Destination Trail Marathon
October 5th, 2024
The West Elk Challenge is a trail marathon through the heart of the West Elk Mountain range during the peak of fall colors. The race starts on the shores of Crawford Reservoir State Park and travels on gravel roads through the farms and ranches at the base of the iconic Needle Rock.
Soon thereafter, the trail enters the Gunnison National Forest and begins climbing the singletrack through golden aspen stands on the slopes of Mt. Lamborn.
After about 5 miles of climbing, runners top the 9,762 foot summit of Inter-Ocean Pass, and descend through spruce, aspen and oak, past Lone Cabin Reservoir to the town of Paonia and end along the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
Run, walk, and hike your way through the fall foliage of the West Elk Mountains! This challenge is a fundraiser for the Nature Connection’s Scholarship Fund, whose mission is to break down barriers to get kids and families outside.
This 26.2 mile point-to-point backcountry trail race climbs over 4,000 feet in elevation on the iconic slopes of Mt. Lamborn to the remote Interocean Pass (9,762 ft) in the Gunnison National Forest. The course was designed by local ultrarunners and with the exception of a few paved miles at the beginning and end of the race, is entirely on gravel roads and singletrack forest trails, making it a very unique running challenge! This unique challenge puts runners on National Forest trails and the challenging terrain will reward participants with excellent views while surrounded by the aspen, spruce and oak trees.
Weather in early October can be unpredictable, yet often is the peak of fall color. Aid stations with water, snacks, first aid, and volunteers will make this race accessible to trail runners and distance hikers of many abilities, however it is the responsibility of the participants to be properly prepared for this strenuous mountain challenge. Ultimately, each participant is responsible for their own safety and risk.
Participants start at the Crawford State Park and travel on paved and gravel roads through the farms and ranches at the base of Needle Rock. As the trail enters the Gunnison National Forest it turns to singletrack and runners climb through the aspen forest on Mt. Lamborn to the top of the Inter-Ocean Pass. They will descend through the spruce, aspen and oak past Lone Cabin Reservoir and remerge onto paved road as they head into the Town of Paonia, ending at Paonia River Park, situated on the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
We will have five aid stations at roughly miles 5, 9, 12 (summit of Inter-Ocean Pass), 18, 22 which will have support personnel, water, snacks, and first aid supplies.
RACE INFO & SCHEDULE
Packets can be picked up Friday, October 4th at The Hearth at 138 Grand Ave, Paonia, CO 81428
OR Saturday morning before the race begins at Paonia K-8 at 846 Grand Ave. Paonia, CO 81428
Optional Friday night dinner at the Hearth. Delicious, local meal to support The Learning Council. Add this dinner to your cart at registration.
Things to do in the Valley
TRAVEL & LODGING
You’ll want to make a long-weekend out of this race and enjoy all the beauty and activities the North Fork Valley in western Colorado has to offer. When you’re not racing (or while you are racing and your family and friends need something to do!) visit the nearby North Rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, pick fresh fruit at one of the many organic orchards, hike or mountain bike the trails of Jumbo Mountain, sip wine at the stunning wineries, check out the local art galleries, or stand-up paddle board down the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
Approximate drive times:
- Hotchkiss to Crawford State Park: 20 minutes
- Paonia to Crawford State Park: 30 minutes
- Hotchkiss to Paonia: 15 minutes
- Crawford State Park -Iron Creek- Special accommodation for race! CPW will make 45 Walk-In Sites for tents and RVs available at Iron Creek Campground. First Come-First Serve and must arrive/check in by 4pm on Friday 10/4/24
- Crawford State Park – Clear Fork – Reservations Open April 5th, 2024
- Delicious Orchards, Paonia
Colorado fall weather in the mountains can change quickly. Participants should be prepared for all weather conditions.