Let’s face it: It takes a very dedicated runner to maintain a full-throttle training schedule through the winter. But come spring, we get the itch. We tentatively test our legs on warm-day runs. We get the rush of endorphins that comes from having pushed ourselves. Then the high is back: Running season is here. And we’re (breathlessly) stoked.
Since the best way to push yourself to train a little harder is to book a race or two, look to this list of the best spring trail races in Utah to put a little more spring in your step. They’re all remarkable for different reasons, so you can pick your proverbial poison: views of Big Cottonwood Canyon’s Mt. Raymond, or a hoppy ramble across Moab’s classic redrocks?
See you on the trails.
Best for Weekday Warriors: Wasatch Trail Series
This weekly series of trail races starts in April and lasts through August. The races are cheap and range between just a few miles and several miles, so runners have the option to keep things ultra-mellow or push a little harder. Held on Wednesday evenings after nine-to-fivers are cut loose for the day, this series rotates between trail venues in the Salt Lake foothills, Cottonwood Canyons, and Park City.
Best Use of a Cottonwood Canyon: Vigor Utah Solitude Trail Series
The Vigor Utah races include the Solitude Trail Series of monthly races starting in June. Take your pick among multiple distances, all of which are entirely or mostly on dirt trails. Go with three, five, eight, or eleven miles depending on your levels of ambition. Whatever distance you choose, you’ll be rewarded with open swaths of wildflower meadows, quaking aspen leaves, and soft-packed singletrack that covers Solitude in the summer months.
Best for Bragging Rights: Wasatch Steeplechase
This epic event is a highlight among hardcore Wasatch trail runners. Every June, runners queue up at the starting line in Memory Grove Park just a few blocks from the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. They then ascend 4,000 vertical feet over the course of the next 7.5 miles on their way up to the ridgeline between City Creek Canyon and Red Butte Canyon, topping it off with a rocky scramble to Black Mountain peak.
Runners then descend to the famed Smuggler’s Gap (formerly a scene of Prohibition tomfoolery) and work their way back down to the bottom of City Creek. Runners will get a little bloody, very dirty, and plumb tuckered out over the 17-mile course. Only 300 people are allowed to enter per year, so coveted bragging rights are snagged by few.
Best for Exploring Southern Utah Redrocks: Amasa Run Trail Race
The Amasa Back trail is a classic Moab-area mountain bike ride, but this annual trail race re-appropriates it for runners who like a good rocky scramble. Held on May 2, the race offers the option of 6.5-, 9.5-, or 14.5-mile course routes. Runners can bask in balmy springtime temps while ambling down a 4x4 road, across a stream, up the side of a rocky plateau, and across the top of the plateau with sweeping vistas of the river below. For bonus fun, tack on a camping trip with a tall beer and oversized burger at Eddie McStiff’s afterward.
Best Waterfront Views: Park City Wild Half Marathon
The end of May is the perfect time to be out on the banks of the Jordanelle Reservoir that sits between Park City and Kamas. So it makes sense to have a half marathon, 10k, and 5k within full view of the water you’ll jump into when you’re done. The Park City Wild trail race, which takes place on May 30 this year, offers all three course lengths, so there’s something for everyone. You’ll start on the northern end of the reservoir, then work your way southeast toward Kamas on the trail network that skirts the shores of the lake. Mountain views and lapping water will keep you motivated you along the way, as well as the bevy of delectable brunch options in Park City after.
Best Overnight Relay Race: Wasatch Back Relay
Round up a gang of 12 friends and gear up for 30 hours of fun with the mid-June Wasatch Back Relay , which runs 200 miles from Logan to Midway along the east side of the Wasatch range. You’ll want two vehicles, tons of snacks, pillows, headlamps, and running gear. Runners divvy up the legs of the race, which range from just a few miles to almost ten miles long. Each person will run a total of about 15 or 20 miles over the course of the race, but with multi-hour rest breaks in between segments, it doesn’t feel that bad.
You’ll have plenty of time to take in the grassy countryside and towering Wasatch ridgelines as you wind through Huntsville, Snow Basin, Heber, and back up toward Park City. Sign up early, wrangle your friends, and get ready for a big helping of fun (with a side of sleep deprivation).