The Pacific Northwest’s Most Spectacular Trail Races

While the skiers and snowboarders are dancing on the slopes and the lowlands are covered with snow, most sane people are sit by the fire with a cold or warm beverage. How romantic, right?

As the snow continues to pile up after a well-deserved winter, the sane people relax while the “kinda off” people are scheming in front of laptops, looking for the perfect way to be exhausted. Known as trail runners, the non-sane people are already deep in their adventure planning process for the upcoming years. They are looking at race routes, finding new trail run, and training for something greater than the present can offer. They are twisting to push their body and to be rewarded with amazing views and moments of clarity in the wilderness. Long story short, many of us are looking forward to a year of incredible trail running adventures.

As trail runners, we plan our race calendar carefully. Street race dates are well-known. Race organziers for “spartan” or “color races plaster Facebook ads into our face. Our eyes become scorched with 5Ks and 10Ks and once spring starts, we know every few weeks will be a new barrage of mud-covered smiles.  Trail runners are a different breed, a combination of speed hiker, marathon runner, and obsessive compulsive nature lover. We want wilderness, and we want as much as we can take as fast as we can. While there might be hundreds of other races, we share a few of our favorite trail races all around the Pacific Northwest, each worth planning for and checking out.

Here is our list of eleven best, weirdest, coolest and craziest trail races for you to participate in for 2016. Keep an eye out if you do run them,  you might just run into The Outdoor Society crew.


 

Hillbilly Half & Mountain Marathon – Olympia, WA

hillbilly
Image Credit: Mathias Eichler – The Outdoor Society

A local early-season favorite, the Hillbilly in the Capitol Forest just outside of Olympia, Washington is an enjoyable running around the increasingly beautiful Capitol Forest. An area that was once more known for shooting ranges and wrecked cars, today the Capitol Forest is becoming a hotbed for hikers, campers and now trail runners. Last year, the Hillbilly races saw spectacular weather, but usually the race is known for winter snow, spring rains and crisp winds. With the dirt and mud on the trails, this race will push you and reward you with each step. The Hillbilly races are fantastically organized, and the post-race atmosphere more than makes up for the potentially insane weather conditions.

Website: Guerilla Running
Date: March 12th, 2016
Registration: Guerilla Running


 

Smith Rock Ascent – Terrebonne, OR

smith-rock
Image Credit: Go Beyond Racing

Smith Rock State Park in Oregon is always worth the trip. Set near the always amazing city of Bend, Oregon has never looked as good as May around Smith Rock. The race is held over a weekend and offers a full plate of great racing, from 50K, 15Mi , 4Mi trail races to the following day a half marathon and 10km road race. This race has some serious elevation gain, and can get quite toasty if the weather is warm. This race is paired perfectly with a post-race trip to Crater Lake National Park.

Website: Go Beyond Racing
Date: May 7th & 8th 2016
Registration:Go Beyond Racing


 

Red Bull 400 – Whistler, BC

whistler
Image Credit: Red Bull

Red Bull is always full of insane ideas and ridiculous surprises. It should come as no surprise that Red Bull has once again created an event that is mind-blowing and amazing. Their latest publicly stunt is as much of an brutal quad burner is it is a brilliant idea. They have created the “steepest race in the world’, known as the Red Bull 400.  The Red Bull 400 stands for 400 vertical meters earned by running straight up a ski jump. Yeah, you heard that right. A ski jump. This race is as crazy and short as they come, and what better place to relax afterwards than Whistler, BC.

Website:  Red Bull. I’d suggest checking out Whistler.com for up-to-date event information.
Date: July 30th 2016 (just confirmed!)
RegistrationRed Bull (not open yet)


 

Beast of Big Creek – Hoodsport, WA

bigcreek
Image Credit: Mathias Eichler – The Outdoor Society

If your idea of a trail run includes standing on top of a popular mountain peak that gives the best views in the Pacific Northwest, then The Beast of Big Creek is for you. This small Half Marathon race begins at Big Creek Campground, near the small town of Hoodsport and right next to the entrance to Olympic National Park. Starting out in a calm uphill path, the route quickly gets brutal, forcing runners to climb over 5000 ft. to the summit of Mt. Ellinor. That isn;t the entire race though, that’s just the halfway point. With lots of single track trails, cute little bridges, and rugged and insanely beautiful terrain in the Olympic National Forest, The Beast of Big Creek will push you and reward you. This race should not be missed.

Website: Shelton Harriers
Date: Usually in August 2016 (not confirmed yet)
Registration: (not yet open)


 

Squamish 50 – Squamish, BC

squamish
Image Credit: Squamish 50

The Squamish 50 is an unforgettable, mountain trail running experience, spanning an entire weekend.  Offering several different races happening in various distances, this series of races is in some of the prettiest terrain around. This tough race has over 85% single track and gives runners over 11,000 feet of climbing and descent. Topped off by stunning sweeping vistas across glaciated, snow-capped peaks that jut straight out of the Salish Sea, the Squamish 50 is considered by many to be one of North America’s prettiest runs. Just 53 minutes north of Vancouver, and 45 from Whistler, there post-race possibilities are endless.

Website: Squamish 50
Date: August 20th + 21st 2016
RegistrationSquamish 50 (as of publication most races are sold out)


 

Volcanic 50 – Cougar, WA

Volcanic-50
Image Credit: Go Beyond Racing

Ever wanted to circumnavigate one of Americas most iconic volcanoes? This rugged, remote and challenging 50K+ course is run entirely on single-track trails, circumnavigating all of Mount Saint Helens. Racers who are dedicated enough to commit to this race will travel over lava and pumice fields, cross rivers, run through the blast zone as well as through dense forests and jaw-dropping views. In all, the course has approximately 7400 ft of elevation gain and 7400 ft of loss and is probably one of the only races in the world that circle an active, erupted volcano. Typically weather is sunny and a bit dry, so this trail can get dusty.

Website: Go Beyond Racing
Date: September 3rd 2016
Registration: Opens February 1st.


 

Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon – Greenwater, WA

crystal
Image Credit: Mathias Eichler – The Outdoor Society

This race, held in the Crystal Mountain sky resort is part of the official US Sky Runner Series and is full of technical, mountainous single track trail. In sight of the always gorgeous Mount Rainier, runners climb over 9,400 feet in the 26 mile course. The course is fun, ridiculously challenging, and 100% worth the months of training. Since the race is in September, expect good weather, warm temperatures and amazing beer awaiting you at the finish.

Website: White River 50
Date: September 2016
Registration:White River 50 (Not yet open)


 

Sky Pilot, Squamish, BC

skypilot
Image Credit: Sky Pilot – Coast Mountain Trail Series

Above Squamish BC, the Coast Mountain Trail Series hosts the Sky Pilot race in Sea to Sky country. This relatively short course in miles begins by boarding the Sea to Sky gondola and is held entirely in the beautiful and remote high country. Big alpine vistas, deep forests, spectacular rocky perches, and crystal mountain streams await those who decide to sign up for the race. Be aware that there is a mandatory gear check list due to the remoteness of this race. That alone makes this pretty badass.

Website: Coast Mountain Trail Series
Date: September 11th 2016
Registration:Coast Mountain Trail Series


 

Oregon Coast 50K & 30K – Yachts, OR

oregon.jpg
Image Credit: Rainshadow Running

If you’re more of a ocean than a mountain person, the Oregon Coast 50k/30k race is perfect for you. From the beach to the bluffs, and ridges high above the waves crashing into rocks just feet away, this race is never far from the ocean and always incredibly scenic. The Oregon Coast is stunningly beautiful, and this races gives you a fantastic taste of the awesomeness that awaits you. The “downside” of this race is that it is held in October, just in time for some incredibly nasty weather. gear up, get ready for fog, wind and rain, and rock the hell out of this addictively beautiful coastal run.

Website: Rainshadow Running
Date: October 2016
Registration:Rainshadow Running (Not yet open)


 

Whatcom Passage – Bellingham, WA

whatcom.jpg
Image Credit: Aspire Adventure Running

(Due to the fact races are almost never allowed in wilderness areas this one bills itself as a supported run, not a race.) Bellingham has been a hotbed for the running community in the Pacific Northwest for many years. While trails and races have been ran unofficially here for decades, the area is now becoming known for amazing organized runs. The Whatcom Passage is just the latest of many great races around the area, offering remote wilderness travel, expansive views from high alpine passes, deep old growth forests, cascading creeks, rivers, and waterfalls. With big mileage, and lots of elevation your quads will be worked out enough to possibly distract you from the panoramic gorgeousness around every corner. Keep in mind that this race is at high elevation in early October, which could mean chilly temps…or amazing sun. Gotta love Pacific Northwest weather.

Website: Aspire Adventure Running
Date: October 8th 2016
Registration: Aspire Adventure Running 


 

BigFoot 200 Endurance Race – Randle, WA

rainier
Image Credit: Mathias Eichler – The Outdoor Society

The Bigfoot 200 is the first ever point to point 200+ mile race in the United States. That’s over seven and a half marathons in a row. Are you kidding me? This sounds completely insane.

Despite the craziness, the Bigfoot 200 is quickly becoming a Pacific Northwest favorite. As you run long mountaintop ridge lines with stunning forest, mountain and lake views, and deep old growth forests as green and thick as a rainforest, you should keep an eye out for Sasquatch. As the trail passes misty mountain tops, crosses countless streams and rivers, and a long ridge line, with views of the most massive mountains in the Cascade Range, the distance fades away and beauty takes over. Ok, that isn;t true, the distance is tough, but they views are awesome. The race is so long and serious that it includes 14 aid stations and seven sleep stations. Now that sounds swanky… and insanely long.

Website: Bigfoot 200
Date: August 12-16th 2016
Registration: Ultra Signup 

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Calendars for 2018, published with love by THE OUTDOOR SOCIETY.

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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