It’s Time to Fill Out Your 2020 Trail Racing Calendar

January 23, 2020
trail running on the Merrimack river trail
Rose Dunham WashakWant to add some mud to your 2020 trail racing calendar? The 10-mile Merrimack River Race, held each April in Andover, Mass., often delivers. The 2020 race has also been tapped as the USATF New England Trail Running Sub-Ultra Championship.

Have you set your trail racing goals for the year? Among them, do you aim to run a long, mountainous trail, like I did in 2019? Do you want to experience a beautiful setting in a different way? Do you hit the trails mainly to stay in shape? Whatever your goals, make running a trail race a part of achieving those goals. (We made the case in this space last year for why you should run a trail race, which we won’t repeat here.) Here are 8 Northeast trail races we found listed on American Trail Running Association website, of varying lengths and difficulty levels, to help you fill out your 2020 trail racing calendar.



Date: February 22
Location: Staten Island, N.Y.
Distance: 5 or 10 kilometers
Difficulty: Easy
Event registration

This race, just 18 miles south of Central Park, as the bird flies, offers runners two distances to shake off the mid-winter rust. The course begins on a golf course but quickly arrives at hilly Greenbelt Conservancy trail system, the non-profit and beneficiary of this charity run. Your participation helps the Greenbelt Conservancy’s mission to provide local children with environmental education opportunities, as well as maintaining Staten Island’s 2,800-acre Greenbelt. Public transportation users can take the Staten Island Ferry from Manhattan, and from there switch to the S74 bus.



Date: April 11
Location: Andover, Mass.
Distance: 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Event registration

The 29th running of this mostly flat, out-and-back 10-mile trail race could be its last, as longtime race director Stephen “Petey” Peterson and the race’s timing company will no longer be involved. This year, the Merrimack race will serve as the United States Track and Field–New England Trail Running Championship (sub-ultra distance), adding $1,000 in prize money to the mix. Give Merrimack a try if you’re new to trail racing; the smaller field and post-race banana bread offer an immersion into the close-knit New England trail running community. Read Running Wild’s review of the 2019 race for more.



Date: May 9
Location: Ipswich, Mass.
Distance: 13.1 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Event registration

Essex County Trail Association (ECTA) has for years helped maintain the North Shore’s network of recreational trails, and in recent years has been putting on a pretty great trail race series. Following both single- and double-track trails through Willowdale State Forest, this half-marathon provides a preview of many of the trails included in the full ultramarathon ECTA sponsors later in the year, if one is so inclined.



Date: June 6
Location: Tamworth, N.H.
Distance: 25 kilometers
Difficulty: Difficult
Event registration

Part of the Rockhopper Race Series, Chocorua Mountain Race follows a lollipop course up and over 3,478-foot Mount Chocorua and offers stunning views of the Sandwich Range of the White Mountains. The 25-kilometer (15ish mile) race is technical and difficult, requiring previous mountain running experience and attention to safety. That said, this could be the right race for an adventure-minded trail runner in 2020! Read our interview with Ski the Whites’ Andrew Drummond on running in the White Mountains.



Date: July 25
Location: White River Junction, Vt.
Distance: 5 or 10 kilometers
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Event registration

The run starts inauspiciously on a relatively flat logging road, but soon leads to two significant climbs in Hartford’s town forest and conservation area that, as the race website states, will “have you rethinking why you’re doing this.” Sponsored by the Hartford Parks and Recreation Department, Hurricane Hill is part of both the Western New Hampshire Trail Running Series and the Upper Valley Running Series.



Date: September 12
Location: Bethel, Maine
Distance: 10 kilometers, 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Event registration

A difficult backcountry race offers a new challenge in 2020: a full marathon-distance run over some of Maine’s gnarliest terrain. Vistas include farms, paved and logging roads, ski trails, forests, and eight mountain peaks—including infamous Spruce Cliffs and the 3,000-foot Jordan Peak. Marathoners can expect an additional 3,200 feet of elevation gain from the half-marathon course. Local beers await finishers at the finish line.



Date: October 17
Location: Stowe, Vt.
Distance: 13.1 miles, or 26.2 miles
Difficulty: Difficult
Event registration

Head over to the Green Mountains during peak foliage for a run you won’t forget. Following a combination of dirt roads, rugged single track, and wider trails, the full- and half-marathon loop offers significant elevation gain and loss and scrambling. The payoff, of course, is the race’s timing: during peak New England foliage and just a few miles from Stowe’s Oktoberfest celebrations.



Date: November 8
Location: Cross River, N.Y.
Distance: 10 kilometers
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Event registration

Running through Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, 200-plus participants experience panoramic views, rocky climbs, ridgeline trails, and topping out at the site of a fire tower the reservation is working to reinstall. The race, which is part of the local Trail Mix Series, throws more than 1,000 feet of elevation at runners, the payoff being 360-degree views of Long Island Sound, Connecticut, the Hudson Highlands, and New York City.



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Steve Holt

Steve Holt is AMC's senior editor for engagement content.