7 best trail races in Europe

Transylvania. Photo credit: Sophia Gerth

City races are great fun, but sometimes we all need to cast aside our PB dreams, escape the urban metropolis and hit the trails for a lungful of fresh air. Check out our pick of the best off-road European races in 2016 and prepare to enjoy a weekend of breathtaking views, exciting ascents and lush trails.

1/ Transgrancanaria

Location: Gran Canaria, Spain

Date: 21st-25th February 2018

Distance: Five options: 17K (10.5 miles), 32K (19.9 miles), 44K (27.3 miles), 83K (51.8 miles) and 125K (77.7 miles)

Ascent: Ranges from 470m on the 17K to 8,500K on the 125K

Websitetransgrancanaria.net

With 8.500 metres of ascent over 125K, Transgrancanaria is billed as one of the toughest ultras in Europe. But eager trail runners keen to get a taste of running on the beautiful isle of Gran Canaria will be pleased to hear there are shorter options with just as many breathtaking views of the Spanish archipelago to enjoy, and all just a short flight away from the UK.

2/ Yorkshire Three Peaks Race

Location: Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire

Date: 28th April 2018

Distance: 37.5K (23.3 miles)

Ascent: 1,608m total ascent

Websitethreepeaksrace.org.uk

While planning your race calendar it’s easy to daydream about exotic destinations and ignore the beautiful countryside right on our doorstep. Easily accessible from all corners of the UK, the Yorkshire Dales are a true gem for trail running and not to be missed off your running to-do list. The locals are well aware of this, as the Yorkshire Three Peaks Race has been going strong for 61 years. Featuring three spectacular summits of Pen-y-Ghent (689m), Whernside (723m) Ingleborough (722m), it’s the perfect race to stretch your legs while enjoying the beautiful countryside Yorkshire has to offer.

3. Italy Coast to Coast

Location: Italy

Date: 4th-8th June 2018

Distance: 343K (213 miles)

Website: ovunquerunning.it

This four-day team relay from the Adriatic to the Tyrrhenian Sea takes teams of up to four runners on a journey through the vineyards and olive groves of Marche, Umbria and Tuscany. Covering 55 miles per day depending on your team size and your goals, it could either be a serious race or a voyage of culinary delights through the heart of rural Italy.

4. Transylvanian Bear Race

Location: Transylvania, Romania

Date: 2nd June 2018

Distance: Marathon or 80K (50 mile) ultra

Ascent: +950m (marathon) or +1,700m (ultra)

Website: transylvanianbearrace.com

If you’re after a real adventure, the Transylvania Bear Race is for you. Runners follow gentle trails through ancient Saxon villages, virgin forest, ruined castles, meadows and rural village pathways, culminating in Sighisoara, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe and the birth place of Vlad Dracul. If the threat of vampire bats doesn’t make you run faster, knowing the forests are still populated by wild bears and wolves will certainly keep you on your toes. The entry price includes airport transfers, meals, accommodation and a post-race party so it’s totally worth risking your neck for.

5. Lakeland Trails Marathon

Location: Coniston, Cumbria

Date: June 2018 (date to be confirmed)

Distance: Full and half marathon

Ascent: 685m

Websitelakelandtrails.org/marathon

Taking in a complete circuit of Coniston Water, the third largest lake in the Lake District, this full or half trail marathon follows well-marked and marshalled footpaths and bridleways in one of the most scenic spots the UK has to offer. With staggered starting times dependent on your goals, it’s the perfect race to get a taster of trail running or for more serious runners to pit their legs against the fells.

6. Salomon Trail Marathon Wales

Location: Coed y Brenin Forest, Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Date: June 2018 (date to be confirmed)

Distance: Full and half marathon

Ascent: 1,022m

Websitetrailmarathonwales.com

Featuring fully marked single tracks, forest roads and paths in some of the most stunning forestry and heathland in the UK, the Salomon Trail Marathon Wales has built up a solid reputation as a well-organised and beautiful race, ideal for seasoned trail runners and first timers alike.

7. Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB)

Location: Chamonix, France

Date: 28th August-3rd September 2017

Distance: Five options: 53K (33 miles), 101K (63 miles), 119K (74 miles), 168K (105 miles) and 300K (186 miles)

Ascent: 9,600m

Websiteultratrailmb.com

The pinnacle of Alpine trail races, you need to accumulate qualifying points just to get on the start line of the UTMB, but the reward is unsurpassed in trail running circles. The route traverses 100 miles of sublime Alpine scenery around Mont Blanc, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland, but you’ll be pleased to hear there are shorter routes available if 30 hours of non-stop running doesn’t appeal.