Desert Rats on the Run
Sun, rattlesnakes and slickrock in Zion National Park
Photo by Seth Giles
Race Director Matt Gunn puts it this way: “If you have even the slightest hint of a desert rat in your blood, then this run is for you.” He’s referring to the Zion 100 Trail Run, a grueling, mid-April event that he founded in 2012. The idea behind the race is to showcase Southwest Utah’s world-famous canyon country, but a geologic tour comes at a price—namely, relentless sun, gouging cacti and the occasional rattlesnake underfoot.
The race begins at a grassy park in the little town of Virgin—a 15-minute drive west of the entrance to Zion National Park—and ends at the same spot 100 hard miles later. (There are also 100K and 50K options.) The course is a single large loop composed of smaller loops and the occasional out-and-back; it’s a well-marked maze of slickrock singletracks and red-dirt roads, the occasional boulder scramble and a crossing of the Virgin River thrown in for good measure. Runners ascend nearly 11,000 feet as they tick off five juniper-spotted mesas, each rugged, remote and huge. Conditions can vary from 90-degree heat to snow flurries. And did I mention rattlesnakes?