By Shannon Sollitt
Congratulations, you just signed up for a half marathon! Whether it’s your first big race or you’re a seasoned pro, know that the months ahead will be some of the most grueling and rewarding of your life.
Especially if you’ve signed up for a trail running race, there’s no better place to train than Jackson Hole. Its abundant alpine trails offer endless options for scenery, elevation gain, and distance. Of course, you’ll need the right shoes. Skinny Skis in downtown Jackson carries some of the top brands in the industry, from Hoka to Brooks to Asics and more.
Once you’re appropriately laced up, the options for trail runs are limitless. Here are some local favorite trail runs to work into your training schedule:
For shorter runs
This is the perfect run to get your legs back under you after a long, snowy winter. The 3.8-mile round-trip trail takes you to an alpine lake with stunning views of the Teton range. Climb 413 feet on the way up, run through lush forest and alpine meadows until you reach the lake, then cruise back to the trailhead after a quick dip (if you’re brave), photo-op and a snack.
The Cache Creek trail system offers plenty of choose-your-own-adventure routes, but Ferrins is the most bang for your buck. It’s a 2.2 mile out-and-back with roughly 800 feet of elevation gain, or you can continue on into Wilson Canyon or to the Snow King Summit via Skyline Trail. of scenic switchbacks We recommend starting at Sink or Swim to add a little more distance and a fun, rolling traverse. It is a shared trail, so while hikers and runners technically have the right of way, always be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for mountain bikers.
Munger Mountain is one of the valley’s most colorful spots if you time it right! In spring and early summer, wildflowers dominate the landscape. Fall colors are equally as awe-inspiring. But it’s a great run no matter when you do it. Be sure to stop and take in the views at the top of Wally’s World.
Hard work with a high reward. The Wildflower Trail at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort climbs from the base of JHMR to the top of the Bridger Gondola. It’s only four miles if you do it one way, but climbs roughly 2,700 feet. You can, of course, run back down, or you could enjoy a beverage at Piste at the top of the Gondola and enjoy a leisurely ride back down.
Most people do this trail from the Ski Lake trailhead on Teton Pass, and for good reason. But we’re training for a race here! Start at the Phillips Canyon trailhead on Fish Creek Road and climb roughly 3,100 feet over six miles through lush forest and wildflowers. If you can coordinate, leave a car at the Ski Lake trailhead and shuttle back down. Or turn around and run it the other way!
Just south of the Snow King summit sits Josie’s Ridge. Get to the top and back down in just 3.4 miles, or continue on to the Snow King Summit for some cool ridgeline running. What the trail lacks in distance it makes up for in elevation: you’ll climb just over 1,200 feet and feel it every step of the way.
Cache to Game
This route hosts a popular local trail race in the summer, so it’s no surprise it also makes a perfect training run. As with most trails in this system, you’ll be sharing with mountain bikers, so be mindful. It’s also a pretty popular predator hang-out, so bear spray is advised (applies to most of these trails, actually). Start at the Cache Creek trailhead, and take your pick of Sidewalk Trail or Hagen’s Trail, or just follow the double-track about five miles up to a little wooden bridge. From there, head right toward Game Creek and follow the beautiful, flowy singletrack down the ridgeline between Cache Creek and Game Creek drainages. You’ll come out at Game Creek south of town, so coordinate a shuttle. Toast your 10-mile run with a drink and burger at The Bird!
This run is perfect for days when you need to put in the miles, but could also use a rest. The approximately 10-mile loop carries you along Jackson Lake past swan ponds, waterfalls, and likely abundant wildlife in the heart of Grand Teton National Park. Take your time, enjoy the scenery, and cool down with a dip in the lake. One of the valley’s more underrated park trails.
Teton Canyon to Death Canyon
Congratulations, you’ve graduated from your half marathon training! If you want to keep pushing your running abilities in the mountains, Teton Canyon to Death Canyon is a classic Teton through-trail. It’s burly — 20 miles, 4,000-ft. Ascent and descent— but there are countless rewards to keep you going. Start at Death Canyon Trailhead, ascend through Death Canyon, climb to Static Peak Divide (take a detour fo Static Peak summit for an extra peak bag), take Buck Mountain Pass and finally take Teton Trail 027 all the way down to Teton Canyon trailhead. Prepare for high alpine exposure, weather, and potential wildlife encounters. Leave a car at Teton Canyon trailhead, and leave a celebratory beer in it!