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Lake Tahoe has always been a hub for skiers, but it’s quickly building a reputation among trail runners too. The area boasts beaches, woods and mountains with every kind of terrain, and its base elevation, at 6,200 feet, is lower than many mountain-running meccas. Most of the coast is national forest, which means an abundance of wild space to explore. But there are plenty of non-running activities as well, so there’s no reason to feel bad for dragging family and friends on a race vacation.
“Tahoe hosts just about every sport,” says Tahoe 200 race director Candice Burt. “Swimming, mountain and road biking, paddleboarding, hiking, skateboarding and more. A variety of locations have outdoor live music. There’s a great symbiosis of outdoor recreation and social activities.”
For such a large area, there’s also a surprisingly cohesive running and racing scene. The Tahoe Mountain Milers and Big Blue Adventures both host races in Nevada and California, so it’s easy to find fellow runners at every point from Truckee to Homewood to Carson City.
Lake Tahoe Trail Races
Marlette Lake 50K and 10-miler
August 21, 2016 / Nevada State Park
These varied-terrain races mix singletrack, technical climbs and dirt roads, says race director Bryan Rickards. They start just east of Lake Tahoe and wind north through the woods surrounding Marlette Lake, an “aqua-blue gem with an island in the middle.” Many racers take a dip during the 50K, which offers panoramic views of Tahoe to the west, the sagebrush-filled Carson Valley to the south and the 50-mile-long Carson Range to the north.
Castle Peak 100K
August 27, 2016 / Truckee, California
A point-to-point with 14,000 feet of climbing, this course starts northwest of Lake Tahoe and summits four peaks. It wasn’t designed to be “hard,” says Peter Fain, president of the Donner Party Mountain Runners, which puts on the race. Rather, it strove to highlight the area’s best scenery, and “just turned out tough.” For that reason, all racers must have completed a 50K to qualify. Downtown Truckee is only three miles away, so you can take in live music, farmers’ markets or the rodeo afterward.
Tahoe 200 Endurance Ultra
September 9-13, 2016 / Homewood, California
It might seem tough to devise a 200-mile course, but not at Lake Tahoe. The lake’s circumference is a convenient 205.5 miles, so the Tahoe 200 simply follows the coastline. That means every possible view of the lake, as well as 40,000 feet of elevation gain. Some aid stations serve hot breakfast, burgers or burritos, while others even offer places to sleep.
“It’s a non-stop race, not a stage race where all participants sleep at certain locations,” says race director Candice Burt. “Some participants do the entire route without sleep.” There’s a 100-hour time limit: four non-stop days. It’s the country’s largest 200-mile event with around 100 racers, and the first that doesn’t repeat any part of its course
Escape From Prison Hill 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon
April 22, 2017 / Carson City, Nevada
The “EFPH” races are an ideal way to ease into distance trail running, but don’t let the shorter mileages fool you. The half-marathon boasts two single climbs of over 800 feet and 4,500 total feet of gain and descent. All three courses are on open, brushy singletrack, so you’ll get great views of the surrounding hills and valleys.
Emerald Bay Trail Run 12K
September 18, 2016 / Emerald Bay State Park
This 12K point-to-point connects two California state parks and is ideal if you want a flat, fast race. It’s also great for trail newbies, says Bryan Rickards, the race director. “You get awesome views,” he says. “And it’s point-to-point, so you’re not repeating any sections.” Shuttles are provided post-race.
Lake Tahoe Logistics
Fly into either Reno-Tahoe airport, 35 miles northeast of the lake, or Sacramento, 100 miles west.
There are places to stay all around the lake. On the North Shore, the Squaw Valley Lodge and Northstar California Resort offer ski-area views and spas for post-race relaxation, and, on the southern end, the Tahoe Beach Retreat and Lodge keeps you right on the lake’s edge.
Enjoy cocktails and live music at Moody’s Bistro & Beats in Truckee on the North Shore, or grab a recovery beer at Coldwater Brewery and Grill on the South Shore, where there are always eight local craft brews on tap.
This article originally appeared in our September 2016 issue.