Mud Run/Obstacle Course

Spartan Race Series

Various locations

The challenge-by-choice format of the Spartan Sprint allows participants of all abilities to take part in the action. Start out small with the 3.1-mile distance, or take on the Ultra Beast 12-14-miler before tackling the Spartan’s namesake obstacles like the slippery wall, fire jump, spear throw, and rope climb.

FINALISTS

Mad Anthony Mud Run, Va.

Muddy ACCE Race, Va.

Festival

FloydFest

Floyd, Va.

Nestled high up in the mountains of central Virginia, FloydFest is a festival that has truly mastered the art of paying homage to the region’s musical heritage while still welcoming the eclectic new-age sounds of today. The 2018 lineup is already looking stellar, with Foster the People, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, and Langhorne Slim, to name a few.

FINALISTS

GO Outside Festival, Va.

Mountain Sports Festival, N.C.

Rowdiest Event

Gauley Fest

Summersville, W.Va.

The Power of Events to Do Good

It seems appropriate that the festival celebrating the unruly Gauley River is just as raucous. We’d be concerned if it wasn’t.

Combine live music, beer, food, and likeminded people, and you’re bound to have a good time, but these days, festivals are doing more than hosting big parties. Some of the most popular festivals are actually breeding grounds for do goodery.

Just ask American Whitewater’s Executive Director Mark Singleton. Though AW’s Gauley Fest is undoubtedly a wild weekend of whitewater shenanigans, the event is also the largest gathering of the organization’s supporters in the country. And that, says Singleton, gives AW a prime opportunity to continue education and outreach on upcoming projects, like the organization’s campaign to establish rivers like the Nolichucky River as Wild and Scenic in commemoration of this year’s 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

“Activism was really the genesis of Gauley Fest,” says Singleton. “Back in the early ‘80s, there was a proposal that would have dewatered the upper three miles of [the Gauley] River and put in a pipe from the current dam location down to below Pillow Rock. It was boaters who came together to push back on that proposal and a secondary dam proposal at Swiss. That kind of public engagement shaped AW as an organization that could rally grassroots support and really protect rivers for their recreation and conservation values. Now, the management of the New and Gauley Rivers is a national example of what good river management can look like.”

Three months prior to Gauley Fest and on the other side of the New River Gorge Bridge, Atlanta-based climber Alex Rowland’s brainchild event HomoClimbtastic is paving the way for inclusivity in the world of adventure as the world’s largest queer-friendly climbing convention.

“Climbing can be a tough sport to break into if you don’t already know people,” says Rowland. “When I first started climbing, it felt like a bit of a struggle to find outdoor climbing partners.” So 10 years ago, Rowland started the HomoClimbtastic Club. Its first convention only had a five-person turnout, but Rowland had so much fun, he was hardly discouraged. Now, the event, which is held annually on the third weekend of July, regularly brings in 100 climbers from all over the country. From a drag show to a floatie pride parade on Summersville Lake, the festival is entirely too much fun, and that, says Rowland, was sorta the point.

“A lot of activism can be really tough, and I wanted this to be more than activism,” he says. “This is work, but I wanted it to feel much more like a celebration than anything else.”

FINALISTS

GO Outside Festival, Va.

LOCKN’ Festival, Va.

Toughest Event

Shenandoah Epic Adventure Race

Bentonville, Va.

For eight years running, this 24-hour race has pushed even the toughest endurance athletes to their limits. Cover over 100 miles of ground by bike, boat, and foot, and come prepared to put your navigational skills to the test.

FINALISTS

The Barkley Marathons, Tenn.

The Green Race, N.C.

Costumed Event

Great Outdoor Provisions Surf-n-Santa 5-Miler

Virginia Beach, Va.

Picture this: thousands of racers decked in five-piece Santa suits, running through the night while hundreds more elves hand out candy canes and gingerbread cookies on the course. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

FINALISTS

Super Hero 5K, N.C.

Thrill on the Hill, Va.

Fly Fishing Event

WNC Fly Fishing Expo

Asheville, N.C.

Considered by many anglers to be the most comprehensive fly fishing event in the region, this expo is no doubt educational, but it’s after the long day of workshops and clinics that the true fun begins: BBQ cookouts, beers, fly fishing films. That’s the stuff true friends are made of.

FINALISTS

Rumble in the Rhododendron Fly Fishing Tournament, N.C.

Mossy Creek Invitational, Va.

Adventurer of the Year

John Forbes

Kingsport, Tenn.

You’ll know John Forbes when you see him on the trail. His long gray beard is unmistakable, hiding behind it a whimsical grin that hardly contains his enthusiasm for hiking in the Tri-Cities region, excursions which he thoroughly documents on his page Tri-Cities Hiking Adventures. Give him a follow!

FINALISTS

Ellie Quinn, Va.

Megan Robinson, Va.

Instagram Account to Follow

@ellieontheat

Did you know that an empty Mountain House package can hold two dirty diapers? Or that an umbrella is a necessary piece of gear if you’re expecting to breast-feed on trail? Though Kanga, Roo, and Sherpa’s (that’s Bekah, Ellie, and Derrick Quirin) thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail is over, their Instagram handle continues to be a great resource and inspiration to active families with young children (plus, that Ellie is just too stinkin’ cute).

FINALISTS

@blueridgemtguides

@moonmegroanoke