8 Top Trail Meccas
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Gone are the old days of trail running where we took a real off season, much like we did in track and cross country. Sure, we still laced up our shoes and trained when winter weather battered, but we broke from racing itself.
These days, it can be 24, 7, 365, all the time. We know you want the option to trail run and race your brains out no matter the month. We’ve got you covered because, this year, our annual top-trail-“towns” feature highlights eight places—towns, counties or full-on geographic regions—that make great trail-running and racing destinations all 12 months of the year.
Pacific Northwest, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Ripe With Trails
500+ The number of wineries in Willamette Valley
2.9 The population of Willamette Valley, in millions, which includes Portland, Eugene and Salem
50.9 Average annual rainfall, in inches, in the city of Eugene
Willamette Valley was created when colossal floods inundated the region during the last glacial period, creating a vast lake more than 300-feet deep. As the floodwater slowly drained to the Pacific, it left the Willamette River, which runs the length of the north-south valley, in its wake. In the shadows of the towering Cascade Range to the east, and the Oregon Coast Range to the west, the valley houses roughly 2.9 million of Oregon’s four million residents and welcomes many more visitors each year to its collection of wineries and waterfalls.
But beyond wine tastings and cascading waters, the 150-mile expanse stretching from Portland south to Eugene is filled with accessible urban and state parks, and sprawling wilderness. The winter rainy season, from mid-November to mid-March, when the region can receive as much as 10 inches of rain per month, shouldn’t dampen year-round exploration, as temperatures in the valley remain mild, and trails, though sometimes wet, stay open for business.
Insider Info: “Doubletrack and gravel fire roads can be a good option in winter over narrow, non-draining, singletrack trail, so rail trails and multi-use paths, though with less varied terrain, are often the ticket during rainy season.” —Willie McBride, a co-founder of Wy’East Wolfpack, a personal training and coaching service based in Portland
Forest Park / At 5,100 acres, Forest Park is one of the country’s largest urban forest reserves. Nestled in the Tualatin Mountains, just west of downtown Portland, the park includes roughly 70 miles of trails, and runners are greeted with views of the Willamette River after ascending more than 1,000 feet to a ridgeline. The park’s varied terrain includes smooth, rolling singletrack trail as well as steep, muddy, root-filled climbs.
Silver Falls State Park / Located about 40 miles south of Portland and 20 miles east-southeast of Salem, in Silverton, this stunning 9,000-acre landscape contains many waterfalls, including its biggest, South Falls, at 177 feet. The park includes over 40 miles of multi-use trails, some of which wind behind waterfalls. Try the seven-ish-mile Trail of Ten Falls loop to see 10 of the park’s cascades in a single run.
Bull of the Woods Wilderness / This wilderness area resides just east of Willamette Valley proper. Established in 1984, the 37,000-plus-acre expanse showcases dozens of lakes, creeks and streams, and a 5,558-foot highpoint at the Battle Ax summit. The area also contains over 60 miles of trails.
Portland Trail Series / This is a low-key, five-race series held in Forest Park in each of the spring, summer and fall seasons, and distances range from four to seven miles. Info: Gobeyondracing.com/races
Trail Factor 50k / This Memorial Day weekend event, also held in Forest Park, includes a half-marathon and 50K. Be sure to stay around for the post-race barbeque. Info: Gobeyondracing.com/races
Silver Falls Trail Runs / Held in November near Salem in Silver Falls State Park, this two-day event offers a seven-miler, half-marathon, marathon and 50K. The 50K course covers nearly every major attraction in Oregon’s largest state park, and each course offers nearly constant up-and-down terrain with creek crossings and waterfall views. Info: Silverfallsmarathon.com
West Coast, Northern Marin County, California
Marin’s Quiet Side
223 The amount of public lands in Marin County, in square miles, about 27 percent of the county’s total land area
490 The number of bird species that have been spotted in Point Reyes National Seashore—nearly half of all of North America’s bird species
600 The number of Coast Miwok Native American sites discovered in Marin and neighboring Sonoma Counties, marking 6,000-plus years of history
The southern finger of Marin County, containing the town of Mill Valley and the public lands of the Marin Headlands and Mount Tamalpais, gets all the trail-running action. But if you check out a county map, you’ll see that this area represents a tiny part of the open space and trail systems available in the north.
The main hotspot is Point Reyes National Seashore. There, you’ll find quiet, curvy roads through grassy greenscapes, restaurants cooking fresh oysters … and hundreds of miles of singletrack all to yourself.
Insider Info: “Running in [north] west Marin offers a wonderful mix of dense forest, open grasslands and ocean views. The trails tend to be a bit less crowded and not quite as steep as those surrounding Mount Tamalpais [in southern Marin County].” —Magda Boulet, an accomplished trail runner who lives in the East Bay of San Francisco
Miwok 100k / The Miwok 100K bridges the gap between southern and northern Marin County. It’s also a race that bridges the past, present and future of ultrarunning. Started in 1996, this race is something of a NorCal icon in that it preceded the trail and ultra boom that has led to literally hundreds of NorCal trail races. NorCal kids, you have this race and the people behind it as starters of your culture! Tia Bodington is the current and long-time race director and she puts a lot of love and her decades of ultra experience into this special event. Info: Miwok100.com
Point Reyes National Seashore / The seashore is the main gig for trail running in north Marin County. The area envelops most of the Point Reyes Peninsula, a chunk of land protecting most of mainland Marin County from the ocean with miles of beaches and rising to a north-south ridge some 1,400 feet tall. Almost 150 miles of trails await here, from oceanside doubletrack to singletrack switchbacking through redwood forests—and among poison oak, watch out! Perhaps the most bang for your buck can be had on the 9.5-ish-mile out-and-back on the Tomales Point Trail, which travels to the peninsula’s northern tip.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area / This recreation area extends from southern Marin County northward. Its northern extension contains the rightfully famous 11-mile Bolinas Ridge Trail. Run this point-to-point or create an eight-mile loop out of it and the Randall, McCurdy and Olema Valley trails, which involves a steep ascent onto and off of Bolinas Ridge, but gets you onto arguably the ridge’s best miles. Bolinas Ridge tops out at over 1,600 feet and will offer you big views from its grassy top in good weather. In the spring, the ridge is also famous for its wildflowers.
Tomales Bay State Park / This state park sits in the eastern shadow of the Point Reyes Peninsula, at sea level on Tomales Bay and under the peninsula’s protective ridge. The park is mostly used for its quiet and protected beach access, but the trails leading to the beaches offer gorgeous forest running. Start where the park road ends, and run all the trails to all the beaches, racking up about 10 miles of running total. Pick a weekday and there’s a decent chance you won’t see anyone else the whole time.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park / This small state park is named after a 19th-century entrepreneur of the same name who previously owned the land. Make the six-mile loop with about 1,500 feet of climb to the park’s high point, Barnabe Peak, via the Barnabe Fire Road, a wide, doubletrack dirt road, and the paved Cross Marin Trail. The views onto the Point Reyes Peninsula from high on the mountain are superb as is the forest that you’ll climb and descend through.
Southwest, Coconino County, Arizona
A Varied Landscape
Coconino County is a land of plateaus, mesas, canyons and peaks—and very little in between. Around these parts, you’re either running on flat, runnable dirt trails, or straight up or down steep and often-rocky mountain terrain. Variety abounds. The Grand Canyon alone—a fraction of Coconino County—encompasses five ecosystems, the same number found between Canada and Mexico.
Trail systems navigate high desert through aspens and roll along treacherous ridges above treeline; they switchback into canyons and meander next to creek beds. Elevations in Coconino County dip down to 2,480 feet, at the base of the Grand Canyon, and soar to 12,633 feet, at the summit of Humphreys Peak. And due to the varied landscape, a temperate running environment offers year-round running.
Insider Info: “In Flagstaff, when you’re snowed in, you can drive 40 minutes and be running on dry rock and dirt in Sedona. When it gets really hot in Sedona—triple digits—you can go up to Flagstaff and run in aspens and 70-degree temps.” —Ian Torrence, race director, ultrarunner and Flagstaff local
Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line Races / You can tackle the 55K, 100-miler or a fraction of those distances with a relay team at these high-altitude races in September. The scenic courses largely run on the Arizona Trail in the shadow of Humphreys Peak. Info: Aztrail.org/ultrarun
Run Flagstaff Summer Series / From May through August, the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association hosts seven races, from one mile to a half-marathon, showcasing the area’s mesas, aspens and plethora of city parks. Info: Flagstaffsummerseries.com
Flagstaff Sky Race / Aravaipa Running, a stalwart race organization in the Arizona trail and ultrarunning scene, plays host to the U.S. Skyrunner Series finale in October with these brutally difficult races. The two-day event offers a Vertical Kilometer, 39K and 55K. The 39K and 55K start at the base of Flagstaff’s Mount Elden and top out at over 11,000 feet. Info: Aravaiparunning.com/network/flagstaff
Grand Canyon National Park / Grand Canyon National Park’s south entrance is a scenic hour-and-a-half drive from downtown Flagstaff. From the rim, it’s straight down into the belly of the canyon via Bright Angel or South Kaibab trails. Proceed with caution as you descend and temperatures rise—the only way out is to climb back up.
Mount Humphreys / Arizona’s highest point and part of the San Francisco Peaks mountain range, Mount Humphreys tops out at 12,633 feet. The five-mile Humphreys Trail ascends more than 3,000 feet from the base of Snowbowl Ski Resort to the summit. The steep, rooty and rocky trail winds through pines and aspens, then from Agassiz Saddle at 11,800 feet continues another mile along the ridge to the summit.
Flagstaff Urban Trails / For easy runs around the Flagstaff area with five-star views of Flagstaff’s San Francisco Peaks, hop on the doubletrack, crushed-gravel trails in the Flagstaff Urban Trails System (FUTS), which connects to myriad and more challenging trail systems.
Northern Sedona / A breathtaking 45-minute drive south of Flagstaff, Sedona is located at the southern border of Coconino County, and is ripe with trails in every direction. The 18-mile Three Passes Loop is a locals’ choice. Climbing a total of 3,800 feet, the loop offers sweeping views of red-rock and ochre-colored plateaus and trailside desert cacti.
Mountain West, Canyon Country, Utah
A Southeast Utah Secret
11,617 The size in square miles of Canyon Country, which encompasses Utah’s Grand and San Juan counties
12 The number of peaks over 12,000 feet in Canyon Country, all in the La Sal Mountains
2.12 The population density of Canyon Country in persons per square mile, making it among the least-populated areas of the lower-48 states
Yeah, you know Moab, Utah, known to many as a winter respite for snow-less running. Indeed, the surrounding so-called Canyon Country of southeast Utah is a massive tract of public lands featuring intricate canyon systems. From the depths of Canyonlands National Park’s four districts, to the high-altitude La Sal Mountains, to the spanking-new Bears Ears National Monument (see “Running Bears Ears,” page 44), multiple lifetimes of trail-running exploration await you here.
Insider Info: “No matter how similar the innumerable canyons and mesas appear, each has a unique spirit and identity. To continue down one canyon and up the next is to experience two worlds.”—Bryon Powell, Canyon-Country local and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com
Moab Red Hot 33K and 55K / This Moab springtime classic will ring in its 12th year in 2018. Both distances offer a mix of dirt-road and techy-slickrock running. Unless you’re running for the win, carry a camera, for Pete’s sake. Info: Grassrootsevents.net/moab-red-hot
Moab Trail Marathon / This ain’t no beginner marathon! With former international-caliber adventure racer Danelle Ballengee as race director, expect a big adventure. Slickrock expanses, running straight through a creek, clambering along fixed ropes and a real obstacle course late in the race, the Moab Trail Marathon is a full-body workout taking place in November. 5K and half-marathon distances are also available. Info: Moabtrailmarathon.com
Deadhorse Ultra / This event hosts 30K, 50K and 50-mile races in November on the trails and dirt roads located in Canyon Country’s northwest sector. This part of Canyon Country is probably its most runnable, but don’t be fooled by a flat course profile as deep sand and plenty of slickrock make this a race of strength, too. Info: Madmooseevents.com/dead-horse-ultra
Canyonlands National Park / With 337,000-plus acres divided into four districts, there’s plenty to explore. Start in the park’s most accessible Island in the Sky District on the 11-ish-mile Murphy Loop, a lollipop that drops off the ‘island in the sky’ and climbs back up on it again. Move up to advanced-level backcountry trail running in the park’s more remote Needles District. Salt Creek, Horse and Lavender canyons are remote and contain hidden archaeological wonders if you’re willing to slow things down and search hard.
La Sal Mountains / Most peoples’ Canyon Country photos will have the snowcapped La Sal Mountains in the background, but few people venture into the vertiginous range itself. Go big or go home by summiting its tallest peak, Mount Peale (12,726 feet), a six-mile roundtrip outing with 2,500 feet of gain from La Sal Pass.
The Whole Enchilada is a 34-mile route that tops out at over 11,000 feet in the La Sals and ends in Moab, offering a couple of hours of alpine bliss, a breeze through the pinyons and junipers in the middle elevations and ledge-y red rocks in the low country.
Bears Ears National Monument / Established in late 2016 and protecting 1.3-plus-million acres all within Utah’s San Juan County, this new national monument is named after an eponymous rock formation resembling a set of bears ears. Cedar Mesa may be the most accessible way to experience the Native American history it protects; drop down into any number of canyons, such as Bullet Canyon, Grand Gulch or the Fish and Owl Canyons loop, and explore. Most archeological ruins aren’t noted on maps, so finding them requires you to engage your spidey senses.
Midwest, Bluff Country, Missouri
Bluffs of Plenty
9 The number of historical landmarks in Cape Girardeau that are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, many of which date back to the 1700s
106 Record high temperature, in Fahrenheit, during the hottest month in the region, July
3,415 Size, in acres, of Trail of Tears State Park
Cape Girardeau, a running hub for the quad-state region including Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Kentucky, is located along the Mississippi River, about halfway between St. Louis and Memphis, and is surrounded by state forests and parks, national recreation areas and national wildlife refuges—all within an hour’s drive.
The climbs around here are short, but steep and punishing, often covering 200 or 300 rocky and root-y vertical feet within a mile, and made even more difficult with the area’s humid air and thick vegetation. The fall and winter seasons—when temperatures are mild and dense forests thin—are an especially opportune time to visit, but the bluffs and their views are worth exploring all year.
Insider Info: “For ‘flatlanders’ training for the mountains, there are tough, steep, runnable trails here to train on year-round. But wooded areas may occasionally get some poison ivy or ticks during the summer, so be ready.” —Bryan Kelpe, co-owner of Missouri Running Company, a local running store that hosts several events in the area
Berryman Trail Races / The St. Louis Ultrarunners Group (SLUGS) hosts the Berryman Trail Races every May, with marathon and 50-mile distances. Located in Mark Twain National Forest near Potosi, Missouri, these courses roll through the highlands of the Ozarks. The 24-mile looped trail has about 3,000 feet of climbing, with some rocky sections but overall relatively quick terrain, resulting in course records of 6:33:27 for 50 miles and 3:05:18 for the marathon. Info: Stlouisultrarunnersgroup.net
Meandering Turkey 4.5 Mile / “No whimps, whiners or crybabies.” That’s the witty slogan for this regional favorite held the Sunday before Thanksgiving in Klaus Park, and it sells out quickly. The root-y and hilly singletrack course challenges runners of all abilities. The post-race cookout, with homemade chili and craft beer, is a perk you won’t want to miss. Info: Moruncocape.com
Ondessonk Trail Races / Shawnee National Forest, located in Illinois, 60 miles east of Cape Girardeau, contains seven wilderness areas within its 280,000 acres. This rolling glacier-carved landscape is home to the Ondessonk Trail Races each May, with 5K, half-marathon and 50K distances. The races utilize the Moccasin Gap Trail, a challenging 10-mile trail that passes Cedar Falls (the highest freefalling waterfall in Illinois), crests ridges and follows creeks. Info: Ondessonktrailraces.com
Klaus Park / Just four miles north of downtown Cape Girardeau, Klaus Park offers conveniently accessible dirt paths and root-infested switchbacks. Try the park’s 3.2-mile, multi-use outer loop, which averages a mellow 90 feet of ascent per mile. The trails here are popular on summer nights and weekends.
Hawn State Park / Nestled in the hills outside of Ste. Genevieve, about an hour’s drive north of Cape Girardeau, the park houses about 15 miles of trails with “plenty of elevation and creek crossings, combined with moderate-to-technical terrain,” says Kelpe. The rugged, 10-mile Whispering Pines Trail loops through pines and moss and across creeks.
Trail of Tears State Park / Hugging the mighty Mississippi River, the park memorializes the thousands of Cherokee Native Americans who perished during their forced removal by the American government from their homelands in the winter of 1838 to 1839. The park’s four trails total 15 miles. Burly climbs lead to the top of bluffs, where you can take in uninterrupted views of the river and southern Illinois. Located just a 15-minute drive north of Cape Girardeau.
Mid-Atlantic, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
Running Past Politics
6,131,977 Number of people in the Washington, D.C. metro area, the sixth-largest metro area in the U.S.
38 Percentage of workers in Washington, D.C. proper who are federal-government employees
1790 The year Washington D.C. was established as the U.S. capitol
While known as hub of the American political sphere for some 225-plus years, Washington, D.C. is lesser known for its trail running. But courtesy of a long history of local, state and federal land managers preserving green spaces, there are plenty of places for trail runners to play.
The area’s parks tend to follow watercourses, and around D.C. that means the mighty Potomac River and its tributaries. In this mosaic of developed and wild places, you can run past U.S. history while dodging rocks and roots.
Insider Info: “Here’s our well-guarded secret: Washington, D.C. trails are copious and not crowded. They run in and out of neighborhoods, along roads and under highways, connecting the city. They can be fast and flat, and rocky and steep. One mile you can bomb down singletrack and another be at The White House. There’s only one place in the world where such a run is possible.”—Michael Wardian, globetrotting runner and D.C.-metro-area resident
Bull Run Run 50 Mile / Held on the 19.6-mile Bull Run-Occoquan Trail, it has two out-and-backs with a couple of additional small loops and is hosted by the spirited Virginia Happy Trails Running Club, specifically race directors Alisa Springman and Jim Daniels. The Bull Run Run has been running since 1993, and takes place in April. Info: Vhtrc.org/brr
The North Face Endurance Challenge Series—Washington, D.C. / Starting and finishing at Algonkian Regional Park on the Potomac River and utilizing the Potomac Heritage Trail and the trails of Great Falls Park, this April event offers loads of distances ranging from 5K to 50 miles in length. Info: Thenorthface.com/get-outdoors/endurance-challenge/washington-dc.html
Rock Creek Park / A go-to park for hundreds of local runners daily, the trails meander along the creek toward the Potomac River. Go all in and make a nine-plus-mile loop that includes the Valley and Western Ridge trails, which are mostly dirt. Take note, the park has a lot of social trails not found on maps and you might briefly meander off course. Don’t worry, you’re in the middle of a city so you won’t be ‘lost’ for long! “Many parks close in the evenings, so it’s best to check before you make the trip,” advises Rick Amernick, President of the local DC Capital Striders Running Group.
Potomac Heritage Trail / The nine-mile trail lies on the Potomac’s west side, and offers frequent access points via parking lots and side feeder trails. Remarkably technical at its outset from downtown D.C., you will run among boulders and rock outcrops, in and out of side drainages and up and down bluffs. Go in the early morning for solo time.
Bull Run-Occoquan Trail / This 19.6-mile trail traces Bull Run and the Occoquan River tributaries to the Potomac River, in Fairfax County, Virginia. Designated in 2006 as a National Recreation Trail, it ranges from perfectly smooth singletrack in places to technical in others with roots, rocks and brief steep climbs and descents.
Southeast, The Port, South Carolina
12 Number of Sea Islands—a chain of more than 100 barrier islands stretching from South Carolina down to Florida—in Charleston County
1,546 Length, in feet, of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which extends over the Cooper River, the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere
389,262 The population of Charleston County, making it the third most populous county in South Carolina
The low country is a region along the coast of southeast South Carolina that includes many towns, including Charleston. This area offers something that mountainous regions usually can’t: guaranteed year-round running. You won’t find low-country trails closed due to snow. Instead, you’ll find a refreshing ocean breeze, accessible, sea-level running trails, warm southern hospitality and scenic waterways cutting through historic, centuries-old, port towns, marked by cobblestone streets, antebellum houses and new-age restaurants.
When it comes to trail running, the Palmetto Trail, which passes through the Francis Marion and Sumter national forests north of Charleston, is the gem of the region. But whether you’re looking to run a few easy trail miles in an urban setting, catch a coastal breeze on an ocean-side trail or escape into the woods for a lengthy adventure, the low country of South Carolina has you covered in any season.
Insider Info: “The trails here are surprisingly flat yet unforgiving, and most of them are on the remains of plantations from the 1700s, so there’s lots of history all around you. The local phrase to remember is ‘dirt, sweat, bugs.’ Bring bug spray with you from spring until winter.”—Chad Huffa, CEO of Eagle Endurance, which puts on nine trail events in the area
Peyton’s Wild and Wacky Ultra / Laurel Hill County Park opens its gates every March to host a 5K and 50K in honor of Peyton Johnson Moore, a lover of the outdoors and member of several running clubs, who passed away in 2013. Since the course’s 5K dirt loop is flat and fast, the course is perfect for your next personal best. Info: Run4p.com
Delirium Ultra 6, 12, and 24-Hour Race / If you’re looking to run far, take a trip down to Ridgeland, some 80 miles southwest of Charleston, in October. Participants can run the course’s wooded 1.69-mile loop in South Carolina’s low country. A well-stocked aid station provides hamburgers, pizza and pancakes throughout the long day. Info: Groundedrunning.com/delirium
Homestead 10 x 5K Series / This April 50K features a unique race format, which has participants run a 5K every hour, on the hour, for 10 straight hours. The faster you finish the loop, the more time you have to rest before the next one. If you’re not on the start line at the top of each hour, you’re out. How cool is that? Info: Groundedrunning.com/homestead
Laurel Hill County Park / Located about 15 miles northeast of Charleston in Mount Pleasant, the 745-acre park contains more than 10 miles of mellow trails that wind through open meadows, past oaks and by a small pond. These shaded dirt paths are an urban favorite for runners trying to escape the summer’s heat.
North Charleston Wannamaker County Park / Roughly 19 miles north of Charleston and next to Charleston Southern University, this park has more than 15 miles of trails through woodlands and wetlands. The northeast section of the Wannamaker Trail features technical and challenging terrain.
The Palmetto Trail / The 350-mile trail (soon to be 500 miles) was established in 1994. Located about 30 miles northeast of Charleston, the mountain-to-sea trail’s coastal terminus is at Awendaw Passage, an easy seven-ish-mile stretch of the trail along the coast. Much longer adventures await, as the trail provides access to the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the western side of the state.
Hill Country, Texas
Rough and Tumble
25 The number of Texas counties that make up what’s colloquially called Hill Country
1848 The year in which many German citizens left Europe in revolution, with some emigrating to the U.S. via Texas, and settling in what’s now Hill Country, leading to the strong German influence still felt there
9 Texas Hill Country American Viticultural Area’s size, in millions of acres, which is the U.S.’s second largest wine-making region, containing over
Texas outdoor enthusiasts lovingly say that everything in their state stings, scratches or bites. Texas is a rough-and-tumble state and the Hill Country region, which refers to the hilly uplands in the central part of the state that includes the major cities of San Antonio and Austin, is not an exception. Abundant trail-running opportunities exist throughout the Hill Country, mostly on state-park lands and some private land open for public use, but they generally aren’t for the faint of heart.
Related: 28 People Started the Hottest 100-Miler in Texas. One Finished.
Bandera Endurance Run / This 25K, 50K and 100K event, which has frequently served as the USATF 100K Trail National Championships, takes place in Hill Country State Natural Area in February, and exudes the essence of Hill Country trail running: rocky and rugged trails, brief-but-steep climbs and descents, spiny plants everywhere and a passel of local trail runners who are as friendly as they are tough. Info: Tejastrails.com/bandera
Cactus Rose Ultra Trail Run and Relay / This mega-tough, unsupported event features a relay, 25-mile, 50-mile and 100-mile races in the Hill Country State Natural Area. Info: Tejastrails.com/#/cactus
Lighthouse Hill Ranch Trail Run / Run on the private Lighthouse Hill Ranch located south of Johnson City, which contains quintessential Hill County rocks and punchy hills. The event hosts 10-mile, 20-mile and 50K races in September. Info: Runintexas.com/lighthouse
Colorado Bend State Park / Hugging the Colorado River, northwest of Austin, is this 5,300-plus-acre state park and its 35 miles of trails. Don’t miss the greenscape of the Gorman Falls Trail, and be ready for a big dose of rocks and spiny plants along the way.
Pedernales Falls State Park / Straddling the Pedernales River, this gorgeous park offers meandering, rocky singletrack with decent amounts of shade. You can run an ultramarathon distance on trails here without repeating any terrain—don’t miss a recovery soak in the river afterward.
Hill Country State Natural Area / Located southwest of Bandera, this 5,300-plus-acre park has a primitive feel and plenty of Hill-Country-style rugged and rocky trails on which to get lost. Highlights are the Vista Ridge and Ice Cream trails.
Eric Senseman is a freelance writer with publications at numerous websites and magazines. He calls the American West home and explores its many peaks, canyons and valleys for business and pleasure.
Meghan M. Hicks is iRunFar.com’s Senior Editor and a Contributing Editor for Trail Runner. She lives in Utah’s Canyon Country and loves using trail running as a means to explore the USA.