In my opinion, there is nothing like a run (or walk, or hike, or bike) on the trails in our beautiful county.

I have run a few trail races in Colorado, but until last week I’d never had the opportunity to run one in my own backyard.  A local ultra-runner, Tyler Tomasello, made his dream a reality by planning, directing and pulling off not just a trail race, but a 100 mile, a 50 mile, a 50k and a 1/2 marathon weekend event.

I can’t tell you in detail the route for the big runs, because although I love trail running, 30 straight hours of trail running hasn’t yet made it to my list of life goals.  BUT, I can tell you that these amazing trail warriors, ran UP and DOWN Byers Peak, topped Rogers Pass and Rollins Pass, and conquered many other peaks and valleys.  (The photo accompanying this post was taken by a 100 miler en route to Rollins Pass).

I ran the 1/2 marathon, which when I registered and then began to train, seemed like an awesome challenge, until our first race meeting. I was standing among the ultra runners, realizing that my anxiety and anticipation for the 14 miles I was going to run was really small potatoes compared to the miles they had ahead of them – perspective is a powerful thing!

The 1/2 marathon toured through the Idlewild and Rendezvous trail system, which are arguably the best trails for all skill levels in Grand County.  The course Tyler chose for us was challenging, inspiring, fun and the best course I’ve ever run.  Here is what we did:

We headed east from Hideaway Park in Winter Park along the paved path that runs along the Fraser River.  When this path ran out, we turned right (if you were to turn left and go over the bridge, you will find yourself in Confluence Park on a dirt path loop that takes you to a serene setting with a bench and large deck.  This is a great walk to do with kids.)

Back to the route:  Once on the dirt road, we ran up a small incline to get on Meadow Trail (which is part of Rendezvous).  You will pass Yankee Doodle trail on your right.

We ran trail after beautiful trail – some climbing, lots of meandering, plenty of view admiring and many moments of gratefulness. Here is the full list of the trails:

1) Meadow – super mellow, under tree cover on a nicely packed trail, great spot to see moose.

2) Homestead – The access road to an old homestead which is now private property, this is now a short connector trail to access the Ditch trail.

3) Ditch Trail – flat and flowing, great for kids learning how to mountain bike, parallels a ditch–great for dogs to get water–some seasons have more water than others 

4) Southfork Loop – varied terrain with a section that reminds me of the dark forest in the Wizard of Oz, great for practice on some uneven surface roots and rocks on your bike. If you’re going to encounter wildlife, this is the place.  In fact, I scared my fellow runners with a loud “MOOOOOSE!!” scream, but it turned out to be a big log that looked like moose antlers (or at least I thought so!).  You will also be rewarded with a gorgeous stream crossing with spectacular views of the Continental Divide.

5) Burnout Loop – a rocky trail through the trees with a long, steady climb.

6) Southfork Loop Again (see above)

7) Twisted Ankle – a fairly steep trail of switchbacks through the forest.  Challenging, but fun!

8) Waterboard Rd – a roughly 2 mile dirt road, not a trail, but not unpleasant.  There is car access though, so watch out for cars and dust.

9) Corona Pass Rd – a steep climb, not a trail, but you will be rewarded with gorgeous views of the valley once you get to the top.

8) Arrow – My favorite trail of the race. A meandering downhill through the grass and wildflowers – great views, no trees. The trail has been rerouted for a much more mellow downhill than back in the days. Much more fun to run/ride down.

9) Whoops – If you bike, you know this is the place where a lot of people get off!  We went up Whoops; a quick steep incline.

10) Winterwoods – Another nice, mellow, meandering trail through the forest.  Time to reflect!

11) Serendipity – A beautiful trail with a subtle incline that leads you up to the old Idlewild ski lift.

12) Yankee Doodle – I was happy to be running down this one.  It’s fun and challenging.  I don’t know which direction would be harder on a bike – it’s probably a toss up!

If you love trail running and Grand County, I encourage you to sign up for one of the Hideaway races next year!  http://www.hideawayrunning.com/.

Or, just get out there and play around on these awesome trails that our area has to offer.