The 7 Toughest Trail Races in Vermont

Vermont has a history of hosting some of the toughest trail runs in the country. This year, there are even more ways to go ultra. 

Twenty-nine years ago, Laura Farrell and a few other runners started the Vermont 100. One of the four oldest ultra trail races in the country, it helped launch the distance trail running cult. Farrell went on to start the Vermont 50 (celebrating its 25th year this September) and its non-profit beneficiary, Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports. Since then, Vermont has turned out top trail runners such as Kasie Enman, Aliza LaPierre and Josh Ferenc.

Now, a number of new mountain marathons and ultra trail races are sprouting up, including this year’s Under Armour Mountain Marathon in Killington. If you’re ready to run ridgelines, lace up your shoes and head for the hills.

Peak Ultra, Pittsfield, May 5-6

From the same folks who started the Spartan Races, the Peak Ultra provides plenty of ways to punish yourself on the trails around Pitts eld. Friday kicks o the 100-mile start which takes runners high into the Green Mountains. On Saturday the 10-, 30- and 50-milers take off. And then there is the 500-mile challenge. As three- time 500-mile entrant (who boasts three DNFs) Michelle Roy writes: “It is not for a medal or your name listed as a finisher… it is really about finding your inner reserve, tapping into it, and pushing yourself farther than you ever thought possible.”

Infinitus, Goshen, May 18-27

The longest trail race in the state, the third In nitus 888K (551-mile) starts on May 17 and gives runners 10 days to complete laps in the wilds of the Moosalamoo National Recreation Area. Based out of Blueberry Hill Inn, the week-long event gives lesser mortals a chance to run the trails of the Moosalamoo with an 8k, 80k, marathon, 100-mile or 250-mile options. In 2015 and 2016, only one person finished the 888K. Plenty more tried.

Catamount Ultra 25/50K Trail Race, Stowe, June 24

Held on many of the same Nordic trails that form Trapp Family Lodge’s extensive cross-country network, the Catamount Ultra features 25K and 50K courses where you may not see a road sign for miles. The course circumnavigates the Trapp Family Lodge property on wide, hard-packed dirt trails. You’ll traverse highland pastures where cattle and sheep graze and hardwood forest with sugar tap lines still in place.

Vermont 100 Ride and Run, West Windsor, July 15-16

In its 29th year, the Vermont 100 is one of the original ultra running races in the U.S. and, thanks to its 17,000-foot vertical elevation gain, an apt quali er race for the Ultra du Mont Blanc in Switzerland.

The race sends runners and riders (and yes, there’s a horseback division) on 100 miles of dirt roads and trails with a goal of finishing before the 30-hour cut-o . The race is limited to 350 runners you have to prequalify (finish a 50-miler in 12 hours or less and do 8 hours of service.) It sells out fast, but there’s a waiting list and an option for a 100-kilometer run too.

Mansfield Double Up, Stowe, July 30

At just 11 miles, the Mansfield Double Up might sound like a cakewalk—until you realize that there’s 5,500 feet of climbing, on trails that take you up ladders, on no-fall traverses (meaning falling could result in serious injury or death) and across alpine tundra. “The course is as painful as it is beautiful,” notes race director RJ Thompson, who limits the entries to just 70.

Under Armour Mountain Marathon, Killington, Aug. 18

The second in a three-part mountain running series, the new Under Armour Marathon is going to challenge racers to run between Killington and Pico peaks, with sections on both the Long Trail and Appalachian Trail. Modeled after the Sky Racing series, the race features a marathon, half marathon, relay and a variety of distances on down to a 5K. There’s also a Vertical K challenge.

Vermont 50, Ascutney, Sept. 24

On May 25, the Vermont 50 registration opens and, with some 1,300 entrants, there’s a good chance it will ll up. The Vermont 50 sends runners and mountain bikers on a course that’s mainly dirt or singletrack with an elevation gain of 8,900 feet. The course itself isn’t on any map. Why? Because many of the trails cross beautiful terrain—much of it on private land in the state. The event also features options to race it as a relay or as a 50K course.