Top Summer Vacation Ultras

After 19 years of racing, my wife knows that road-tripping to an ultra is just another “vacation that’s not really a vacation.” However, there are a few races that happen to fall in the summer months with venues that can be fun for the whole family. If your family is comfortable camping, hiking and exploring the great outdoors, these events may be right up your alley. Here are a few races to put on your family bucket list.

Scout Mountain Ultras

21M, 52M, 100M
May 31 – June 1, 2019
Pocatello, ID

The Scout Mountain Ultra Trail is run in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest outside of Pocatello, ID. Staged out of a group camp with covered pavilion, paved parking area, and grass lawn for camping, the area becomes a small tent city during the race weekend. Since the course is a series of clover-leaf loops, families have an easier time  crewing and supporting their runner than at many other ultras. Scout Mountain is a challenging race with potentially tough conditions due to its early summer date and unpredictable weather. The 100-mile race is a tough mountain ultra with 23,800 feet of climbing. The 50-mile course has nearly 11,000 feet of climbing, while the 21-mile race which takes you up and over Scout Mountain, the high point of the course, has 5,400 feet of gain in basically one major climb.

For the family: There are lots of hiking options to explore. The family can easily support the race, and the finish line is great for kids. There’s no cell coverage at the camp, but being forced to unplug is always a perk. Pocatello has a Natural History Museum, the Ross Park Aquatic Center (which opens the weekend before the race), and a rock climbing wall at Idaho State University.  Don’t forget to check out Lava Hot Springs, a short drive south of Pocatello.

Lodging and camping: There are lots of camping options nearby, but the group camp is a great social scene during race weekend. There is also lodging in Pocatello, just a short drive into the valley.

Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Runs

30K, 50K, 52M, 100M
June 13 – 15, 2019
Dayton, WY

A cult classic in ultrarunning circles, the Bighorn Mountain Wild and Scenic Trail Runs are a collection of four trail races held in mid-June in the Bighorn Mountains of northern Wyoming. With the finish line held at Dayton’s local park on the Tongue River, this is a perfect family event. The start times for the four distances are staggered, so everyone finishes on Saturday throughout the day. The finish line boasts an old-fashioned summer BBQ with runners, crews and families from all four distances lounging under the enormous Cottonwood trees in the park as runners trickle into the finish. Whether you choose the 100M, 52M, 50K, or 30K, you will run the majority of your day on rugged mountain trails and 4-wheel drive roads ranging in elevation from 4,000 feet to over 9,000 feet. Don’t forget your lawn chair or blanket to lounge in the park post-race.

For the family: There are lots of hiking options to explore within Tongue River Canyon, Dry Fork, and throughout the Bighorns. The finish line is in a quaint park with a playground, walking paths and a baseball field for running free. Be sure to explore Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument just over the border in Montana — the location of General George Armstrong Custer’s Last Stand.

Lodging and camping: There are several camping options in the Bighorns. Lodging is available in nearby Ranchester or Sheridan.

Volcanic 50

52K, 25K
August 3, 2019
Mount St. Helens, WA

With 7,400 feet of climbing, Volcanic is a remote and rugged 52K course that circumnavigates Mount St. Helens on the Loowit Trail. A more remote family event, this one is best for the adventurous family that likes to camp. For 2019, Go Beyond Racing added a new 25K that will still include some iconic sections of the longer course and 3,200 feet of climbing. 52K runners will be faced with river crossings, scrambles over lava rock boulder fields, the volcano’s exposed blast zone, and nice shaded forest sections while awarded with 360-degree viewpoints of the volcano. Be warned: This 32-mile race runs more like a 50M. Both races start and finish at the Marble Mountain Sno Park.

For the family: There are lots of hiking options. Be sure to explore nearby Ape Cave (a large lava tube), Lava Canyon, and Spirit Lake viewpoint. After the event, loosen up your sore legs by heading to the north side for a soak in Coldwater Lake. Check out Coldwater Lake Recreation Area, Mount St. Helen’s Visitor Center, Johnston Ridge Observatory, and Eco Resort for other family activities.

Lodging and camping: There are many camping options nearby. There is also lodging in nearby Cougar, WA.


Bonus Family Fall Trip

Run Rabbit Run

50M, 100M
September 13 – 14, 2019
Steamboat Springs, CO

Although after summer vacation, Run Rabbit Run deserves a family-friendly shout out. Steamboat Springs is a great little Colorado mountain town with shopping, restaurants, and activities for the whole family. The mountain biking trails are great, and so is the local pump track. You can ride the lifts for some downhill mountain bike action or simply cruise along the river trail in town. There’s incredible fly fishing and multiple hot springs for soaking. The race is a well-run event with two divisions for the 100M — Tortoise and Hare. The Hare division (elites) starts four hours AFTER the main Tortoise division (everyone else). At some point, the Hares catch the mid-to-back-of-the-pack runners for a social extravaganza with lots of high fives. The laid-back finish line is held at the Steamboat Mountain Village at the base of Steamboat Resort. It’s well worth taking a few vacation days for an off-peak season family trip to the Northern Rockies to see the aspens in all their fall glory.