Best Races for Fall Foliage
Ahhhh, fall… For most, fall is a welcomed change in the seasons. By the time mid-September rolls around, most of are tired of the sweltering heat and long, hot, sweaty days. Running in the heat and humidity is especially disgusting, and a change in the season brings brisk, chillier temperatures, a certain warmth and crisp to the air that is energizing and comforting all at once, and a beautiful change in the trees from green leaves to vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. A colorful fall makes for some killer long runs, and getting lost in the changing foliage is one of our favorite ways to spend a cool Saturday morning in the fall! If checking out some of the nation’s best fall foliage is on your running bucket list, then look no further! Our list below provides you with races to add to your calendar to make sure you see the best of the changing colors in their prime.
Falling Leaves Road Race
New England and the Northeast start to see changing season conditions in September, so you can start your journey here! Usually held around the date of the official start of the fall season, the Falling Leaves Road Race takes runners through Utica, New York (upstate New York). 2018 marks the 44th year of this race, and it is likely the perfect temperatures and warm fuzzy feeling of fall on the horizon that has kept this race going strong year after year. The 5k option is a faster race, as runners stick mainly to the streets of downtown Utica. The longer 14k will have you venturing out a little further into some rolling hills. However, either race is a fantastic option for seeing all there is to see as far as beautiful fall colors are concerned! The Falling Leaves Road Race also offers a unique Wheelchair Race, which attracts racers from far and wide. And one of the best parts about this race is that there is a kids race too, so the whole family can join in on the fun!
Leaf Peepers Half Marathon & 5k
Vermont is not home to just tasty maple syrup and that big-name ice cream company we love to indulge in post-race. Falls in Vermont are some of the best in the nation, as the rural countryside is lined with breathtaking views and full of excellent fall-esque adventures – including the Leaf Peepers Half Marathon & 5k. Held at the end of September or beginning of October, Leaf Peepers consistently ranks among one of Vermont’s best road races. And for good reason! The race course through Waterbury, Vermont, albeit hilly at first, takes runners through beautiful scenery featuring – you guessed it! – the changing leaves! Spectators love this race too because temperatures are usually perfect for posting up with a toasty mug of apple cider and cheering on the runners. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Vermont without a taste of some of the locally produced fare – including cheese and apples at the finish line!
Take a trip to Scranton, Pennsylvania this fall to join in on the fun that is the Steamtown Marathon. The Steamtown Marathon has become one of the most popular marathons in the country, and we’d like to think it is because more and more people are discovering the GLORY that is running during the month of October (which is certainly true and real) but it is likely also because of the crazy beautiful fall foliage of northeastern Pennsylvania during that time of year. (Not to mention, this race is a charity race, benefiting the children and residents of St. Joseph’s Center, an organization that helps individuals with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays.) While the marathon attracts about 2500 racers, it keeps its small-town feel with excellent spectators, a friendly and well-organized race crew, and the entire town (including shops and restaurants) joining in to support. And the post-race party is fantastic. It starts five hours after the awards ceremony, to give runners time to rest, recover, and refresh, and features live music, food, and beverage.
Charlottesville Half Marathon and 10k
This race gets voted one of Virginia’s best races year in and year out because it is repeatedly held during the peak season for vibrant fall colors, and racers get to run through the charming streets of Charlottesville. A town steeped in history and quaint Southern living charm, this race course winds through the Downtown Mall and into beautiful old neighborhoods and then makes its way out to run parallel to the Rivanna River. Charlottesville is also known for its unique and refined dining and shopping options, so your post-race indulgence is bound to be a treat!
Fall Foliage Relay
If you are looking for something a bit longer, a bit more challenging, and something you can involve your best running mates in, then the Fall Foliage Relays across the Rocky Mountains in Colorado are perfect for you! Held each September, this relay race over two days (Friday and Saturday) covers 165 total miles with 30 different relay legs. Runners will wind through 3 mountain passes, single track trails, and across creeks, streams, and rivers, all while running alongside majestic Colorado wildlife and some of the Rockies most epic fall color displays. Teams can consist of 10 people or 5 people, and runners can choose between all-men, all-women, mixed, open, or master’s categories.
Gold Rush 5k
Every year in October, the quaint town of Dahlonega tucked away in the North Georgia Mountains, hosts its Gold Rush Festival. The Festival itself attracts visitors from all around, as the area surrounding Dahlonega at this time of year is the perfect fall getaway- the leaves are changing, the weather is perfect for hitting the hiking trails, and the Gold Rush Festival features a parade, arts and crafts booths, live music, delicious food and drink, and a good time to be had by all. And one of the best ways to kick off the festival is to participate in the 5k on Saturday morning. This scenic race winds through the Dahlonega Town Square at the height of the colorful fall season in the North Georgia Mountains.