The Big 5: Utah’s Best Destination Races


Utah’s 5 Best Destination Races

Instead of a traditional vacation, many runners are opting for “racecations” where they race in the city they’re visiting. Racing is the best reason to travel in my opinion, and I have a personal goal of racing in all 50 states in my lifetime.

But you don’t have to hop on a plane to take a racecation! Explore Utah and run in a beautiful place while overnighting at one of our five favorite destination races.

aerial photography of the Ogden Marathon

Photo courtesy of The Ogden Marathon

Ogden Marathon

May 19, 2018
This race is Utah’s biggest single outdoor marathon and is known for its outdoor beauty, world-class views, and competition; it’s no wonder the phrase “Get Out and Live” is a commonly associated with the area. As for the race, it draws people from all over the country to compete as well as local athletes. I can attest to the beauty of this course as it literally took my breath away running down the canyon. This race also supports the Goal Foundation’s charitable causes. Use discount code blonderunner18 to save $10 on race registration. Complete this race and the St. George Marathon in a year and receive the special Red Rocks & Mountain Tops medal.

What to See: Tourist destinations like Hill Aerospace Museum, Union Station, the Botanical Gardens, and George S. Eccles Dinosaur Park are big hits for the whole family. Or take your little ones to Cold Springs Trout Farm and catch fish.

Where to Stay: Lakeside Resort Properties offer the closest proximity to the race, or stay at the historic Bigelow Hotel if you plan to explore downtown Ogden. Both offer deals for racers, and Bigelow Hotel throws in a free grab-n-go runner’s breakfast.

Sign up for the Ogden Marathon

Runners at the Bryce Canyon Half

Photo courtesy of Bryce Canyon Half Marathon

Bryce Canyon Half

July 14, 2018
Run past Bryce Canyon’s legendary red rock and through the small towns of Tropic and Cannonville at this summer race. Although I haven’t personally raced Bryce, it’s getting rave reviews from all my running friends, so I’m adding this half to my must-do list. This event also offers a 5K on Saturday, and a 1-mile Color Me Fun Run on Friday, making it a great event for all ability levels.

The half is well organized with great local support, and each aid station has a fun theme as locals compete to “win the best aid station.” Race registration also includes a nice tech shirt, medal, and great swag. Runners who return year after year tell me the route has beautiful scenery, and the first 7-mile stretch is downhill—so you’re likely to finish fast.

What to See: While in Bryce, explore the sandstone cliffs on foot or by horse. Take the easy 1.8-mile Queens Garden Trail into the canyon to see the hoodoos up close without tiring your legs for the big race.

Where to Stay: Many stay at the Ruby’s Inn by the starting line, or if you are a camper like me, make reservations at the campground next to Ruby’s Inn.

Sign up for the Bryce Canyon Half

Top of Utah runners

Photo courtesy of Top of Utah Marathon

Top of Utah Marathon

September 15, 2018
This race starts at Hardware Ranch Elk Refuge and follows the river down Blacksmith Fork Canyon, eventually winding through downtown Logan, home of my alma mater, Utah State University. The course drops about 1045 feet over the 26 miles to give you a speed boost, but is only a 1% to 2% grade so it won’t kill your legs and knees. Top of Utah’s fun for spectators too; the first 100 arriving at Merlin Olsen Park to watch finishers receive a souvenir pin with the same design as the finisher medallion.

What to See: If you get a chance, explore the hikes up Logan Canyon or stop at the small zoo at Willow Park with your children. I always like to stop at Gossner’s Cheese for a treat after the event.

Where to Stay: Affordable SpringHill Suites is near Utah State University and the finish line, and boasts a free hot breakfast and heated swimming pool.

Sign up for the Top of Utah Marathon

The Other Half

October 14, 2018
Race past red rock canyons, stunning rock formations like Fisher Towers and Castle Rock, and the La Sal Mountains on this paved course that runs parallel to the Colorado River. Runners are shuttled up to the start and the route winds down the canyon with just a few short hill climbs before finishing at Sorrel River Ranch. This event began in 2004 as a fall companion to the popular spring Canyonlands Half Marathon and is the perfect end-of-season race. Do both events in a year and receive a Canyonlands Marathon medal.

What to See: There’s plenty of hiking in the area at Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Or explore Moab in a Jeep, on a mountain bike, or in a raft down the Colorado River.

Where to Stay: Moab is 3–4 hours from Salt Lake City and lodging options range from camping to family-friendly five-star hotels. Red Cliffs Lodge and Sorrel River Ranch offer private shuttles to the start line and are easy to reach after the race ends. For tent campers, plenty of sites line the Colorado River.

Sign up for The Other Half

Snow Canyon Half Marathon runners

Photo courtesy of Snow Canyon Half Marathon

Snow Canyon Half Marathon

November 3, 2018
Run downhill through the red rock wonderscape of Snow Canyon State Park, passing sandstone cliffs and volcanic landscapes on this USATF-certified half marathon route that ends at Snow Canyon High School. All runners must take the bus to the start from the high school, and the entire course is paved. Follow a pacer to stay on track with your desired finish time. Not up for running 13.1? Sign up for the 5K that’s run on the surrounding trails. There are also one-mile, half-mile, and 200-meter dash races for kids.

What to See: Take in an easy hike after the event at Pioneer Park, or mosey along the well-marked paths of the Red Hills Desert Gardens viewing cactus and local vegetation. When traveling with children, don’t miss the St. George’s Children’s Museum.

Where to Stay: Chains like Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn in St. George provide easy race access, or opt for the luxurious spa and outdoor adventure scene at Red Mountain Resort—located a quarter-mile from Snow Canyon State Park.

Sign up for the Snow Canyon Half Marathon


About Author

Coach Lora Erickson is a USATF certified running coach and nationally ranked triathlete with over 28 years of athletic experience. To learn more contact her directly at or visit to learn more about services, classes and health programs.

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