There’s a reason it’s called “runner’s high.” That feeling of euphoria you get after a long run is the real deal. Some say they feel invincible, have a reduced state of discomfort, and even lose their sense of time while running. But to experience this feeling while basking in the beauty of the mountains? Sign us up.
Fortunately for us, the trail system in the Wood River Valley offers many options for runners of all levels. Runners, no matter the pace or distance, can soak in the feeling of pride and satisfaction when lacing up their shoes and heading out the door. Being well prepared and picking the right path is essential for running success. Here are three of our favorites, depending on your desired adventure.
1. If in need of convenience, the Lake Creek Loop (a.k.a. Taylor Canyon) is one of the best. Just North of Ketchum, enjoy this 6.5 mile loop that provides great views of the Boulder mountains and consistent shade in the hot summer months. There are also a handful of watering holes along the way to keep the pups happy. PRO TIP: Run this loop clockwise to be more aware of mountain bikers and get the hill climb out of the way.
2. For the most potential, Norton Lakes trail system has many options. Be sure to get an early start to avoid a crowded parking lot. Without giving away too much away, start with the classic out-and-back Norton Lake trail (approximately 4.5 miles). Although short, it is sure to get one’s heart pumping as it’s a steady climb from the get-go! Keep in mind the proper running form with the steeper incline. Stay tall and focus on a consistent knee drive. If the terrain is super steep, there is no shame in walking! A hiking pace will help keep the effort manageable and minimize erosion on the trail. If striving for a longer day, the trails expand past a handful of alpine lakes with potential to reach higher ridgelines and even Norton Peak. PRO TIP: Many of the trails connect in this area; if you plan to go for a longer run, review a map before venturing out.
3. If seeking an extended adventure, the Sawtooths are where it’s at. Iron Creek to Redfish Lake is a point-to-point that requires planning and endurance. At 28 miles total, this route is filled with gorgeous blue alpine lakes, steady climbing throughout the day, and an epic finish with a free ride on the Redfish shuttle boat. PRO TIP: It is best to complete this with a running buddy or two; bring two cars, park one car at the finish and camp out the night before with the other vehicle at Iron Creek.
Once a route has been selected, make sure you’re physically up to the challenge. The varied terrain and incline on certain trails can leave a runner stiff and sore. Be sure to stretch beforehand with some hip opener and glute activation exercises (examples of these can be found online). As the run progresses, remember to keep your upper body relaxed (don’t hunch your shoulders), maintain a tight core for stability, and avoid overstriding, especially on steep or rocky terrain.
Bring a Camelbak with ample water for your run. And if the run is longer than 60 to 75 minutes, be sure to bring some kind of treat to nibble on every 30 to 45 minutes thereafter. This can be as simple as a pack of peanut butter, gummy bears, or energy bar. Choose something that is light and easy to digest.
Remember, hard work does pay off. If you consistently hit the trails all summer, who knows? You might be ready to sign up for a local race. Find your path and let the adventure begin.