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The Most Beautiful and Scenic Races in the U.S.

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Running is hard. And while running through beautiful scenery can help motivate us, not all of us are lucky enough to live in or near these gorgeous areas.  However, our list of the most beautiful and scenic races around the United States are worth the trip and definitely worth any entry fee!

This list reaches far east, far west, and everywhere in between. And these races ensure that all those training miles logged in the dark, cold depths of your basement on the treadmill in the middle of winter, staring at a concrete wall, are worth it.

The New York City Marathon

Part of the iconic New York City Marathon’s main appeal is its seasonal timing. The race is always held in early November when temperatures are definitely cooling down but not bitter cold yet (usually) and the fall foliage is bursting with hues of red, orange, and yellow. But fall colors aside, the route of the marathon itself takes runners through all five NYC boroughs: the Bronx, Staten Island, Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. The route takes you by towering skyscrapers and famous landmarks, across connecting bridges, along the bay water’s edge, and through the beautiful and expansive Central Park where the race ends.

Brmuchim at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Hood To Coast Relay

Grab some of your closest running buddies and sign up for the Hood to Coast Relay Race! This race takes your team across the state of Oregon for a total of almost 200 miles. If you are not familiar with the Northwestern part of the United States, it is a beautiful (albeit sometimes rainy) area of rural forests, pristine coastline, mountainsides and rolling hills that connect unique and eclectic cities.

The Hood to Coast Relay starts atop Mount Hood, about an hour east of Portland. Individuals run three different legs of the race, ranging from 3.4 miles to 7.8 miles, over the course of the 36-hour time limit. The race spans a Friday to Saturday two-day time frame, usually the weekend of Labor Day. When you are not the one running for your team, you will likely be in the Team Van, living it up with your running crew while you travel along to the start of the next leg of the race. The race ends in the beautiful coastal town of Seaside.

Kiawah Island Marathon and Half Marathon

This race takes place in early December and has recently become a regional favorite – so much so, in fact, that it sells out almost as soon as registration opens. Kiawah Island is located off the coast of South Carolina, near Hilton Head and Charleston. For most of the year, the island is a part of a gated golf resort community. It is quiet and peaceful, with overhanging willows and lush greenery along the sidewalks that scream Deep Southern Charm.

Runners can choose to rent a house or villa on race weekend or stay at the Kiawah Island Resort which helps host the race. Once you’ve crossed the finished line, you can enjoy kicking your feet up in a beach chair nestled in the cool sands of the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Plus, this is a great race for newbie runners because Kiawah Island is so flat.

Paxson Woelber [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Crow Pass Crossing Trail Race

Lace up your trail shoes and venture out to Alaska this summer! Venture out to Alaska in July and take on this 22-mile race in Chugach Park along the Crow Pass National Historic Trail, sponsored by the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

This race isn’t for the faint of heart though. You will run on unmarked trails through forests, up steep gradients and mountainsides, and even through Eagle Glacier. But as hard as it is, the stunning views of the backwoods terrain of Alaska are enough to keep you wanting more and to continue trudging forward. The race ends at the Eagle River Nature Center, where you and your fellow racers can bask in the personal glory and pride that comes along with completing a killer trail run.

By Allison from Hickory, NC, USA (I love this town) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

New River Marathon, Half Marathon and 5k

In the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Piney Woods of the deep south lies Boone, North Carolina, a picturesque postcard town outside of Asheville. Past race participants can’t get enough of the New River race because of its pure beauty. (According to the race website, one racer even explained, “It even SMELLS beautiful!”)

Runners run alongside the New River, through lush greenery that is bursting with freshness during June when the race is held. Stick around after for some post-race Bluegrass and then check out the eclectic vibe of downtown Asheville, which features more breweries per capita than any other city in the United States– which sounds like a helluva way to end a marathon, if you ask us!

www.rodjonesphotography.co.uk [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Big Sur International Marathon

Each spring, runners across the nation flock to California for the Big Sur Marathon in late April. The race course runs along Highway 1, the nation’s first nationally-designated scenic highway, with breathtaking views of California mountains, rural pastures, giant Redwood trees, and the Pacific Coast. Halfway through the marathon is the best scene of all – a musician in a tuxedo playing a Grand Piano. Thousands show up for this race each year, so be sure to sign up early, and then stick around to enjoy the waves and get a taste of the of the most scenic races in the United States!


  1. Lisa Jhung, America's 21 Most Scenic Trails, Competitor Running Blog
  2. Allison Hamlett, 20 RACES TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE, RW Article
  3. Amanda McMillen, The 50 Most Gorgeous Running Races in America, State by State, Health.com Article

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