Pipestem Resort State Park, W.Va. Pipestem has 20 miles of scenic trails that climb and descend the Bluestone Canyon. The state park’s aerial tram can be used as a shuttle to simplify the logistics of running up a mountain. Run the River Trail to the Canyon Rim Center for five miles and 1,150 of elevation gain.
Sky Meadows State Park, Va. Sky Meadows is a 1,862-acre park just an hour outside of D.C.’s metro area with 12 miles of looped hiking trails, including three miles of the Appalachian Trail. You can also hook up with the park’s North Ridge Trail for a longer run that will take you into the high meadows, overlooks, and homestead ruins. dcr.virginia.org
The Priest, Va. This four-mile run up the Priest on the Appalachian Trail is one of the favorite training runs of the Virginia Happy Trails Club. From the Tye River, climb 3,000 feet in just over four miles to the summit of this towering 4,063-foot mountain. After rocketing back down, soak your burning quads in the river. appalachiantrail.org
Brasstown Bald, Ga. The 4,784-foot Brasstown Bald is Georgia’s highest peak, and as such, attracts runners looking for a steep, uphill battle. Run the paved 0.6-mile Brasstown Bald Trail, which gains 500 feet of elevation quickly. For extra mileage, tack on Jack’s Knob Trail, which runs for three miles parallel to the road to the top of the mountain, climbing 1,780 feet in a series of 40 switchbacks. At the top, take the shuttle ride back to your car.
Crowders Mountain State Park, N.C. The 1,625-foot Crowders Mountain, and neighboring 1,705-foot Kings Pinnacle just across the border in South Carolina, protrude from the surrounding flatland, offering 15 miles of trail. Run the Backside Trail to the summit of Crowders, which ends with 336 wooden steps to the peak. For a longer run, tackle the Pinnacle Trail, which begins at the visitor’s center and ends 1.7 miles and 900 vertical feet later at the top of King’s Pinnacle. Stair Climbs The point of these tower climbing races is to run from the bottom of a skyscraper to the top as fast as you can. It’s a bizarre niche race that gives mountain running an urban twist.
Fight for Air Climb Atlanta, Ga. • May 14, 2011 In Atlanta, you’ll run 50 stories up Peachtree Tower and raise money to fight lung disease while you do it. Editions of the race are also run in Greenville, Columbia, and Charleston, S.C. (Apr 9). fightforairclimb.org
Power Up the Tower Winston Salem, N.C. • February 2012 Run up the 30-story Winston Tower to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Last year, the overall winner ran 30 stories in 3:36. climbms.org
Step Up for the Up Norfolk, Va. • April 3, 2011 You can run up the 25-story Norfolk Dominion Tower once, or tackle the distance up to four times for a massive 100-story run. Choose the 100, and you’ll have to climb 2,320 steps. theupcenter.org A Mountain Race We’d Like to See In Europe, many mountain running races are held at ski resorts. The road climbs to the top of the resorts are often formidable, and the resort amenities (bars, restaurants, showers) give the races a festive atmosphere. In 2011, the sole qualifying race for the U.S. Mountain Running Team will be the Cranmore Hill Climb at the Cranmore Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. The South has a number of resorts that could potentially host a mountain run of this caliber. Race directors and ski resorts: start planning.