Add to your distance, up your technique, and explore some of the most underrated trails in the country
The South is an untapped haven for trail runners. Its varied terrain offers... essentially everything but altitude. Whether you want to log miles on the beach or through rolling blue mountains and rhododendron-chocked hollows, trail runners looking to up their technique or mileage will find no shortage of dirt to run in the South. These six trail camps are the most fun, helpful, and best in the region—and with them, you can up your running game faster than a moonshiner can hide his still.
No Business 100 Training Camp
Where: Jamestown, Tennessee
When: May 20-21
Cost: $80-$90 for cabins, $10 for tent cabins
The No Business 100 Training Camp is designed for runners who have their sights set on conquering the No Business 100, a teeth-gritting ultra in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. With a shocking 11,200 feet of climbing, the race starts in Kentucky and crosses the border into Tennessee on rough trails. Because the inclines are harsh and the terrain is technical, the two-day camp is meant to acquaint runners with the course via short 22-mile runs through towering rock arches and alongside rolling streams.
Runners who are interested in improving their technical skills but aren’t racing are also invited to camp. Space, however, is limited. Be advised: The overnight stay will be a rustic experience—there’s no electricity at the lodge. Consider it a bonus. Who doesn't need a respite from screens?
Jeff Galloway’s Weekend Running Retreat
Where: Blue Mountain Beach, Florida
When: June 9-11, Sept. 8-10
Cost: $364 (housing not included)
Coming back after an injury or brand new to trail running? Train in the sun along the Gulf at Jeff Galloway’s Weekend Running Retreat in Blue Mountain Beach, Florida. Galloway, creator of the Run Walk Run program, takes attendees on mellow jogs along the white sandy beaches and on the network of trails in Blue Mountain and Grayton Beach State Park.
Because the retreats are capped at between 8 to 12 participants, attendees receive plenty of one-on-one training tips. His clinics over the weekend cover motivation, nutrition, injury prevention, and how trail running can make you a stronger runner as a whole, whether you prefer pounding pavement or dirt.
Zap Fitness Bear Week
Where: Blowing Rock, North Carolina
When: July 2-7
Want to run The Bear? This beast of a race takes you up 5,946-foot Grandfather Mountain—and while you'll only log a total of five miles, they'll all be uphill and lead to the top of one of the tallest mountains east of the Mississippi.
Runners of all levels are invited to prep for the race with Zap Fitness’ Bear Week. This year, Bill Rodgers, four-time winner of the Boston Marathon, will speak to the 20 to 24 campers who attend the clinic. Campers will also benefit from sessions on trail training, racing, strength training, and nutrition. Meals are prepared by a professional chef and for cross-training, there are yoga sessions and pool running workouts.
Cumberland Plateau Stage Race
Where: Jamestown, Tennessee
When: Aug. 25, 2017
Cost: $140 or $380 per team
While Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau Stage Race is technically a three-day race, the event also features guest speakers and clinics. The Cumberland experience is different each year. One year, participants took a break from running to learn how to rappel. Last year, Ted Towse, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt, spoke about common running myths. But you can count on one popular annual tradition: cold craft beer for the participants.
Racing takes place over three days at the East Fork Stables, with a 13-mile sunset run on day one, a 20-mile river run on day two, and a 17-mile overlook run on day three. The best part? Cap off every day with a splash at the bottom of a slip 'n slide.
Sally McRae Running Camps
Where: Camp Grier, North Carolina
When: Oct. 11-15
Limited to 15 participants a pop, Sally McRae’s Running Camps near Asheville, North Carolina, let participants in on secrets from one of the greatest female ultrarunners of our time. In 2016, McRae was the 11th female to finish in the Western States 100 and claimed the women's first place at the Salmon Falls 50K.
McRae's five-day camps include plenty of coaching so you can learn from the expert, but you don't have to run an ultra to soak up her wisdom. Trail runs average about 10 miles each in and around the deep woods of the Pisgah National Forest and near Black Mountain. Healthy fuel's provided for breakfast and lunch, and in the afternoon, runners can book a massage at camp or go sightseeing. In the evening, McRae teams up with local running stores for special events followed by dinner at some of the best restaurants and breweries in the area.
Texas Trail Camp
Where: Hill Country, Texas
When: Fall 2018
While the Texas Trail Camp is taking a break this year, you’ll want to put it on your calendar for 2018. It's that good. In 2016, classes focused on nutrition, strength training, hydration, dealing with blisters, and how to run both up and down hills. Industry professionals and ultrarunners taught each clinic. For trail runners looking to boost their knowledge and gain some technical mileage, this camp provides it. Daytime runs range in distance, but night runs average between three and eight miles. The trail camp finishes with a Trail Camp Race with your choice of a 5K, 10K, or half marathon to put your new tools to the test.
Not ready to bite the multi-day clinic bullet? Our parent company, REI, offers shorter clinics throughout the year at each of its locations. Search here for one near you.