The Arizona Trail is near and dear to many Flagstaff hearts.
Look no further than yesterday’s fourth annual Arizona Trail Day at Buffalo Park, where attendees got to talk with AT through-hikers, bikepackers and trail experts; visit the outdoor expo; and take part in group hikes and guided mountain bike rides.
With the trail-running season winding down here in northern Arizona, it’s worth putting on your calendar several races this fall and winter that serve as fundraisers for the Arizona Trail Association, the organization that protects and maintains the Arizona National Scenic Trail. These events are a great excuse to experience other beautiful spots in our state.
“If for some reason you’re unable to run, then please consider volunteering,” said ATA executive director Matt Nelson. “One of the things that make our events so much fun is they’re organized by trail runners, and the majority of our volunteers are accomplished runners who like to give back.”
The first race on the schedule starts in less than two weeks and should be familiar to local runners. The 100-mile Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Stagecoach Line Ultra on Sept. 23-24 is one of the few “centuries” in the country that is based on a historical route. This was the pre-Grand Canyon Railway stagecoach route that took tourists to the Hole in the 1890s.
The Stagecoach Ultra presented by Babbitt Ranches starts on Snowbowl Road and ends in Tusayan. In addition to the 100-miler, it includes a 55K as well as 2-, 4-, 6- and 8-person relay options.
Go to aztrail.org/ultrarun for more information.
If you prefer a warmer event, or perhaps want to participate with a cyclist friend, the Oracle Ford Peppersauce Roundup Adventure Festival at Arizona Zipline Adventures is Sept. 23. Athletes choose from a trail run (10 miles, 8 miles or 5K) or gravel-grinder cycling event (40 miles, 50 miles or 60 miles) in Oracle, just north of Tucson. A huge fiesta and music festival occurs throughout the afternoon and evening.
Go to americanbunnyhop.com/peppersauce-roundup-festival.html for more information.
On Nov. 11 is the Colossal Vail 50/50, presented by Fleet Feet Sports-Tucson. It starts and finishes inside Colossal Cave Mountain Park southeast of Tucson, and features some of the most recently completed sections of the AT.
The course was designed by experienced members of the Tucson Trail Runners as a relatively fast ultra on rolling terrain with wide-open vistas.
The event allows entrants to choose between the 50K and 50-mile courses, but if you choose the 50K, heed the information at the event website, aztrail.org/cv5050: “Please note that the 50K is long. At this point our best estimate of the actual distance is about 34 miles. We probably won't change the event name to protect the innocents who attempt this run.”
Looking into the new year, the second annual AZT Oracle Rumble, presented by Summit Hut, will be held on a remote and scenic single-track course Jan. 27, with 12K, half marathon, 50K and 50-mile events.
Go to aztrail.org/oracle_rumble for more information.
For hardcore ultrarunners, these AT-benefit events offer a triple-crown opportunity. Anyone who finishes all three 50-mile ultras in southern Arizona in one season -- the Colossal Vail, the Oracle Rumble and the Old Pueblo 50 (to be held March 3) -- will be part of the Southern Arizona Triple 50 Club.
Go to http://aztrail.org/triple50.html for more information.
Whatever end of the state you are at, it’s great to see the AT vision that Flagstaff’s Dale Shewalter had more than three decades ago thriving, being regularly used in creative ways by trail runners and others.