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Summer camps are typically reserved for kids, right? Dirt hungry, bloody-kneed, s’mores craving, goofy groups looking for new best friends … Or perhaps they’re actually for trail runners.
It’s time to start packing for your summer trail-running camp. While keeping the all-time favorites, like campfire songs, corny introduction games and nights spent under the stars, the following 10 trail-running camps will teach you new technique, build a monster base, grow your community and be so memorable you’ll be crying when your parents come to pick you up.
Here are Trail Runner’s picks for 2018; they’re something to write home about.
Run Mindful Retreat
Where: Boulder, CO
When: June 7-10
Numbers: 12-16 participants; 2+ crew
Cost: $750 (does not include lodging)
Timothy Olsen, two-time winner and course-record holder of Western States 100, hosts this holistic running camp alongside wife, Krista Olsen. An appreciation for the trails, how to meditate, developing a community and good, healthy food are emphasized—and easily so. Held in the trail-mecca of Boulder, Colorado, campers will practice meditation and mindfulness, both on and off the trails.
While lodging isn’t included, the retreat provides meals from the local company RAD (Real Athlete Diets): think chicken and waffle sandwiches, kung-pao chickpeas and spicy slaw with fresh herbs. Besides going home more mindful than when you left, you’re likely to leave with a solid bag of swag from companies like Ultimate Direction, EPIC Bars, Honey Stinger, Sufferfest Beer and more.
Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp
Where: Juneau, AK
When: June 10-16 and July 19-25
Numbers: 12-16 participants; 2+ crew
Directed by 2009 and 2010 Ultrarunner of the Year, Geoff Roes, these camps take place in his hometown of Juneau, Alaska. The Alaska Mountain Ultrarunning Camp gets back to the basics—“The focus of this camp will be running and tuning into the simple pleasure of traveling through these beautiful landscapes by our own power”—while still improving upon skills like downhill and uphill running, pacing, and nutrition strategies.
Roes’ camp can help prepare you for ultramarathons like Western States 100, Vermont 100 or Wasatch 100, but the camp is open to fit runners of all ability levels. Most camps don’t cover more than 60 miles, but plenty of elevation gain leads to gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains and nearby coastline.
June’s camp brings along Dakota Jones, second place at the 2017 Lake Sonoma 50, while July’s camp hosts Jenn Shelton, third place at the 2015 Bear 100. All meals are made from scratch, and dietary restrictions like vegetarian, gluten-free or celiac can be accommodated. Participants stay at Jubilee Cabin, at the National Shrine of St. Therese, a beautiful site 22 miles north of Juneau.
4th Annual Rob Krar Ultra Camp
Where: Flagstaff, AZ
When: July 8-14
Cost: $1,850 for shared accommodations
The 4th Annual Rob Krar Ultra Camp, hosted by Rob Krar, 2015 Ultrarunner of the Year and two-time Western States 100 champion, brings all the aspects you’d expect at a trail-running camp—workshops, daily runs and plenty of post-run beer—along with culinary adventures (thanks to Krar’s wife, Christina) and the chance to tour a brewery.
The six-night camp, held in Krar’s hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, features stretching and nutrition workshops, training and racing strategies and guest speakers. Even still, the camp focuses on trails, and Flagstaff’s proximity to smooth singletrack, aspen-studded forests and nearby Sedona make it easy to do so. Daily runs are, at minimum, nine miles with the option to go longer. While the camp makes for a solid week of training leading up to big summer races like Hardrock 100, Leadville 100 and Angeles Crest 100, participants don’t need to be competitive athletes to join, and instead are encouraged to simply be healthy and well-rested before deciding to attend. Cost includes healthy, organic meals, local lodging and swag from sponsors like The North Face, Nathan Hydration and Smart Wool.
San Juan Running Camp
Where: Ouray, CO
When: July 11-14 and September 23-26
Numbers: 6-10 participants; 2+ crew
Cost: $1,250 for shared accommodations
Hosted by Highline Running Adventures and Sarah Lavender Smith, coach, writer and author of The Trail Runner’s Companion, this four-day camp is designed for both the avid ultrarunner and the weekend mountain enthusiast with a growing interest in trail running. Participating in a late summer high-altitude race? This is the camp for you.
Beginning in the mining town of Ouray, the camp starts with a short run to adjust to the high altitude. What follows is a two-night stay at the Opus Hut—an eco-friendly, European-style hut where campers will go back to their roots with bunk beds, but get an upgrade thanks to an 11,600-foot location with sweeping views of the San Juans. While the distance covered each day is anywhere from five to 16 miles (part of the Hardrock 100 course will be covered), all paces are welcome, and a fair amount of hiking is expected thanks to the thin air, technical terrain and steep climbs. Expect to go home with a signed copy of Smith’s book to keep all of the information gleaned at hand.
AREEP’s Trail Running Camp
Where: Warrensburg, NY
When: July 12-15
Numbers: 15+ participants
Now entering its 11th year, AREEP’s Trail Running Camps offer running, but also plenty of other activities, like classes in yoga, core strength, balance and drills and even slackline. This 21+ running camp reads more like the camps from your youth (think arts and crafts, granola-ball making and dance classes) but still focuses on running as the foundation.
Most runs aren’t longer than three miles, and offer the chance to practice techniques like downhill running and learn about sports nutrition, practice yoga and enjoy the nearby Dippikill Pond. Held on the 850-acre Dippikill Wilderness Retreat, participants stay at quaint log cabins. On the final day of camp, look forward to the Froggy Five Mile, an on-site race that offers views of the Hudson River and the Adirondacks.
Colorado Running Ranch
Where: Durango, CO
When: August 2-6
Numbers: 12-14 participants; 6+ crew
Many of the summer camps on this list are located in Colorado, and for good reason: there’s sweet singletrack, stunning vistas, and plenty of altitude to train for popular summer races. But the lodging for Colorado Running Ranch (CRR) makes this camp a stand-out. Following daily runs between 8,000 and 14,000 feet, participants can cool off in the on-property river, relax in the hot tub or grab a few new friends and paddleboard or inner tube at the nearby Lemon Lake and Animas River.
While the amenities are nice, most campers come for the crew; CRR coaches and mountain-running guides have top finishes at Speed Goat 50K, Pikes Peak Marathon and Sinister 7 148K, to name just a few. The addition of Jeff Browning, winner of the 2017 Bear 100, and Krissy Moehl, winner of the 2018 Gaoligong 100, make it even better. Browning will share his transition to an Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM) diet and how to apply it to endurance training and longevity in the sport; Moehl will share her experiences at races like Hardrock 100 and UTMB, as well as tips on how to keep running fun. While all diets are accommodated, particular attention will be given to OFM.
Additional topics include uphill and downhill running, altitude training, race-day gear, functional-strength training and mental preparation for ultramarathons, all while covering between 40 to 60 miles over the five-day period. As the camp boasts, “We take special pride in our swag bag swagger,” so know that you’ll also come away with plenty of gear to help put your new-found skills to use.
Iceland Trail Running & Wellness Retreat
Where: Reykjavik, Iceland
When: August 6-12
Numbers: 10-16 participants; 2+ crew
Part running retreat, part wellness workshop, this women’s-only Trail Running & Wellness Retreat centers itself on mindfulness—meaning you’ll learn how to run sustainably, train smarter (but not harder) and recover better—all while enjoying Southern Iceland and the Highlands. Beginning in Reykjavik, participants tour the capital on a morning run (most runs aren’t longer than nine miles in length), before grouping for a clinic on natural running form. Along with running technique demonstrations, wellness workshops are a large focus of the retreat. Topics include understanding what feeds your energy and what depletes it, how running can fit into your life in a practical and mindful way and what it means to reach your highest potential.
Camp host Elinor Fish, writer, runner and owner of Run Wild Retreats and Wellness, also leads participants on visits to black-sand beaches, waterfalls and the famous geothermal hot spring known as the Blue Lagoon. Cost of the camp includes transportation between locations during the camp, food, professional trail-running guides, run coaching, accommodations, workshops and custom souvenirs.
Cool Impossible Run Camp
Where: Jackson Hole, WY
When: August 9-11
Readers of The Cool Impossible, a step-by-step guidebook on all things trail running, will be familiar with author, coach, and mountain runner Eric Orton’s energy—expect this camp to be an extension of just that. The Cool Impossible Run Camp takes runners of all abilities (though participants should be able to comfortably run up to two hours) who are looking to develop their strength and skill in the mountains.
Mornings are spent in two-hour-long sessions that focus on various running drills and strength work. Following your lunch, participants meet to ask questions and chat about concepts that were covered earlier in the day before embarking on a two-hour adventure run as a group. Personal time is often spent exploring nearby Teton National Park, strolling downtown Jackson Hole or simply relaxing at your chosen hotel. While meals and lodging are not provided, the opportunity for spontaneous group activities or dinners are highly encouraged.
Mont Blanc Ultrarunning Camp
Where: Chamonix, France
When: August 27 – September 2
Numbers: 10-15 participants
Running a race like Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is a dream for most trail runners—but what about getting the chance to run along the UTMB course, enjoy the best trails and skip the not-as-great ones, all while getting race insights and strategy, nutrition and hydration tips, training presentations and the ability to cover France, Switzerland and Italy during your week-long stay.
Carmichael Training System, better known as CTS, offers summer camps for varying abilities, but suggests that participants at the Mont Ultrarunning Blanc Camp “regularly run on singletrack trails of varying terrain and don’t mind some rough sections here or there” and have experience as a “skyrunner and/or seasoned ultramarathoner” before committing to this camp. Expect to cover anywhere from 10 to 50 miles on any given day and be at altitudes from 1,000 to 15,000 feet. Jason Koop, ultrarunner and author of Training Essentials for Ultrarunning hosts this camp.
Max King Trail-Running Camp
Where: Olympic Valley, CA
When: September 20-23
Numbers: 12-15 participants, 5+ crew
Think of the Max King Trail-Running Camp as an introduction to all things trail running. Hosted by Max King, winner of the 2018 Way Too Cool 50K and full-time professional runner, this camp includes everything you’d expect: technique, nutrition on and off the trails and safety—but also land stewardship, trail etiquette, navigation skills, orienteering and trail maintenance, making it a good fit for both the beginning and experienced trail runner.
Be prepared to spend plenty of time exploring the nearby Sierra Nevadas and an equal amount of time dining on in-house meals and camp amenities—not unlike the ones of your youth (including games and bunk-bed conversation with fellow runners). Distance covered over the four days is between 30 and 50 miles, meaning there are options to go shorter or longer, depending on personal preference. Swag bags include products from Salomon, GU, Flora and more.
—Jade de la Rosa is a freelance writer, M.F.A. candidate and ultrarunner.