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Competition in the Desert: Trail Running Races in Moab

Run through red rock canyons, across sandstone fins, and explore some of the most scenic trail racing west of the Mississippi.

Trail Running Easy, Moderate, Difficult, Severe

Photo: Lee Coursey


Moab’s vibrant red rock landscape draws in countless visitors each year, especially mountain bikers, 4x4s, and of course – trail runners. With endless miles of trail spread across private and public land, it’s easy to see how Moab has become a mecca for trail running races and ultramarathons. If you’re looking for a desert race with plenty of views, great support, and vast history, this guidebook should help pair you with the right one.

Regionally based, Mad Moose Events offers a diverse race profile in both Colorado and Utah. Except for the Ute 100 and Moab Trail Half/Full, Mad Moose owns every event on this list. Those looking for a short distance trail race should consider the Arches Ultra and Amasa Trail Race, both offering distances as low as ~10k. There is no shortage of views on either and all distances use trails that are open year-round to the public.

If you’re looking for an “ultra” distance trail race, nearly every event offers both 50k and 50-mile options. With its point-to-point course and finish line brews, the Moab Red Hot Trail Race is a local favorite. Offering free week-long camping, the Behind the Rocks Trail Race is another popular event that explores Moab’s expansive network of 4x4 trails and sandstone arches through remote backcountry.

Unique to Mad Moose Events, racers are encouraged to participate in the Triple Crown of Moab. Awarded with a custom finisher medal and hat, individuals must complete the Dead Horse Ultra, Arches Ultra, and Behind the Rocks Ultra. Held between November and March, this series is the perfect opportunity to escape the snow and ice in exchange for the red rock desert. Though temperatures may dip below freezing overnight, snow accumulation is rare for these lower elevation races.

“A Trail Runner Magazine “Bucket List” Race,” the Moab Trail Half and Full Marathon explore both Pritchett Canyon and the iconic Amasa Back area. What makes this event different is the special permission they have to pass through remote stretches of private property during the event. Parts of the course include scrambling across sandstone fins and through remote canyons on unblazed trails. Of all the events less than 50k, this may be the most adventurous course in all of Moab.

Doubling down on distance, the Ute 100 is debatably the most epic and scenic ultramarathon in all of Utah. Every race on this list awards runners views of the snow-capped La Sal Mountains, but this race gets up close and personal with them. Circling around Utah’s second highest mountain range, runners begin at 3am and welcome the desert sunrise just three hours into the race. With an average finish time near 35 hours - they get to do it all over again the next day. Following old mining paths, rugged singletrack, and exploring remote backcountry, this race is not for the faint of heart.

Sources: http://www.moabtrailmarathon.com/info.html Madmooseevents.com

Routes included

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