, you’ll recognize this area from your favorite gunslinger films. The Sonoran Desert is home to the Old Tucson Studios – the filming location for Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Three Amigos! and El Dorado.
Throughout the Saguaro Half Marathon course, you’ll run through the gentle, cactus-lined streets of Old Tucson, the Sonoran Desert, and the lush desert brush trails of the Golden Gate Trail.
The race embodies all the natural beauty the southwest has to offer.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon • Tempe, AZ
January 15, 2023
One of Arizona’s largest half marathons, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon alone sees nearly 15,000 runners. The course is an out-and-back loop that starts and finishes near the Arizona State University campus in downtown Tempe.
The route takes you through Tempe and north into Scottsdale, where you’ll cross the Salt River twice and head through both Eldorado Park and Papago Park. Like other events in the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, the race features live bands throughout the course.
Monument Valley Half Marathon • Navajo County, AZ
March 4, 2023
Both a race and a mystic experience, you’ll start this race in silence, followed by the sound of Navajo prayers and drumming. Then, you’ll head into the stark desert wilderness of Monument Valley Tribal Park, which sits at 5,500 feet above sea level right next to the Arizona-Utah border.
This half marathon is run entirely on dirt trails through the 91,000-acre park, and “includes very challenging terrain and climbs in one of the planet’s most dramatic landscapes.”
Hoover Dam Half Marathon • Boulder City, NV
December 11, 2022
The desert landscape of southern Nevada and views of the Hoover Dam— one of the most awe-inspiring man-made structures in the world — are both on display during this race.
The course follows both paved roads and portions of the River Mountains Loop Trail. You’ll also run through a series of small tunnels along the trails, which were used in the 1930s to ferry men and materials back and forth between the Hoover Dam and nearby Boulder City. The dam’s distinctive pale curved arch will be visible as you approach it from the Nevada side. You’ll be looking over into Arizona once you get there, taking a series of switchback trails up to the overlook.
One of the most picturesque locations for a southwest half marathon on the list.
Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon • Las Vegas, NV
April 1, 2023
At the Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon, you’ll follow a fast, stunningly scenic, and all-downhill course at this southwest half marathon.
Your journey begins in Kyle Canyon, just outside Las Vegas, and finishes at Centennial Hills Park, a 120-acre state-of-the-art park built along a historic riverbed. You’ll start at an elevation of about 4,600 feet and descend to just over 2,400 feet by the time you reach the finish line. A great race for a PR!
Shiprock Half Marathon • Shiprock, NM
May 6, 2023
In the Shiprock Half Marathon, you’ll experience spectacular scenery often used in adventurous car commercials and movies like Thelma & Louise to Rain Man.
This point-to-point race is named for the 1,800-ft. volcanic rock formation visible from most of the route. The course is mostly flat and offers continuous views of New Mexico’s vast, wide open spaces. The rock formations are hued in nearly every shade of red and orange, and you’ll never forget the experience of running along stretches of highway that seem to last forever.
Zion Half Marathon • Springdale, Utah
March 4, 2022
Enjoy an awe-inspiring run to the edge of Utah’s Zion National Park, whose mesas, mountains, waterfalls, streams, canyons, caves, and red rock formations offer some of the country’s most stunning vistas and views. During your race, you’ll get to appreciate the scenery both from high above the rocks and down below in the canyons.
You’ll start this point-to-point course in nearby Virgin, a tiny town of just a few hundred residents, and proceed east toward Springdale, climbing approximately 400 feet along the way.
St. George Half Marathon St. George, Utah
January 14, 2023
Run through a place known as “Utah’s Dixie,” which takes runners along scenic paved city trails that unfold alongside the Virgin River. The looping route is filled with twists and turns in the stretches closest to the river.
You’ll take in views of red bluffs that look out over the northern part of the city, see the edge of the Mojave Desert to the south, and catch in the distance views of Zion National Park and the peaks of the Pine Valley Mountains.
Moab Trail Half Marathon Moab, Utah
November 5, 2022
Organizers say the “canyons around Moab are unlike anywhere in the world, and this course conquers some of the most spectacular.” The Moab Trail Half actually is two half marathons—one on Saturday and one on Sunday—both of which run along the same course. Choose the day that best fits your schedule, or conquer them both!
You’ll run through Pritchett Canyon, filled with stunningly gorgeous red rocks and sheer canyon walls, and then climb up Kane Creek Road before your descent onto the hard-packed single-track trails along the creek. There’ll be a few sections that take you through knee-deep water (which may be higher, depending on the weather before race day), but the views make it worth it.
Timpanogos Half Marathon • American Fork, UT
July 29, 2023
It doesn’t look like a southwest half marathon but seven miles of running along highway winding through Utah’s scenic American Fork Canyon, followed by miles along residential streets and biking and jogging paths through wooded parks: that’s what you’ll see after you leave the starting line at the Tibble Fork Reservoir, which lies at 6,400 feet above sea level in the Wasatch Mountains. The course follows a gradual downhill descent, shedding about 1,800 feet of elevation over the 13.1 miles.
Southwest Half Marathons By Date
November 5, 2022 Moab Trail Half Marathon | Moab, Utah
December 11, 2022 Hoover Dam Half Marathon | Boulder City, NV
January 14, 2023 St. George Half Marathon | St. George, Utah
January 15, 2023 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon | Tempe, AZ
February 18, 2023 The Saguaro Half Marathon | Tucson, AZ
March 4, 2022 Zion Half Marathon | Springdale, Utah
March 4, 2023 Monument Valley Half Marathon | Navajo County, AZ
April 1, 2023 Revel Mt. Charleston Half Marathon | Las Vegas, NV
May 6, 2023 Shiprock Half Marathon | Shiprock, NM
July 29, 2023 Timpanogos Half Marathon | American Fork, UT
This content was produced in partnership with Vacation Races, producer of the Saguaro Half Marathon.