Get racin’ over the rolling hills

Running’s not just for pavement anymore.

Hit the trails and experience the beauty of West Virginia woods and farmland on these popular trail races:

1. Gristmill Grinder

April, Babcock State Park

The Gristmill Grinder Half Marathon is known for rugged beauty and challenging terrain. The course is mostly single-track trails with some paved park roads. Runners traverse lush rhododendron forest and pass the iconic Glade Creek Grist Mill.

Several overlooks along the trail offer stunning views of the New River Gorge. But all rewards come with a price: the course’s last couple miles are uphill– hence the “grinder” part! But there’s also a 5K walk option.

In the area: Fill up on a delicious specialty sandwich at Secret Sandwich Society in Fayetteville and take in the view of the New River Gorge Bridge from the Canyon Rim Visitors Center off U.S. 19.

2. Dirty Dog

May, Kanawha State Forest

If your best running buddy has 4 legs, Dirty Dog 15K Trail Run might be the race for you. Not only can dogs run in this popular race, it’s encouraged (assuming they are well behaved and vaccinated, of course).

Dogs who run with their owners get their own water stations and post-race treats, and the first pooch to cross the finish line gets a special Top Dog award. The course is a challenging mix of single-track mountainous trail and unimproved dirt road, with some mud, rocks and water— guaranteed to get your “dogs” dirty!

In the area: Stop for a snack at Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream in Charleston. The shop has outdoor seating, and owner Ellen leaves a bowl of water outside for thirsty pups.

3. Cacapon 12 Hour Challenge

July, Cacapon Resort State Park

The Cacapon 12 Hour Challenge is unique: it’s a timed race, rather than a distance race.

Think you can hit 50 miles in 12 hours? Runners who complete 10 loops receive a commemorative pint glass as members of the Cacapon 50 Mile Club.

The moderate-to-technical course treks a 5-mile single-track loop across a few streams and lightly traveled park roads. You’re welcome to run as many loops as you want, up to the 12-hour time limit. A fully stocked picnic shelter is the start and finish, where runners can fuel up before their next loop.

In the area: Treat yourself to a massage in Berkeley Springs— America’s “spa town”— and a hearty gourmet meal as you enjoy the mountain scenery at Panorama at the Peak.

4. Kanawha Trace Trail Runs

July, Camp Arrowhead

The Kanawha Trace Trail Runs includes 10K, 25K and 50K point-to-point races on the Kanawha Trace, a 32-mile-long network of old bison and Native American trails across 3 counties.

The trail is a mix of rugged single track, dirt road, pavement and pasture, climbing and descending ridges and crossing several creeks. You’ll be shuttled to your start line, and all 3 races end at Camp Arrowhead in Ona.

The Moonlight Madness and Darkness Falls night races also follow The Kanawha Trace. Both have 3.5 and 7.5 mile courses, and the Darkness Falls race even features a “haunted” section! (Bring a headlamp or flashlight.)

In the area: Chow down on a juicy burger at Fat Patty’s in Barboursville and take a tour of Blenko Glass Company in Milton, where artisans craft hand-blown glass collectibles.

5. Gritt’s Fun Farm Run

September, Gritt’s Farm

Take this festive fall trail race through Gritt’s Farm in Buffalo. The 5-mile course winds through corn fields, greenhouses and forest land.

Bring the whole family out to enjoy Fun Farm activities like hayrides, a wagon train, apple sling shots, the slide mountain and a giant corn maze. And while you’re at it, you can pick your own pumpkin!

In the area: Refuel at Fireside Grille or sip a hot coffee while you browse for books at Books and Brews, both in Hurricane.

6. West Virginia Trilogy

October, Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area

This 3-day stage race deep in the heart of the Monongahela National Forest has 3 distances: 50K, 50 mile and half-marathon. You can choose to run 1, 2 or even all 3 races if you feel you’re up to the challenge. You can camp overnight at the 400-acre Mountain Institute.

Trilogy runners will be rewarded with spectacular views of waterfalls, brilliant fall foliage and breathtaking overlooks– all within a stone’s throw of the 4,863 foot high Spruce Knob, West Virginia’s highest point.

In the area: Climb the observation tower at Spruce Knob for a spectacular view of the mountains. Stop at Bob’s Hotdogs in Belington, where you can choose from 250 specialty dogs.

7. Green Bank Turkey Trot

November, Green Bank

Start your Thanksgiving Day with a vigorous run among the giant telescopes at National Radio Astronomy Observatory.

The Turkey Trot has 2 distances: The 10K trail run is a mix of flats and hills over fields and wooded single track, while the 5K course is primarily on pavement with some short sections on groomed trails. Runners will get an up-close look at the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest moving land object!

In the area: Stay or grab a bite at Snowshoe Mountain, which has 4 seasons of outdoor fun, from skiing to golf to mountain biking.

Which mountain trails would you like to race?

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This post was last updated on July 22, 2020