Trail runners descend a wooden staircase in a lush green forest.

19 Canadian trail races to add to your bucket list

Maybe you’ve got a few road 10Ks or marathons under your belt, and you’re ready to trade sidewalks for switchbacks. Or maybe you’ve been trail running for years and you’re ready to tackle your first ultra.

Whether you’re aiming for a personal best or just want to have a good time, trail races are a fun way to test your speed, skills and mental toughness. While there are hundreds of trail races in Canada, these ones stand out, thanks to their challenging terrain, incredible alpine views, community spirit and world-class competition. Here are our bucket-list trail races, in order of their 2018 dates.

1. Sulphur Springs Trail Race

Ancaster, ON

A local favourite since 1993, the Sulphur Springs Trail Race loops through the forested trails of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area outside Hamilton, ON. The non-profit race offers a wide range of distances, and proceeds support trail conservation and maintenance, as well as free running programs for girls in lower-income communities.

Distances: 10km, 25km, 50km, 50 miles, 100 miles for solo runners; 100-mile relay for teams of up to eight runners

Date: May 25–27, 2018

2. MEC Vancouver Trail Race Three

West Vancouver, BC

Climbing over 2000m, the 55km course at MEC Vancouver Trail Race Three takes runners from sea to sky, racing through lush coastal rainforest to enjoy city views of Vancouver. At the finish line, you’ll find chip-timed results and free massages, coffee and bananas, and the course is accessible by public transit. At $40, it’s an incredibly affordable way to tick an ultra off your bucket list.

Distances: 15km, 55km

Date: June 3, 2018

A trail runner descends a wooden staircase in the middle of a trail race.

3. Tour du Lac Brome

Knowlton, QC

Now in its 40th year, the Tour du Lac Brome draws thousands of runners from across the country to compete in a full weekend of road and trail races. Known for its festive and family-friendly atmosphere, the Tour’s courses wind through the countryside of Quebec’s Eastern Townships, just an hour from downtown Montreal. If you want to push your limits, take the Lac Brome Challenge and combine a Saturday trail race with a road race on Sunday.

Distances: 2km, 4.5km, 9km (as well as many road options)

Date: June 15–17, 2018

4. Canadian River Valley Revenge Ultra

Edmonton, AB

“Revenge is a dish best served twice,” claim the organizers of the Canadian River Valley Revenge Ultra, which is why they offer both summer and winter trail races. These urban ultras wind through thick forest and along sheer cliffs on singletrack and doubletrack so challenging, you’ll forget you’re in the heart of Edmonton.

Distances: 5km, 25km, 50km, 50 miles, 100km, 100 miles; 25km relay, 50km relay

Date: June 15–16, 2018; January 2019

5. The Limberlost Challenge

Township of Lake Bays, ON

Just outside the borders of Algonquin Provincial Park, the rugged trails of the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Preserve play host to The Limberlost Challenge. The course loop passes pristine lakes and fascinating rock formations, and organizers promise “a post-race meal that you will write home about.” Plus, a portion of the proceeds supports Trails Youth Initiative, an adventure-based learning organization for youth in Toronto.

Distances: 14km, 28km, 56km

Date: July 7, 2018

6. Sinister 7

Crowsnest Pass, AB

With a punishing 6321m of elevation gain and an elevation profile as jagged as the Rocky Mountain peaks surrounding the course, the Sinister 7 is not for the faint of heart. Traverse the remote, rugged wilderness of Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass, where the views might distract you from the complex, technical terrain. And if you really want to make it a banner year, run the Canadian Death Race (see below) and the Black Spur Ultra to complete the Sinister Triple.

Distance: 100 miles (open to single runners or teams of up to seven)

Date: July 6–8, 2018

This year has been a full-time adventure and finishing my first 100 miler last month will be a definite highlight of my time off in 2017. A DNF was looming and I wouldn't have finished if it wasn't for my crew; especially my amazing gf - @s.alsamrae - who had no idea what she had signed up for, but got me back on my feet when I was ready to pull the plug with 70km to go. It's back into the pain cave tomorrow for my last UTMB qualifier at Fat Dog 70. The summer's almost over.. get out there and do something epic! 📷: @raveneyephotography #getoutside #explore #sinister7 #earnyourview #trailrunning #ultrarunning #100miles #paincave #sufferfest #seekadventure #rockymountains #digdeep #alberta #yycliving #thoseviews #seenonmyrun #optoutside #naturalhigh #crowsnestpass #naturalbeauty #landscape #wildflowers #landscapephotography #expandyourplayground #flatisboring #timetoplay #seenonmyrun #wanderlust

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7. Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run

North Vancouver, BC

Named one of the toughest races in North America by Running Wild magazine, the Knee Knackering North Shore Trail Run (or Knee Knacker) is legendary for its terrain and its views. Racers traverse Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove through Pacific Northwest rainforest, across rocky slopes and past spectacular scenery. After 4876m of vertical climb and descent, your knees will be knackered, but the finish-line festivities help temper the pain.

Distances: 30 miles

Date: July 14, 2018

8. Broken Goat

Rossland, BC

When the course description warns you that you’ll summit two peaks before reaching the first aid station, you know you’re in for a challenging race. Broken Goat is a point-to-point route along the 7 Summits ridge trail, with 45km of flowy alpine singletrack offering 360-degree views of the surrounding West Kootenay peaks.

Distances: 12km, 25km, 50km, 1km kids’ race

Date: July 21, 2018

High fives to an absolutely unforgettable weekend in #Rossland at the #brokengoat50k 25k 12k 🐐 Thank you @redresort for hosting and entertaining us. @rosslander for your ongoing commitment to community support and all the volunteers and racers. This weekend we had over 325 people come together to form the goat community. Under this special umbrella, runners encouraged one another, celebrated another, cried, laughed and climbed mountains in silent support with one another. Everyone was looking out for one another and this is what makes the goat such a success. Good people. From the bottom of our hearts - thank you for choosing to spend your July 14th weekend with us. We hope to see you all back in 2018. Registration opens Nov. 15th. Our 2018 race date will be released soon. #biglove #bethegoat2017 #bethegoat2018 #pacetrailruns #salomoncanada #timetoplay #hammercan #grantthorntoncanada #touchorganic #tinhorncreek #trailbeerrefinery 📸: @pondernook

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9. MEC Montreal Trail Race Four: Mont Tremblant

Mont-Tremblant, QC

Ready to run up a ski hill? Tackle the formidable MEC Montreal Trail Race Four at Mont Tremblant and enjoy technical trails and incredible views. A variety of distances means the whole family can participate, and at only $15–$25, it’s an affordable way to challenge yourself with a longer race.

Distances: 5km, 10km, 20km, 40km

Date: July 29, 2018

Trail runners start a trail race at Mont Tremblant.

10. Canadian Death Race

Grand Cache, AB

Billing itself as “one of the world’s toughest ultramarathons,” the Canadian Death Race is just as serious as it sounds. With 5180m of elevation gain, gruelling ascents and long distances between aid stations, it’s as challenging as it is scenic. The last leg includes a rushing river, and in a nod to Greek mythology, runners must carry a special coin to pay for safe passage across it to reach the finish.

Distance: marathon, 125km (open to single runners or teams of up to five)

Date: August 3–6, 2018

11. Yukon River Trail Marathon

Whitehorse, YT

Now in its 20th year, the Yukon River Trail Marathon is a formidable out-and-back race on rugged singletrack along the mighty Yukon River. Its elevation profile “resembles a monster’s jagged set of teeth,” according to one runner, and the views are so stunning that for safety reasons, organizers remind runners to “keep your eyes on the terrain, not the scenery.”

Distances: half marathon, marathon, marathon relay (with legs from 8 to 13km)

Date: August 5, 2018

12. Brookvale Ultra Trail Races

North Wiltshire, PEI

Tackle the Nordic ski and technical singletrack trails in and around Brookvale Provincial Park for a hilly race through beautiful woods. Previous racers highlight the Brookvale Ultra Trail Race’s seamless organization, challenging course and energetic volunteers.

Distances: 10km, 25km, 50km

Date: August 5, 2018

A group of trail runners weave through the woods during the Brookvale Ultra Trail Race.

Photo by Vicki Bryanton

13. Fat Dog 120

Manning Park, BC

Named one of the world’s nine toughest ultras by Outside magazine, the Fat Dog 120 sends runners up a gruelling 8682m of elevation – nearly the height of Mount Everest (8848m). Travelling through three provincial parks, the course offers stunning views of BC’s Cascade Mountains and “sumptuous aid stations.”

Distances: 40 miles, 50 miles, 70 miles for solo runners; 120 miles for solo runners or teams of up to nine

Date: August 10–12, 2018

14. Squamish 50

Squamish, BC

With a start line right on the beach and more than 3350m of elevation gain, the Squamish 50 certainly lives up to the Sea to Sky hype. The course is 85% singletrack and offers incredible views of surrounding glaciers, peaks and Howe Sound. If you’re feeling ambitious, tackle the 50-miler on Saturday and the 50km race on Sunday to earn the coveted limited-edition Squamish 50/50 trucker hat.

Distances: 23km, 50km, 50 miles, 50/50 (50 miles on Saturday, 50km on Sunday)

Date: August 18–19, 2018

Glorious. @brianmccurdyphotography #SQ50 #squamish50

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15. Ragnar Trail Cottage Country

Oro-Medonte, ON

Prefer trail running as a team sport? Try the Ragnar Trail Cottage Country relay race, where runners complete loops of varying distance and difficulty over the course of two days and one night. While one teammate is on the trails, the rest can lounge at the team campsite, hang out at the central bonfire or admire the impressive costumes coming through the finish.

Distance: 192km relay for teams of 2 to 8 runners (no solo runners)

Date: August 24–25, 2018

16. 5 Peaks: Whistler Blackcomb

Whistler, BC

One of the most scenic races in the 5 Peaks series (and that’s saying something), the Whistler Blackcomb course takes runners through alpine meadows and across boulder fields while offering panoramic views. Like all 5 Peaks races, this one’s cup-free, so make sure to bring your own water bottle or hydration bladder.

Distances: 6.6km, 10.6km (kids: 1km, 3km)

Date: August 25, 2018

17. MEC Ottawa Trail Race Three: Calabogie Peaks

Calabogie, ON

Go toe to toe with elite trail runners at MEC Ottawa Trail Race Three, which is also the inaugural Athletics Ontario Provincial Trail Running Championships. Combining technical singletrack, rocky ridge lines and an ascent up a ski run, the course offers stunning views from the summit of Calabogie Peaks.

Distances: 5km, 13km

Date: September 9, 2018

 

 

18. Beaver Flat 50

Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, SK

Yes, you can run a rugged trail race on the prairies – the Beaver Flat 50 has an elevation gain of 2300m. Billing itself as a “hilly hard-as-hell trail run,” the race takes place on narrow animal trails full of rocks, sand, juniper and cacti.

Distances: 5km, 10km, 20km, 50km

Date: September 15, 2018

19. XTrail Mont Orford

Sherbrooke, QC

Test yourself against the technical terrain, creek crossings and serious elevation gain at XTrail Mont Orford, and be rewarded with flowy singletrack and 360 views. The 23km race is the headliner here, but shorter and less technical courses offer options for newer trail runners or the rest of the family.

Distances: 5km, 11.5km, 20km, 23km, 1km (kids)

Date: October 13, 2018

A lone trail runner races up a rocky ridge in front of a background of trees and a river.

Photo courtesy of XTrail

We know these races are popular, so if you like the look of one that’s already sold out this year, put the registration open date on your 2019 calendar. In the meantime, check out the MEC Race Series for lots of other trail race options.

See you on the trails!

Heather van der Hoop
Heather van der Hoop

Editor, science nerd, runner and skier who loves rugged trails and glacier-fed lakes. May or may not own a quiver of MEC Rad Pants.