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Ten Best Trail Running Races in the World

Trail running is the ultimate way to combine a love for nature and exercise. Trail running takes you to the heart of nature, and it’s a great way of seeing more of the world and testing your endurance levels.

Running at the heart of nature is extremely fulfilling and enjoyable, and it’s a way of testing your body in a new way. While there are athletes and experts in trail running, even complete beginners can train and compete in trail running events around the world. Trail running’s popularity is a lot to do with the beautiful sights you can see but also the sense of achievement on completing a long-distance, intensive sporting activity. It is also an all-round workout that, of course, gets your blood pumping and works the legs, but also works the upper body too. Trail running also has many mental health benefits as you rely on your concentration, endurance and will to finish to get you around the course.

The main health benefits of trail running are:

  • Physiological – Every footfall on a trail differs, so it is much less likely to cause repetitive strain injuries than road running. Your muscles build up quickly as this is a sport that engages the whole body, including the upper body and torso. In addition, the surfaces you run on are usually much softer, so your joints are not impacted as they would be with road running. You are also miles from pollution and the risks that come with running alongside hundreds of cars and other vehicles.
  • Psychological: trail running requires you to develop a certain mindset. Many trail runners train in mindfulness and meditation. The nature of trails means they twist and turn, so you have to keep your concentration completely as you run too.
  • Freedom: there is nothing more refreshing than the sense of freedom that comes with being alone in the natural world. What’s more, trail runs give you the opportunity to run your own race, choose your own route to the finish line.

The world’s most beautiful trail runs are regularly debated, and there are trails around the globe that introduce you to nature in new and exciting ways. Here we’re looking at ten of the best trail running races around the world. They combine the challenge you need for your body with some of the world’s most stunning sights.

Manaslu Mountain Trail Race, Nepal

1.    Manaslu Mountain Trail Race, Nepal

Event website:

Location: Nepal

When does it take place: November

Taking seven race days each November, the Manaslu Mountain Trail Race takes runners around the eighth highest mountain in the world. You don’t entirely circumnavigate the peak, but you do come close. This is a multi-stage race where each runner carries their own light pack, but there are staff to carry the camping and cooking equipment required.

This is an elite race covering a total distance of 130m and elevation over 11,000 feet. Only a select group of runners can qualify due to the fitness requirements, but if you do qualify, you will experience many once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The Manaslu Mountain Trail Race gives runners the chance to sleep in an ancient monastery, run above the glacier and perhaps spot Tibet’s wild animals and birds. Indigenous people living in the mountainous region will be keen to cheer you on, too, creating an experience like no other.

Skyrun, South Africa

2.    Skyrun, South Africa

Event website:

Location: South Africa

When does it take place: November

See South Africa as you’ve never seen it before with the annual 1-day Skyrun. This inspiring trail takes you into the hidden mountainscapes of South Africa, and you may feel like you’re thousands of miles from human civilisation. SkyRun offers 100km and 65km trail running races.

Skyrun is a mountainous and rugged trail race that takes you into the remote terrain of the Witteberg Mountain range. Self-supported and relying on self-navigation, Skyrun is a test of your wits, endurance and running skill. Athletes take to the race with a map and compass or standalone GPS unit and their pack complete with all compulsory essentials. This information is given to everyone who signs up for the race. Elevation levels are between 2200 and 2500 on average throughout the trail, and runners should look out for bearded vultures, flycatchers and warblers.

West Highland Way Race, Scotland

3.    West Highland Way Race, Scotland

Event website:

Location: Scotland

When does it take place: June

Wild and beautiful, the West Highland Way Race covers 153km across some of the UK’s most beautiful landscapes. The route takes runners from Milngavie just to the north of Glasgow to Fort William, which sits at the base of Ben Nevis. Many people argue that Scotland has some of the most beautiful wildlife and nature and on this trail, you will surely see some of the best.

Runners on this trail race will see the shores of some of Scotland’s amazing lochs traverse down steep-sided gorges and high mountain passes. It’s the chance to see some of the best-loved wilderness in Scotland, and it remains on the UK’s most popular ultra-marathons due to the fantastic sights you can see and the challenge it offers.

Waitomo Trail Run, New Zealand

4.    Waitomo Trail Run, New Zealand

Event website:

Location: New Zealand

When does it take place: April

Considered one of the most unusual and unique trail runs on the planet, the Waitomo Trail Run incorporates both underground and overground elements. It is New Zealand’s largest trail run, and fans of Lord of the Rings won’t be disappointed by the Hobbit-like nature you encounter along the way.

Rolling green hills and glow-worm lit limestone caves create a beautiful atmosphere and an amazing environment in which to test your strength and stamina.

Spartathlon, Greece

5.    Spartathlon, Greece

Event website:

Location: Greece

When does it take place: September

Inspired by the Greek legend of Pheidippides, the Spartathon is your chance to combine your love for trail running with ancient history. This trail run is following in the steps of the ancient hero, covering 245km from Athens to Sparta. Pheidippides was said to be looking for help against the Persians in the Battle of Marathon, while modern-day runners are simply battling against themselves to see if they can complete the race.

The course passes through many of Greece’s ancient cities and involves reaching as high as 1200m above sea level. However, the biggest challenge of the route is the ascent and descent of Mount Parthenio just before you head into Sparta. Racers have just 36 hours to complete the marathon task.

6.    The Golden Ultra, Canada

Event website:

Location: Canada

When does it take place: September

A three-day running festival held in British Columbia, the Golden Ultra is a genuine trial of endurance and stamina, with plenty of opportunities to take in the gorgeous Canadian scenery. Split into three separate days, cleverly titled: “Blood”, “Sweat”, and “Tears”, many racers will experience all of these during the run.

Western Canada’s fantastic scenery is there for all to see as you run the 88km course. Each day you get the chance to try something different, with the first day taking you along a vertical kilometre, day two taking you on an ultramarathon and a final 22km event on the last day. It is considered one of Canada’s toughest challenges, but you get the reward of the British Columbian scenery and the sense of satisfaction when you’ve reached the finish line.

Jungle Marathon, Amazon Rainforest

7.    Jungle Marathon, Amazon Rainforest

Event website:

Location: Brazil

When does it take place: February

Described as one of the most challenging races on the planet, the Jungle Marathon takes runners through the dense rainforests of Brazil. Home to anacondas, scorpions, jaguars and many other dangerous and fascinating creatures, the Jungle Marathon is a trail run like no other.

Covering over 260km, the Jungle Marathon is only for the most experienced and elite runners. You spend a whole week heading through swamps, across rivers and dealing with the extreme humidity and temperatures reach as high as 45°C, making it even more of a challenge. Occasional checkpoints along the way only provide water, so runners need to keep everything they need for the week-long run in their pack. Runners on this race have to be prepared to survive in the wilderness, fend for themselves and even build their own shelter. It’s definitely not a race for the weak hearted.

Tromsø Skyrace, Norway

8.    Tromsø Skyrace, Norway

Event website:

Location: Norway

When does it take place: August

Challenging but life-affirming, the Tromsø Skyrace is more than just a race. As well as running, anyone taking on this challenge will have to test their mountaineering skills too. In their own words, they describe the race as “a place to run between the sky and the earth and to feel freedom”, and it is a chance to experience the world from a completely different perspective.

The Tromsø Skyrace has two different options: the 57km Hamperokken Skyrace and the 32km Tromsdalstind Skyrace. Both options take you through beautiful Nordic countryside, forests and that unforgettable mountain climb. All runners need to be sure they have the prerequisite climbing skill before considering this race. However, all the efforts are more than worth it as you see Norway in stunning surroundings.

Útilív Adventure Festival, Faroe Islands

9. Útilív Adventure Festival, Faroe Islands

Event website:

Location: Faroe Islands

When does it take place: September

The Faroe Islands lie in between Iceland and Norway and provide a surprising and different trail running race compared to anywhere else on the globe. This unique archipelago is 300km northwest of the British Isles but is considered an autonomous Danish territory.

As trail running events go, the Útilív Adventure Festival is like no other, with the option of racing between 13-65km across this unique landscape. Known for its colonies of puffins and turf-roofed houses, this is one location that cannot be replicated anywhere else. Runners will find hidden waterfalls, unusual wildlife and the untouched natural world as they race to the finish line in the Faroe Islands.

Transylvanian Bear Race, Romania

10. Transylvanian Bear Race, Romania

Event website:

Location: Romania:

When does it take place: June

Event organisers describe the route of this race as travelling through “Europe’s last unspoiled wilderness”, and while this may not strictly be the case, with many beautiful wild locations around the Continent, it is undoubtedly a fantastic race to run. The Transylvanian Bear Race is a choice of a 50km or 80km trail run through the spectacular and rarely seen Transylvanian countryside.

The chance to enjoy both the heritage and landscape of Transylvania combine in a unique race which allows runners to see unusual sights no tourist board would consider. From ancient Saxon villages to castle ruins and natural meadows to ancient village pathways, the Transylvanian Bear Race gives all runners the chance to get to know an area of the world which we hear many stories of but rarely get to see for ourselves. The race ends with the magnificent ascent of the Sighisoara citadel. This UNESCO world heritage site is well-known as the birthplace of Vlad Dracul and holds a special place in Romanian history and legend.

Are you ready for the world’s best trail running races?

Anyone considering one of these challenging yet unforgettable races needs to consider their training. The chance to experience many of these events maybe once in a lifetime. You don’t want to waste your opportunity. Take the time to consider your current fitness levels if you regularly run marathons or ultramarathons and also if you’re carrying out the kind of exercises for running long distances. Many of these races have shorter course routes, and some even have events for children, so it is possible to enjoy the fantastic sights without committing to days of survival in the wilderness.

The chance to experience nature is becoming less and less common as the world becomes more urbanised. Trail running gives you the opportunity to work on your fitness, develop a new interest and potentially see the world, and its sights, in a unique and unforgettable way.

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