The runner’s high:  you won’t find the buzz of the Transrockies at your local dispensary.

Race bandits are only bad guys if they poach race courses during the actual event. Assuming the trails are otherwise open to the public, there’s nothing wrong with running the route at a time other than race day, so that you aren’t stressing the race organization, tapping the resources of aid stations and volunteers and, even worse, using the safety net of the emergency crews.

These days most trail races allow potential racers to pre-run the course by laying out the race route on the web page with great detail, including elevation profiles and detailed descriptions. Because race directors strive to treat participants to the most beautiful views and favorable trail choices these gems are out there for you to explore, minus the competition.

Armed with that key to unlock some magic, here are three spectacular sections that can be run in one weekend on some of Colorado’s most stunning trail races: the Collegiate Peaks 25/50, the TransRockies Run and the Leadville 100.

The order of the runs doesn’t particularly matter, although the middle run described here lies geographically betwixt the other two so it makes sense to keep it in the middle.

Run Number One, buena vista social trail

Starting at the parking area at the terminus of Cedar Street, about a half mile north of Highway 24, you immediately cross a footbridge and ascend from the Arkansas River for less than a mile before coming to a dirt road heading east (a right turn). Follow that road up a more gradual incline and it eventually loops counterclockwise along what was once a railroad route.

This route is the second half of the Collegiate Peaks 50, the first being the same course but in a clockwise direction, and you can keep following that route for a full 25-mile circle that comes back to Buena Vista or make an it out-and-back, turning around when you choose, at which point you’ll be graced with the awesome views of mounts Princeton, Harvard and Yale, all on the other side of river valley. 

Run Number Twotwinsies

If you so desire, this is a rather easy run that offers the option of adding elevation gain and challenge, as you see fit. You start and finish this run from a camping spot off of a forest access dirt road that is a subtle left turn off of Highway 82, the road that takes you to Twin Lakes and, if you kept going, to Aspen over Independence Pass. The run follows the southern shore of the lower of the lakes and, only a mile in, you get to run by the “ghost spa” of the Interlaken Resort. Built in the 1880s, well-to-do tourists once boated and danced, and in the winter, skied. It is now a designated National Historic Site.

Keep on the flat path, heading west until you eventually intersect the wider trail that runs south, left and up to the famed Hope Pass, the high point of the Leadville 100 course. Depending on your fortitude, you can follow that up to the 12,600-foot summit or simply turn around and return, as you choose. 

Run Number Threeturquoise bliss

The Leadville 100 begins in the darkness of its 4:00 a.m. start and quickly departs a mile of pavement for rolling dirt and then rocky trails as the field thins out on their way to Turquoise Lake. The vast majority of the racers return in the dark of the next night or early morning, with only the fastest racers getting to enjoy views of the lake’s placid shores before the sun sets. You, however, have the luxury of following that route during daylight. You can either start in town or drive west and park along the route so that you see more of the scenic sections, starting at Turquoise Lake, following the shore trail from the eastern damn, running counterclockwise to May Queen and then, if you want to extend the run, up to Sugarloaf Pass. At the base of Mount Princeton you’ll find the Princeton Hot Springs (, where you can enjoy a soak in natural pools.


Many of us bemoan the plight of children entranced by their electronic distractions who know nothing about experiencing the outdoors. But one man is doing something about it. Morgan Murri, an upbeat endurance racer from Pagosa Springs, was so inspired by his daughter’s transformation on a NOLS course that he started an organization that gives kids non-digital hope: Giving Every Child Knowledge of the Outdoors (GECKO). The organization provides scholarships to children seeking outdoor educational experiences. Through organizations like NOLS, High-Mountain Institute and WildPagosam, GECKO enables youth to reconnect with the outdoors through sensory exploration and hands-on experiences. GECKO is actively seeking corporate and annual sponsors so it may evolve from being a local organization and launch regional and nationwide campaigns. But the most fun way to help is to enter in one of the GoLite Footwear/GECKO trail series races, which include the Turkey Track Trail Marathon on June 9, Mountain Chile Cha Cha on August 25, Four Corners BIke Fest on September 22-23 and Devil Mountain Ultra on September 29. —A.C.