Miles of unpaved roads, thousands of feet of elevation gain, and a challenging summer race schedule make Silverton a trail runner’s paradise.
For most, running 100 miles would be enough for a lifetime, but for the many endurance runners who find themselves consistently pulled back to Silverton, Colorado for the Hardrock 100 Endurance Run, the iconic tour of the San Juan mountains becomes a yearly staple (if they make the lottery, that is). Kirk Apt is one such habitual Hardrockers, who makes his way down from Fruita to wake up at dawn and circumnavigate the hills around Silverton in a yearly pilgrimage that can take participants tens of hours to complete.
“I didn’t finish my first year,” he says, “But, I’m hoping for finish number 23 after this year’s race.”
Apt’s not alone in his perpetual draw to this tiny, former mining town. The mountains around Silverton are riddled with old mining roads that are perfect for shorter out and backs or logging longer mileage as part of a training schedule. Similarly, Silverton’s summer race schedule has established itself as a favorite stop on plenty of mountain runners’ calendars, with ultras, marathons, and mid-distances runs including everything from scenic to extremely challenging options.
The Hardrock 100 (hardrock100.com), in particular, is among the most revered of the area’s established races. The iconic endurance typically ranks among the world’s most difficult ultras, and a mix of trail running’s top athletes, seasoned regulars and Hardrock newbies enter the lottery each year for a chance to “kiss the rock.” Aravaipa Running (aravaiparunning.com) hosts a medley of shorter races based out of Silverton as well, with the Kendall Mountain Run standing out as a popular mid-distance event. Racers can opt for 12 miles or a shorter 11k. There’s also the Silverton Alpine Marathon and 50k, which challenges endurance junkies with prime unpaved mileage and thousands of feet in elevation gain. The Silverton 1000 Multi-Day Run (silverton1000.com) is another favorite race series based on Kendall Mountain, with a tagline that boasts “Insanity is an understatement—earn the bragging rights!” as a testament to the crazed running culture that descends upon the area.
And while the scene and comradery of devoted and disciplined runners has played a role in the success of the town’s races, Silverton’s dramatic geography easily makes the case for why so many seek out the area’s trail running options. Apt logged his 23rd finish at the 2016 Hardrock 100, and while many might think such a feat would be rewarded with some well-deserved time off, Apt thinks otherwise: “I stay in the same room at our hotel each year,” he said, “And before we check out, I make a reservation for next year.”
The quirky Wyman Hotel & Inn (thewyman.com) is conveniently located in the midst of town and has maintained a steady influx of guests since the early 20th century. Camping is prime at Silverton Lakes Campground (silvertonlakes.com) and four-wheel-drive accessible dispersed spots available via many dirt roads outside of town.