These races feature scenic backdrops that may motivate and inspire you through the last mile.
Running is always better with a view. That’s why we rounded up the most scenic races across the US—from roads to trails, cities to country, mountains to prairies, and 5Ks to ultramarathons. These events promise well-organized and extremely rewarding courses, with new sights to delight your mind and distract your tired muscles every mile.
Unless otherwise noted, the cities listed here are the races’ starting locations. Some events may already be sold out for their next running, so check their websites for up-to-date details. Then, book your travel and start training because these runs are worth the trip.
Garden of the Gods 10-Mile, 10K, and Trail Run
Big Sur International Marathon: Big Sur, CA
“Big hills, awesome rocks, all challenge” is the motto of this long-running road race, which takes participants on a hilly loop through Garden of the Gods Park—a National Natural Landmark filled with 300-foot towering sandstone rock formations. If that’s not enough, you’ve also got views of Colorado’s majestic mountains on the horizon.
Chicago Marathon: Chicago, IL
Approximately 45,000 people run the Chicago Marathon every October, one of the country’s largest and most competitive marathons. The race also has some of the most enjoyable—and varied—scenery.
Nebraska Marathon: Omaha, NE
The half-marathon and 5K companion races were held for the first time in 2015. Half and full courses take runners along the Missouri River through Lewis and Clark Landing and Heartland of America Park, then cross into Iowa before returning to the waterfront finish-line festival.
Run Crazy Horse
Run Crazy Horse: Crazy Horse, SD
This October race series—with marathon, half-marathon, and five-person relay options—starts at the Crazy Horse Memorial (the world’s largest yet unfinished mountain carving) and ends on Main Street in Hill City. It runs, mostly downhill, through South Dakota’s famous Black Hills and Ponderosa pine forests, along the popular George S. Mickelson Trail.
Little River Canyon Half Marathon
Little River Canyon Half Marathon: Fort Payne, AL
Jacksonville State University and the Little River Canyon Center sponsor this annual small-town half marathon held every October. The paved-road course offers five miles of breathtaking views along the canyon’s rim, then drops into gently rolling farm country.
Antelope Canyon 50-Mile, 55K, and Half Marathon
Held every February, both the 50-mile and the 50K (31-mile) courses overlook the world-famous Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River—but only the 50-miler passes through the spectacular red-orange Upper Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed slot canyons in the world. The half marathon skips the canyons but still has great views of Lake Powell and Glen Canyon Dam.
Mines of Spain Trail 4-Mile, 7-Mile, and Half Marathon
Mines of Spain Trail Races: Dubuque, IA
This race takes you on mixed terrain, including dirt and track trails. You’ll have views of the Mississippi River, grass prairies, and hardwood forests. The race—and its companion 5K and 10K—is held every August; with registration capped at 250 runners, it usually sells out quickly.
Lake Perry Rocks! 50K and Half-Marathon
Lake Perry Rocks!: Meriden, KS
This race series has two different distance options: a 50K (31 miles) and a half marathon—plus dogs can enter, too. The courses are all on rocky, hilly, singletrack trails through shaded woods with views of Lake Perry below. Race fees go toward the Kansas Trails Council’s “Friends of the Trail” fund to benefit the trails you’re running on.
Grand Island Trail 50K, Marathon, and Half Marathon
Grand Island Trail Marathon: Munising, MI
This race takes place every July along the perimeter of Grand Island, off the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. There’s also a 50K and half marathon. You’ll run along beaches and through forests, with views of crystal blue water and 300-foot cliffs. The race’s website does point out the location’s tradeoffs: “This is a trail marathon on a wilderness island,” it states. “Do not expect large numbers of spectators and loud music. Expect extraordinarily beautiful views of Lake Superior.”
Lola’s Lake Waconia 10-Mile and 5K
Lola’s Lake Waconia Race: Waconia, MN
This road race, held every June, provides a sightseeing tour through the picturesque city of Waconia, a hilly but scenic run along the lake, and a finish in City Square Park.
Moab Trail Marathon, Half-Marathon, and 10K
Moab Trail Marathon: Moab, UT
Home to the 2016 USA Trail Marathon Championships, this course has a little bit of everything: narrow canyons, impressive red-rock arches, Colorado River views, constantly changing terrain, and two major climbs with about 3,500 feet of total elevation gain and loss. There’s also an incredibly scenic half marathon and 10K.
Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon
Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon: Roanoke, VA
On this annual April race along the Blue Ridge Parkway, runners climb and descend three different mountains, all with magnificent views of the Roanoke Valley below. It’s dubbed America’s Toughest Road Marathon, thanks to its 7,430-plus feet of elevation change—a national record for non-trail marathons. The companion 13.1-mile race holds the toughest title for the half-marathon distance, and there are also challenging 10K and double marathon options.