You don’t need a race on your calendar to motivate you to lace up your running shoes. You’re very happy with your well-trodden, five-mile loop around the neighborhood, thank you very much. We get that. But there’s something special about competition. It propels you to add that extra mile or two to your run, it forces you to train rain or shine, and it’s the perfect excuse to book a trip somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.
But like trails, no two races are exactly alike, so if you’re new to the sport or haven’t raced all that much, you’ll want to pick an event that’s fun, welcoming, and doesn’t go straight up a brutally steep mountain side. To help you find the right match, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best entry-level, 10-kilometer trail-running races in U.S. Now all you have to do is sign up.
Manchester, Maryland | August 17, 2019
This nationally recognized trail fest set in 500 acres of forested hills on Maryland’s River Valley Ranch is also home to an award-winning trail race. And despite a section known as Dead Man’s Hill, the run is all about having fun: While the ominously named hill is steep, it’s also short, and the route is well supported with water stops and excellent signage.
Lake Tahoe, California | September 15, 2019
Epic views of the high Sierra’s granite peaks and Lake Tahoe’s picturesque bays mean this Californian 10K is one of the most stunning events on the racing calendar. Smooth singletrack parallels the water and sports only a few moderate climbs. Though, keep in mind that the lake rests at 6,225 feet, meaning the elevation can be an extra challenge.
Maui, Hawaii | October 26, 2019
Part of the XTERRA World Championship course, the Kapalua 10K starts on the lawn of the Ritz Carlton before meandering through oleander shrubs and pine trees. While the course does have a steep uphill and downhill, the route isn’t too demanding. But beware. Running through old pineapple fields to sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean is bound to hook you on racing in the Aloha State.
Silverton, Oregon | November 1-3, 2019
If you’re a waterfall enthusiast, this race should top your list. Located just an hour south of Portland, Oregon, in Silver Falls State Park, the Silver Falls Trail Run offers a 7-miler (which, at 11.2 kilometers, is admittedly longer than the other races on this list), plus a 5K, 50K, marathon and half marathon. And while the seven-mile route has just under 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the scenic views of the cascades along the aptly named Trail of Ten Falls should boost your energy all the way to the finish.
Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas | January 19, 2020
The Big Bend State and National Parks provide access to the wondrous solitude of the Chisos Mountains and Chihuahuan Desert. Though this event features 30K, 50K and 50-mile courses great for experienced competitors, its Rock Dog 10K is a perfect entry-level run. It doesn’t involve too much elevation gain, and cooler January temperatures will keep you from overheating. It’s truly desert running at its finest, whatever the distance.
New Gloucester, Maine | May 23-24, 2020
One of New England’s best trail races, the two-day Pineland Trail Festival includes music, barbecues, beer gardens, family activities and runs that cater to beginners and veterans alike. Routes range from 5K to 50 miles, and the non-technical 10K course winds though pastures and forests on wide, cross-country paths with slow rolling hills, making it a perfect fit for newbie racers.