10 Best Places to Live for Trail Runners

best places to live for trail runners

The United States is full of must-see destinations that offer scenic trails and routes for every trail runner. Many locations are meccas for the trail running community with plenty of options of trails nearby. Even some of these amazing places host or are nearby well-known trail running events.

There are a lot of benefits to living in an area that has a strong trail running community. Not only does it usually have access to awesome trail systems, but there is also a safety and positive mentality aspect. The more runners that are out there with you, the more support and success you’ll have as a runner. Strong running communities make for a perfect environment for a trail runner of any skill level.

Compiled is a list of the top ten places in the United States that are not only great places to live but the best for a trail runner. Access to trails, beautiful views, close to nearby races, and all-around cool towns are the reason why the following places make the list.

Here’s our list of 10 best places to live for trail runners:

1. Leavenworth, Washington

Alpine lakes wilderness near Leavenworth, WA

At an elevation of 1,171 ft, the city of Leavenworth is just a couple hours east of Seattle. Although the city does not sit too high above sea level, there are nearby mountains that rise anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 ft. The mountains provide a great view and allow access to an array of trails for every skill level. 

The city offers an extensive trail system that can challenge all levels of trail runners. Trails nearby are the difficult 25.9-mile Icicle Ridge Trail, 2.7-mile intermediate Sauer Mountain trail, and an easy 3.5-mile Eightmile lake trail. The town is also close to Freund Canyon and the Pacific Crest Trail as well.

Not only does the city have an annual Octoberfest marathon on the first Saturday of Oktoberfest but is also close to amazing trail races that would make it on most people’s bucket list. There is the Yeti 100-mile Endurance Run, Orcas Island 200 Miler, Tiger Claw 25 miler, and a 3-day supported circumnavigation of the Wonderland Trail. All of these races are a couple of hours away, and there are many more surrounding the city.

2. Boise, Idaho

Bogus Basin ski area near Boise, ID

Boise, Idaho makes for a great option to live for any trail runner. This destination has many options for trail running in the foothills outside the city. There are trails behind Camels Back Park and towards Military Reserve. Table Rock also offers easy access to remote trailheads. The Table Rock Trail is a 3.7-mile moderate trail.

In the summer months the city of 2812 ft can reach hot temperatures in the 90s. Instead of sweating through the heat, runners can venture up to ski areas that are at a higher elevation. Places like Bogus Basin road towards Bogus asin Mountain Recreational Area can be cooler with temperatures in the 70s.

Another popular area is the Oregon Trail Reserve near the Surprise Valley subdivision. The area offers a great running experience with awesome views. There you can access the Lucky Peak Loop Trail that is a hard 13.6-mile run.

Throughout the year there are plenty of trail races. The Idaho Mountain Trail Festival offers a 100 miler and 30k race in September. Then there is also the Scout Mountain Ultra in nearby Pocatello. The race goes through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest which overs a potentially tough course due to unpredictable weather, as this has been shown in previous years. 

3. Boulder, Colorado

Flatirons in Boulder, CO

Just 25 miles away from Denver is Boulder, Colorado. This university town sits at 5,328 ft in elevation and has a strong community of trail runners. The community and access to world class races makes it a trail runner’s dream to live in. 

Popular trails are the 7-mile Mesa Trail and Chautauqua Park hill paths that have trails lined with flowers during warmer months. Also running along the Flatirons is a must-do for any trail runner in the area.

 Even though the Bolder Boulder 10k is not technically a trail race it is an amazing race to attend for all runners. On Memorial Day runners around the world take on the 10k course that ends at Folsom field. Pro racers around the world compete for one of the biggest 10k prize purse in the world.

Boulder is also close to the infamous Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon. This race is demanding for a half marathon and marathon. There is an elevation gain of 7,815 ft with the summit at 14,115 ft. This race attracts all skill levels of trail runners from elite to back of the pack runners due to the mental toughness that is required.

4. Asheville, North Carolina

Top of Mount Mitchell near Asheville, NC

When the city Asheville, North Carolina comes to mind most people think the Biltmore. Although it is a great place to visit, there is a plethora of trails around Asheville making it a perfect place for any trail runner to live. This trail running haven is located near Mount Mitchell (the highest mountain east of the Mississippi), Pisgah National Forest, and sections of the Appalachian Trail.

There are tons of beautiful trails in and around Asheville. There is the Mountains to Sea Trail and Shut-in Trail. Also, just an hour away is one of the more popular and coolest sections of the Appalachian trail, Carvers Gap. At 2,134 ft in elevation, Asheville is surrounded by mountains that can will impress any trail runner.

Only fifteen miles away from downtown is the Mount Mitchell Challenge (a 40-miler race) at the end of February. Then there is also the Hellbender 100-mile trail race that goes through the Black Mountains and summits Mt Mitchell. Both races are challenging due to the elevation gain. There are many races of all lengths surrounding the area. You don’t have to travel far to participate in a race at any point in the year.

5. Bozeman, Montana

Ross Peak near Bozeman, MT

Not too far from the Yellowstone National Park is Bozeman, Montana. This town has tons of trail runs throughout the year and access to some amazing trails in the world. This town sits at 4,793 ft in elevation.

Bridger Mountains are just northeast and offer runners that are quick after work run or full days’ worth of adventures. While Gallagator Trail is easily accessible from town due to be a 5-mile flat dirt trail connecting Main St. to Sourdough Trail. Then Hyalite Canyon has numerous trail options to choose from like Hyalite Peak, Blackmore, Emerald Lake, and many more.

There are two races in the area that require experienced mountain runners. The first is Devil’s Backbone 50-miler and 50-mile relay. This unmarked race is almost entirely unsupported. Runners are required to carry supplies that can last them 5-9 hours as it is easy to get lost on the 100% single track race. The race starts at Hyalite Creek trailhead and climbs Hyalite Peat at 10,300 ft.

Then there is the Ed Anacker Bridger Ridge Run in August that has been given the title of “most raw exposure” by Runner’s World magazine. This race has one of the most technical trails for only being 19.90 miles. The trail is entirely full of brutal climbing and descending. Only 250 runners are allowed to participate each year.

6. Salt Lake City, Utah

Guardman’s Pass, near Salt Lake City, UT

Salt Lake City is a great city to reside in if you enjoy trail running. The city sits at an elevation of 4,226 ft and surrounded by mountains. There are gorgeous views throughout the whole year, and tons of trails for runners to get out on.

The City Creek Canyon has multiple trail connections available for runners. Millcreek Canyon has fifteen routes from anywhere to 4 to 14 miles long. During the summer months runners also make their way up to Snowbird mountains at 11,000 ft where there are many available trails.

North of the Salt Lake City is the Wasatch 100-mile trail race in September. The race takes place in East Mountain Wilderness Park and goes to Soldier Hollow, Utah. Not only does the race have great views throughout the whole route but it is also well known for how challenging it is.

7. Flagstaff, Arizona 

Arizona Snowbowl ski area – Flagstaff, AZ

Due to the fact that this town sits at 6,909 ft in elevation, Flagstaff is a mecca for the elite runners. No, you do not have to be at an elite level to want to live in this town as a trail runner. Although, it is cool to have elites that specialize in marathons to high profile trail runners traveling trails alongside you. The community is full of trail runners, and it is rare to not see someone else out on a route with you.

Flagstaff has the FUTS, the Flagstaff Urban Trail System. There are over 50 miles of FUTS trails. Then there is the must-see Schultz Cree Trails. This staple single-track trail weaves through ponderosa pine forest, rock gardens, and aspen groves. Then there are the Woody Mountain Road, which is a wide dirt rode with 32 rolling miles.

Not to mention you’re a skip and a hop away from Sedona that is full of trails as well.

There are many trail running events in Flagstaff but also a variety of them just down the mountain in neighboring towns. Flagstaff has the Flagstaff Sky Peak, which is a single track 50k race. Then of course there is the Black Canyon Ultras that are a couple hours away on the Black Canyon Trail just north of Phoenix.

8. Santa Fe, New Mexico

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico is in the northern part of the state at an elevation of 7,199 ft. There is a large running community called the Endurance Santa Fe that has a website updating runners on members and trails. Access to some cool trails, and a large community is the reason why this place makes the list for trail runners to live.

Santa Fe has the Dale Ball Trails, which has more than 20-miles of flat to technical trails for all skill levels. Then the challenging Atalaya Mountain, which is a 3-mile trail with 2,000 vertical ft and beautiful views. 

In September there is the Endurance Santa Fe Mountain races that offers many distances for all trail runners. Santa Fe is also not too far from races just north in Colorado. The elevation and trail running community attracts trail runners all over.

9. Silverton, Colorado

Fall in Silverton, CO

Silverton, Colorado is a perfect place to live for a trail runner due to the high-profile races nearby. The town has tons of trails that range from easy to difficult. The town sits at an elevation 9318 ft which also creates its own challenges due to the altitude.

There are many trails that can be accessed but some of the more popular ones are the: extremely difficult 34.4-mile loop on the Trinity and Silex Lake route, a difficult 8.1-mile out and back Columbine loop, and the intermediate 14.3-mile loop Crater Lake and North Twilight. Those are just some of the more popular, but there are many other trails available.

Silverton is home to the famous Hardrock 100 in July known for being one of the hardest 100-mile races. July also hosts the Silverton 1000. Also not too far away is the Ouray 100-mile endurance run and Leadville 100. There are tons of races in the area of Silverton, Colorado and surrounding. People from all over the world travel to this area just to be able to run on these trails.

10. Tahoe City, California

Squaw Valley ski area near Tahoe City, CA

Tahoe City, California is one of the best places you could live in if you are a trail runner. There is a strong community of trail runners and it has miles and miles of trails at your feet. The city sits at 6250 ft in elevation.

Tahoe City has access to trails around Lake Tahoe and miles of trails in its National Forest. Five Lakes Basin in the Tahoe National Forest is a must-see destination. Then the Desolation Wilderness that is just south. The Desolation Wilderness offers great views and very enjoyable trails.

There are many races in and around Tahoe City. Neighboring towns like Truckee and Squaw Valley also hold a ton of races. One of the most coveted races takes place in the area, is the Western States 100-miler. Many people apply for the lottery and usually have a slim chance of getting in.

A lot of people participate in Golden Ticket races just to get a chance to participate in this race. Then there is also the Tahoe 200, which has also adopted a lottery system since there has been huge numbers applying to race in the past years.

 

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