Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ll have noticed that hills all around the world are increasingly becoming alive with the sound of runners.
As more and more of us head up high in pursuit of adventure, wilderness, increased fitness and respite from overloaded daily routines, the sport of mountain running has become more popular than ever before.
From Alpine summits to Scottish skylines, from Rocky Mountain ridges to Lakeland fells, the vertical environment offers infinite possibilities for the adventurous runner looking to discover new trails and explore life-affirming landscapes by human power alone.
If you’re looking to go farther, faster and higher this summer then these iconic trail running destinations are sure to get your heart pumping.
Here are five of the most beautiful, challenging, and rewarding places to go trail running on the planet.
Chamonix Valley, The French Alps
The big one. The legend. When it comes to trail running destinations, they don’t get any bigger or better than Chamonix. Home to the world’s most famous off-road race, the UTMB – Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc – there are endless trails to discover in the Chamonix valley and all of the running takes place against the backdrop against the stunning mountain backdrop of the Mont Blanc Massif. The terrain is as spectacular as it is varied so if the vertical doesn’t take your breath away the view certainly will.
Rehydrate at the end of the day with a post-run pint of craft beer at the MBC brewery before heading to MOO Bar for one of their legendary burgers. And while having your relaxing moment why not search the trails for the next adventure with the help of Sports Tracker map explore tool?
The trail running equivalent of the Olympics, the UTMB is the premiere mountain running event on the planet and the highlight of the running calendar. As a result, a place on the start line can be nigh on impossible to come by. If you don’t make the cut, don’t worry too much. There are other races in the area that will give you a taste of what it’s all about. The Marathon du Mont Blanc (June) and the Trail des Aiguilles Rouge (September) are both beautiful courses and great events – just make sure you get your application in ahead of time.
The Dolomites, Italy
The Dolomites have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009 and are quite simply one of the most spectacular mountain ranges on the planet with exceptional trail running to match. Home to two of Italy’s world-famous ‘Alta Vias’ or ‘high routes’, the beautiful and remote trails in the Dolomites are ideal for adventurous runners looking for a hut-to-hut mountain adventure. Wind your way through jagged mountain peaks, pass through contrasting landscapes and refuel at the numerous charming mountain rifugios dotted along the way. Incredible terrain, stunning scenery and Italian hospitality – what’s not to love?!
Sports Tracker Tips:
You’ve put in the hard yards up high on the trails so why not treat yourself at the end of the day with a Spritz Hugo – the local aperitif of choice? Prosecco, elderflower, fresh mint, soda water and a slice of lemon. Heaven in a glass!
Part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail takes place every June in the beautiful mountain village of Cortina d’Ampezzo. With 3 races to choose from over the course of the weekend (the 20k/1,000m+ Cortina Skyrace, the 48k/2,600m+ Cortina Trail and the 120km/5,800m+ Lavaredo Ultra Trail), there’s something for all levels and motivations. And when the suffering’s over you can get stuck into the party in this buzzing Italian village.
Dramatic mountains, real wilderness, pure mountain air, tough terrain and challenging weather. Trail running in Scotland offers the type of authentic off-road challenge best suited to hardy folks who enjoy self-sufficient and remote mountain adventures. If you’re packing the necessary knowledge, skills and safety gear and then the rewards of running in the Scottish mountains can be off the scale. Think extraordinary ridge lines in wild mountains, pure mountain streams, purple heather underfoot, sharing the trail with a herd of stags while eagles soar overhead. Mcbrilliant.
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If you’re keen to explore the jaw dropping landscape and legendary mountains on the Isle of Skye then we highly recommend basing yourself at the incredible Cowshed Bunkhouse in Uig. This stunning boutique bunkhouse with epic sea views is a cosy, luxury retreat from which to rest, recover and plan the next glorious mountain mission.
‘Soaring ridges, exposed traverses and precipitous drops’, the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline is a race for only the very most experienced of alpinists and mountain runners with every entrant fully vetted to ensure they have the requisite mountain running and scrambling/rock climbing experience. Held in September in Kinlochleven, the Glen Coe Skyline has rapidly gained legendary status worldwide since the inaugural edition of the event in 2015. The course is truly epic and attracts a world-class field of athletes.
The adventure town of Bend, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the best mountain athletes on the planet and it’s easy to understand why. Within minutes of Downtown Bend you can access trails that take you right into the heart of backcountry and into an endless, panoramic horizon illustrated with impossibly green forests, dusty desert trails, glacial cyan-coloured lakes, volcanic red mountains, and perfect peace. The vibe here is chilled – think beards, sun-drenched days and big skies – and the terrain lends itself to this. Meandering, rolling, and forgiving underfoot, it offers the ability to raise the head, relax and observe. Dubbed the ‘outdoor playground of the West’, if you’re heading to the States for a running adventure by all means swing by the big guns of Colorado and California but overlook Bend at your peril. It’s a truly special place.
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The 13 mile Green Lakes/ Soda Creek loop in the Three Sisters Wilderness is a truly beautiful circuit that climbs up through the forest and passes by the serene glassy Green Lakes before descending along a series of switchbacks along the beautiful Soda Creek. Spectacular volcanic peaks frame the route and if you go at sunrise you’re in with a chance of seeing them in all their pinky-red alpenglow glory and once you’re done you can cruise home, picking up a much-needed injection of caffeine and a well-earned deliciously sweet ocean roll at Backporch Coffee Roasters on your way back into town.
If you’re looking for max vertical bang for your buck then give your legs a workout on South Sister – the 3rd highest mountain in Oregon. The standard route is 20k with 1,660m of elevation gain. This spectacular volcanic peak in the Three Sisters Wilderness last erupted 2,000 years ago and if you make it to the summit via the small glaciers en route you’ll find the small crater lake known as Teardrop Pool – the highest lake in Oregon.
Dramatic mountains, stunning fjords, technical ridges, beautiful grass valleys, peaceful forests and remote villages. Norway is a truly remarkable place to explore on foot and just perfect for trail lovers looking for real wilderness immersion. No wonder then that it is the basecamp of choice for renowned solitude seekers and uber-mountain athletes – Kilian Jornet and Sports Tracker ambassador Emilie Forsberg. Trail running’s most recognizable and accomplished couple relocated to the peaceful mountain district of Romsdal in the Northwest of the country a couple of years ago having grown tired of the hectic pace of life in the Chamonix valley. If it’s good enough for Kilian and Emilie…. Get it on your list.
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If you’re looking for destination inspiration, the Sunmore Alps in the West of the country is a truly stunning area to base yourself for a Norwegian trail running adventure. With towering peaks soaring out of the fjords, historical Viking villages, extensive wildlife and sunsets to take your breath away, this area really is the complete package. Base yourself on board the beautiful wooden ex-naval ship the HMS Gassten for the week and you’re in for a truly unique trip. A spacious boat converted to a very high standard, life on board the HMS Gassten is calm, friendly, and utterly unique. The food is exquisite and the crew of local experts are utterly dedicated to showing you the absolute best of what the area has to offer. Rest your weary limbs on deck at sunset with a cold beer while gazing up at the stunning mountains you ran along earlier that day. Life doesn’t get any better.
The 33km/3,000m+ Stranda Fjord Trail Race takes place in August and offers runners the opportunity to travel through a spectacular mountain landscape with incredible views of the fjords. If you want to take things up a notch then the Tromso SkyRace held at 69 degrees north is a seriously technical race in the same league as the Salomon Glen Coe Skyline. Established in 2014 by Race Organisers Kilian and Emilie (them again!), the Tromso SkyRace is a remote and rugged mountain epic. Only he most highly experienced mountain running competitors should apply.
So there you have it – our top five trail running destinations. Do you agree or disagree? Maybe we missed your favourite trail? Comment below!