The 15 Best Trail Races in the U.S. in 2024

Trail running may not get quite as much publicity as road running does, but hundreds of trail races are hosted throughout the U.S. each year. The possibilities of what kind of trail running race you can do are endless: ranging from one-milers to ultramarathons, flat trails to mountainous terrain with 4,000-foot gains in elevation, there’s a trail race of every length, terrain, and difficulty. How should you go about picking which trail race you’ll run? We’ve compiled a list of the best trail races in the U.S. to support your selection process.

In fact, there’s perhaps more variety in the trail racing scene than there is among road races. Whether you’d like to run up a volcano in Hawaii, through a mountain pass in Vermont, or along a gorge in Arizona, there’s a race for you.

And while some trail running experience is probably smart to have before registering even for easy races (they can be a bit dangerous after all), there’s options for every level of runner – including total beginners.

Related: How To Start Trail Running

We’ve gone through the race calendar of hundreds of American trail runs held each year and selected 15 races you’ll definitely want to include on your bucket list. So read through our list, sign up for a race or two, and start crafting your training plan. Happy trails!

Not Ready For A Trail Race?

This may be the final step in your trail running journey. If you’re just starting out on your trail running journey, you’ll want to look up how to adapt your running style from road to trail running, pick the right gear, and even choose to go on a trail running vacation before you commit to an entire race.

The Best Trail Races in the US Calendar

  1. XTerra Black Canyon Trail Run in Black Canyon City, AZ | March 17, 2024
  2. Gorge Waterfall Trail Race in Cascade Locks, OR | | April 15, 2025
  3. Seven Sisters Trail Race in Amherst, MA | May 4, 2024
  4. Scenic City Trail Race in Chattanooga, TN | May 11, 2024
  5. The Dipsea Race in Stinson Beach, CA | June 9, 2024
  6. Western States Endurance Run in Auburn, CA | June 30, 2024
  7. Mount Marathon Race in Steward, AK | July 4, 2024
  8. Audi Power of Four Trail Run in Aspen, CO | July 20, 2024
  9. Mount Rainier Half Marathon in Ashford, WA | July 20, 2024
  10. The Rut Mountain Runs in Big Sky, MT | September 15, 2024
  11. Moab Trail Marathon in Moab, UT | November 3, 2024
  12. James River Scramble in Richmond, VA | May 20, 2024
  13. Golden Gate Spartan Trail Classic in San Francisco, CA | November 24, 2024
  14. Red Rock Canyon Ultra in Las Vegas, NV | November 2024
  15. Grand Canyon Trail Half Marathon in Grand Canyon National Park, NV | November 2024

The Best Trail Races in the US

I-17, Black Canyon City, AZ home to the XTerra Black Canyon Trail Run the best trail races in the US.

XTerra Black Canyon Trail Run

  • Length: 6K, 10K, 13.1 mi, 26.2 mi
  • Date: March 17, 2024
  • Location: Black Canyon City, Arizona
  • Register

When it comes to organized trail running events, XTerra is a name to watch out for. The adventure brand hosts numerous running, biking, and swimming events around the world each year, and the XTerra courses require various levels of difficulty, so there is always something for novices and experts alike.

One of the coolest, in our opinion, the Black Canyon trail running festival features a marathon, half, 10K and 6K on the single-track trails near the canyon. Those who opt for the longer course will not only navigate trails but also climb up rocky ravines, cross rivers, and run along beaches. 

Cascade Locks in Oregon, home to the Gorge Waterfalls Trail Races.

Gorge Waterfalls Trail Races

  • Length: 30K, 50K, 100K
  • Date: April 12-14, 2024
  • Location: Cascade Locks, Oregon
  • Register

What’s cooler than spending a multi-hour run alongside lush greenery and cascading waterfalls? The Gorge Waterfalls Trail Races — 100K, 50K, and 30K races — run through Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, tracing the river’s course on a point-to-point path (50K and 30K) or out-and-back (100K). In addition to passing several waterfalls, racers will get views of the river and gorge. 

Note that the waterfalls, however, can make the course slick, so trail running shoes and experience are a must if you want to make it to the finish line.

An old barn near Sandy Neck on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in December 2012

Seven Sisters Trail Race

  • Length: 19K (12 mi)
  • Date: May 4, 2024
  • Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
  • Register

Named after seven mountain summits you conquer on a single trail, the Massachusetts 12-mile mountain race is one of the most grueling you’ll find of its length. The single-track trail covers over 3,500 feet of elevation gain in less than a half-marathon length, and forces runners up steep rutted ascents and down slick, rocky descents on an out-and-back course. 

If you don’t have the stamina for something in the ultramarathon distance range, this may be an ideal challenge. Located near Amherst, Massachusetts, it’s also one of the more convenient races on this list.

Scenic City Trail Race in Chattanooga, TN one of the best trail races in the US.

Scenic City Trail Race

  • Length: 13.1 mi, 26.2 mi
  • Date: May 11, 2024
  • Location: Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Register

While the Rocky Mountains may be the hot spot for American trail racing,  the Appalachians offer plenty of opportunities as well for East Coasters. Trail runners in the southeast should check out the Scenic City Trail Race in Chattanooga, which includes both marathon and half marathon distances. Runners tackle a 6.5-mile-long loop that provides great views of the city and surrounding mountains. While a repeat course may be boring in a road race, it can be helpful in a trail race allowing you to speed up as you grow familiar with the course.

The Dipsea Race

  • Length: 12k (7.4 mi)
  • Date: June 9, 2024
  • Location: Stinson Beach, California
  • Register

The Dipsea Race claims to be the “oldest trail race in America” dating itself back to 1905, when a group of friends raced the Mill Valley Train Depot to the Dipsea Inn. The 7.4-mile-long course has been run every year since, providing racers with a challenging, steep course through the hills to the beach. 

Dipsea is also highly unusual in its method of handicapping, which starts the slower age groups first and continues on to the faster groups making for a dynamic race that anyone could theoretically win. If you’re a 20-25 year old man, you’ll basically have to pass the entire field to cross the finish line first — how exciting!

Western States Endurance Run in Auburn, CA one of the best trail races in the US.

Western States Endurance Run

  • Length: 160K (100 mi)
  • Date: June 29-30, 2024
  • Location: Auburn, California
  • Register

THE event in ultra-marathoning, the Western States 100 is a grueling 100-mile race in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that runs each summer. Heralded by some as the “Boston of Ultras,” Western States is difficult to enter with runners either having to win a qualifying Golden Ticket race or enter a lottery after having completed one of the qualifying ultras. 

The race is not for the faint of heart and requires runners to bring their own support teams. It gives out belt buckles to runners who can finish under 30 hours and life-long bragging rights. This is on every ultramarathoner’s bucket list, but like Boston, it’s a doozy to compete in.

Seward, Alaska home of the Mount Marathon Race.

Mount Marathon Race

  • Length: 5K – with an elevation gain of ~3,000 feet
  • Date: July 4, 2024
  • Location: Seward, Alaska
  • Register

So, the Mount Marathon Race is not actually a marathon. Rather it’s a race up and down the Alaskan peak Mount Marathon for a total of 3.1 miles. But don’t let that distance fool you: 

The course has the simple objective of get to the top of the mountain and back, which means a treacherous 1.5 miles of pure incline, mostly at a 34-degree angle slope over loose rock and shale. And then, of course, you have to descend. You gain roughly 3,000 feet over 1.5 miles of that unstable terrain and then descend it all the same. Finishing the course is not particularly scary, but if you’re trying to win, you better watch out.

Aspen, Colorado home to the Audi Power of Four Trail Run one of the best trail races in the US.

Audi Power of Four Trail Run

  • Length: 10K, 20K, and 50K
  • Date: July 20, 2024
  • Location: Aspen, Colorado
  • Register

What does one do at a ski resort when all the snow is gone? Run trail races on the epic terrain, of course. Every July, the Aspen-Snowmass resort is transformed into the ultimate trail running course for racers to compete in 10K, 20K, and 50K races across the ski resort’s four mountains. 

In the winter, the mountains host the Power of Four Mountaineering Race, but in the summer, you’ll be sweating your way up the mountains on foot instead of skis. Running on both single-track trails and dirt roads, you’ll crisscross the beautiful resort with unreal views — then head back to the lodge for a celebratory apres-ultra moment.

Mount Rainier Half Marathon

  • Length: 13.1 miles
  • Date: July 20, 2024
  • Location: Ashford, Washington
  • Register

If you’re looking for an outdoorsy half marathon that’s on the lower side of brutal, the Mount Rainier Half is a perfect option. One of Vacation Races National Park series, the trail race allows runners (and walkers) to spend plenty of time in nature without feeling like nature is trying to murder you. 

While the course includes 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the climb is mostly in the race’s first half. Plus, with aid stations and a four-hour cutoff time, you won’t need to hurry or worry about carrying your own supplies.And, of course, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Mr. Rainier without having to climb it.

The Rut Mountain Runs

  • Length: 1K, 11K, 21K, 28K, 50K
  • Date: September 13-15, 2024
  • Location: Big Sky, Montana
  • Register

Big Sky’s premiere trail racing event, The Rut, provides runners with plenty of options when it comes to masochism: There’s a Vertical Kilometer that basically sends you straight up a mountain; an 11K, 21K, and 28K for more intermediate trail runners; and a 50K for those looking to run an ultra. 

The real gluttons for punishment can attempt The Rut Trifecta, aka the VK, 28K, and 50K on three consecutive days. Scale the Lone Peak Summit three times, cross three separate finish lines — and pray that you don’t get too beat up on the first two days so you can survive the third.

Moab Trail Marathon

  • Length: 10K, 13.1 mi, 26.2 mi
  • Date: November 3, 2024
  • Location: Moab, Utah
  • Register

Moab, Utah is easily one of the most unique and beautiful locales in the US, and it has not one but two national parks to prove it. While you’re in Moab visiting Arches and Canyonlands, why not sign up for one of the town’s November races? 

With distances ranging from the marathon to a kid’s 1K, there is truly a race for everyone in the family, and while the races include a few steep ascents, the paths aren’t quite as treacherous as some of those in the mountains. Plus the post-race photo opps in the national parks are endless.

James River Scramble

  • Length: 10K
  • Date: May 20, 2024
  • Location: Richmond, Virginia
  • Register

If you’ve ever visited Virginia’s state capital, Richmond, you’ve almost certainly seen the picturesque James River that runs through the center of town. Richmond’s scenic 10K sends runners down and back on the river’s two banks with a jaunt across the city’s Nickel Bridge at the halfway point. 

The trail-and-pavement event is not particularly daunting when it comes to trail runs, but it is a nice event for the whole family. Plus, there are ample brunch locations within walking distance of the finish line, which is definitely not something that can be said for every race on this list.

Golden Gate Spartan Trail Classic

  • Length: 15K, 25K, 50K, or 80K (50 mi)
  • Date: November 23-24, 2024
  • Location: San Francisco, California
  • Register

Running over the Golden Gate Bridge is on the bucket list of most runners, but if you are more keen on trail races than running the San Francisco Marathon, you can opt in for one of the Spartan Trail Classics organized around the famed bridge. 

Starting off near the Pacific Ocean in SF, runners of the 15K, 25K, 50K, or 50 mile races will traverse the bridge before spending plenty of time in the Marin Headlands north of the city. With Pacific vistas, rolling hills, and of course the Bridge, it’s harder to find a more scenic race than this one.

Red Rock Canyon Ultra

  • Length: 50K, 100K
  • Date: TBA November 2024
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Register

What happens outside of Vegas should not stay there – if you complete the Red Rock Canyon Ultra (either the 50K or 100K distances), you should be telling everyone you know for the rest of time. 

Obviously no 100K race is easy, but this course through the desert can be a punishing one. While there are aid stations, you’ll definitely need to carry some of your own supplies. The terrain can be rough, and the last half of the 100K includes a mostly-uphill slog (although the last 9 miles are all mercifully downhill.) 

The race only accepts 300 runners so if you want to run, you better sign up fast.

Grand Canyon Trail Half Marathon

  • Length: 13.1 mi
  • Date: TBA November 2024
  • Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Register

While you can’t actually run the Grand Canyon (the National Parks Service is very picky about hosting races on their grounds), this trail half marathon gets you about as close as possible without getting into a tussle with a park ranger. 

The 13.1-mile loop is a fairly easy course with just a few hills and wide-enough paths for most of the race. You’ll be in the forest and the desert when you aren’t taking in the Grand Canyon itself, so there’s plenty to see. 

And while you’re prepping for race day, you can certainly spend a few days enjoying everything the National Park has to offer as well. Just don’t try to climb down and up the canyon on the same day as the race.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

MENU