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10 Great Trail Races To Run This Fall

Give your road running legs a rest and hit the trail at these upcoming races.

Give your road running legs a rest and hit the trail at these upcoming races.

If you’re a trail runner or want to be one, the crisp days of autumn are an ideal time to run and explore. Trails are often less crowded, there are fewer bugs, and soft paths provide welcome rejuvenation for road weary legs.

So grab a friend, hit the dirt and get ready to have some fun.

September 21: Golden Leaf Half Marathon

Aspen, Colo.

Run through aspen trees in full fall splendor on this burly, point-to-point half marathon route that starts in Snowmass Village and ends in downtown Aspen. If the 980 feet of elevation gain sounds like a lung burner, wait until your quads start screaming with 1,712 feet of descending. The lure of epic mountain singletrack means this race sells out early, but bib transfers can be made for a $10 fee. Check the race Facebook page for how-to instructions.

September 29: Wabash Heritage Trail Marathon

West Lafayette, Ind.
6.55-mile, 13.1-mile, 26.2-mile

Soak up some history as you run these fast and flat, out-and-back routes. All races begin on Battleground Indiana at Tippecanoe Battlefield Museum and take runners along the Wabash River, through woodlands and into semi-rural areas on a mix of hard pack singletrack, softer trails and a few paved sections. Turn around at the checkpoint based upon your race distance and sprint back to the finish while you try to cinch your trail PR.

October 5: Rock Creek Stump Jump

Chattanooga, Tenn.
11-mile, 50K

Plenty of climbing and rocky footing keeps runners alert as they travel singletrack trails up Signal Mountain and along Walden Ridge, racking up 4,400 feet of elevation gain in the process. Put on as a fundraiser for Wild Trails, an organization that promotes trail maintenance and access in the Chattanooga area, racers are asked to bring their own hydration systems to reduce cup waste along the route.

October 26: Ghouls & Fools Nighttime Trail Race

Reading, Pa.

Dubbed a “Frantic Fartlek thru the Firs,” this nighttime run delivers everything from Halloween decorations to roots, rocks and adult beverages at aid stations for racers brave enough to run the hills above Reading in the dark. Don’t forget a headlamp and bring cash for the post-race Bier Garten.

November 2: Moab Trail Marathon

Moab, Utah
Kid’s Dash, 5K, 13.1, 26.2

Fall in the desert brings cooler temperatures perfect for running and taking in red rock vistas and challenging terrain, from canyon bottoms to canyon rims (yes, there’s climbing — about 3,500 feet of elevation gain and loss for the marathon), sand, singletrack, Moab slickrock, creek crossings and dirt road, with a few obstacles and fixed rope sections thrown in to keep you guessing. The 13.1-mile distance is the 2013 Trail Half Marathon National Championship, so expect to see fast times.

November 9: Catalina Eco Marathon

Avalon, Calif.
10K, 26.2

Some things are best enjoyed from the top, like the panoramic ocean views racers experience when running Catalina Island’s rugged trail and fire road system. Steep climbs, crazy fast descents and burgers and beer at mile 18 make this low-key race the perfect excuse for a weekend getaway.

November 17: The X-Country Marathon

Lithia, Fla.
Marathon, 30K, Half-marathon & 5K

Warning: Florida is not flat. This rolling grassland route through Alafia River State Park offers up plenty of unexpected hills, wide dirt and grass paths, and a few tight, twisty turns making for a great day of running, no matter what distance you choose.

November 23: Trails For Glory

Las Vegas, Nev.
8K, 12K, 13.1-mile, 30K

Travel a world away from the glare of the Las Vegas strip and hit the trails in Cottonwood Valley for undulating singletrack routes through desert scrub, sand, dirt, and rocks. Each race distance has some climbing, but also the kick of a fast, downhill finish. This is a B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bottle) event, meaning water is provided on course, but not cups.

November 28: Feast And Feathers Trail Races

Omaha, Neb.
Lil Gobbler Trot, 5K, 10K, 13.1

Racing in the morning at this Thanksgiving Day fundraiser for the Food Bank of the Heartland means you can enjoy your afternoon nap guilt-free! The half marathon route goes around Cunningham Lake, and the shorter distances travel along the lake banks before looping back through grassy meadows.

December 7-8: The North Face Endurance Challenge Trail Races

San Francisco, Calif.
Two kid’s runs, 5K, 10K, 13.1-mile, 26.2-mile, marathon relay, 50K, 50-mile

Golden Gate National Recreation Area is party central for two days of intense trail racing excitement. Pick your distance and take off through the Marin Headlands on fire roads and trails with some of the best trail runners in the country. The winners of the Gore-Tex 50 Mile race split a $10,000 prize purse.