Mountain running in Colorado is a pristine and poignant experience for a lot of people, Miller says, and the views from the top leave a lasting impression. “That’s what they come here for, to feed their souls,” she adds.
If you find yourself in the high peaks of Aspen this summer, the Audi Power of Four Race Series offers a 10K race on Snowmass Mountain. For solo adventures, consider the Hunter Valley Trail, a 5.2-mile loop with almost 1,200 feet of elevation gain. Downtown Aspen is just 1.25 miles from the trailhead.
The edge of the White Mountain National Forest is full of long, challenging runs, says Paul Kirsch, a race director based in Madison, New Hampshire. Buried deep in the picturesque forest, the 3.2-mile round-trip Mount Willard Trail passes a waterfall and offers a full view of Crawford Notch, a major pass through the White Mountains, he says. Expect 908 feet of elevation gain.
Also worth a try: the Middle Mountain Trail (a 3.7-mile trek that'll take you 1,300 feet up) and Peaked Mountain Trail (a 3.5-mile loop with 1,200 feet of gain). Afterward, the town of North Conway (and coffee, food, and drinks) is just 1.5 miles up the road.
For pros, the demanding seven-mile Dipsea Trail is a feat known to test both strength and endurance. The 7.7-mile Cataract Falls loop starts at a series of waterfalls and includes almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain, views of the Pacific Ocean, and narrow paths in the wooded hillside.
But Marin County is home to countless routes that even beginners can tackle, like the three-mile Ocean View Trail. Many of them run along the coastal ridge of the 2,572-foot Mount Tamalpais and they’re just as satisfying as they are intense, with sights of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.