To say that there’s an abundance of trail races in the Alps would be an understatement. From May through October, there are races every weekend– and often a handful of options.
Below is a comprehensive list of events across Switzerland, France, and Italy. They range from village-based runs to the local mountain hut, to internationally renowned, world-class events.
Interested in including a race in an upcoming Run the Alps trip? Take a look below and drop us a note. Run the Alps can assist in negotiating registration requirements, and in some cases we’ve even reserved bibs for our guests.
This wintertime race is held in the town of Arosa, Switzerland, which is located to the Southeast of Zurich. Each race starts and ends at the upper lake. Racers can choose from a variety of categories, including Nordic walking, snowshoeing, and running.
This race takes runners along the snowy ski slopes of Courmayeur in Northern Italy. It started in 2015, organized by the Valle d’Aosta Trailers. During the race, each runner must carry food, water and emergency equipment. Runners need to finish the course in no more than 4 hours and 30 minutes. After the race, you can enjoy dinner, music and the awards ceremony.
Run the Alps Guide Alister Bignell ran the Gluex in 2017, and said that that this low-key race had “no numbers, no course markings, one aid station” and “a really runnable course.” There’s no official time measurement for this race, as the goal of this event is to go “back to the roots of trail running.” The name “GLUEX” comes from Gantrisch Längenberg Ultra Extreme. It starts near Bern and ends at the Burgistein Station.
For an entry fee of CHF 10, you can participate in Switzerland’s winter ultra run, The CRUX. Starting at the Kollbrunn train station in the canton of Zurich, the course follows the Züri Oberland-Höhenweg trail. The purpose of this event is to have fun and enjoy the experience, and as such, there are no official rankings or awards. While bag transport is provided, you will not find any aid stations along the course. You must carry with all the supplies you need during the race. Snow of up to 50 cm (over 1 1/2 feet) can be expected.
This race takes place on trails partially or completely covered in snow and travels through Italy’s Stelvio National Park. At about 14 kilometers in length, the course features 560 meters in elevation gain. There’s also a noncompetitive 5-km course open to everyone. While participants are under no obligation to use crampons, they are highly recommended.
This race takes place in Rouffach in the Alsace region of France. There are three races to choose from: L’Ane Mini-Tril (9km), Les Grand Cru (27km), and Le Petit Ballon (52km).
Halfway between Milan and Venice, picturesque and popular Lago di Garda lies nestled in the southern Italian Alps. The BVG Trail is the perfect opportunity to explore this place. Leaving from Salò and following the paths of the Bassa Via del Garda and Alto Garda Park, this route overlooks the lake while still offering the difficult climbs you’d expect from a mountain course. Chose from three routes; the 27 km course goes from Salò to Bogliaco, while the 46 and 73 km routes both ascend the Montagna Briano and follow the lake all the way to Limone.
Perhaps this valley’s most talked about event of 2015, the inaugural Valtellina Tube Race witnessed a flurry of feet as hundreds of competitors geared up to climb the 2,700 steps. It’s called the tube race because participants run alongside hydroelectric pipes. For a preview of this dramatic course, check out this official race video.
This event takes place primarily in mountainous landscapes on forest roads and hiking trails between Leifers, Deutschnofen, Aldein and Petersberg, in northern Italy. There are two courses to choose from: Laives Short Trail (21km, +1,500m) and Laives Trail (51km, +2,750).
The Jura-Top-Tour series includes nine racing events starting in the springtime with the Tüfelsschlucht-Berglauf (8.3 km, +500 m) and ending in the fall with the Trophée de la Tour de Moron (11.8 km, +817 m). These mountain races take place in the Swiss canton of Solothurn and in the Jura mountain range.
One of three races that make up the Trittico dei Laghi (Triptych of the Lakes) race series, the Gardo Trentino Trail itself offers three route options: the Garda Trentino Trail (28 km), the Ledro Trail Marathon (42 km) and the Tenno Trail Experience (60 km). This event takes place in the Trentino region of Italy, and it started in 2016.
Organized by the Panathlon Club du Chablais for the first time in 2016, the Course de Deux Chapelles is located in Monthey, in the Swiss canton of Valais. This mountain race takes runners between two chapels: Chapelle du Pont and Chapelle des Giettes. The two races, either 1 km (+137m) or 4 km (+700) include a mixture of paved roads and hiking trails. Both courses finish at the Chappelle des Giettes, at an elevation of over 1,100 meters.
Starting in the center of the historic Swiss city of Zug, The course passes through the town, then starts climbing steeply through forests, then pastures with views of the lake, Zugersee. The race finishes at Zugerberg, the local peak with a view of the surrounding region of Switzerland, including the Zugersee and many of the snowy peaks of the Berner Oberland. A funicular provides the post-race descent to the valley. Like many of the smaller trail races in Switzerland, the Zugerberg Classic is organized by the local ski club– in this case, the Skiclub Oberwil-Zug. The day after the mountain run, a mountain bike race takes place on a longer route, with the same finish, atop Zugerberg.
The Défi du Vignoble is an uphill race through the scenic vineyards in the Bourg-en-Lavaux, located within a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Swiss canton of Vaud. Over the course of 3.6 kilometers, runners will climb 534 meters until the finish line. Following the race, you can enjoy a meal with local wine and live music.
Starting off in the village of Piotta, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, the course follows a funicular track and pipeline up to the Piora mountain station. Runners must take 261 steps, with a 90 percent gradient, up the steepest staircase in Europe. Only 100 bibs are typically available for the race, so you have to sign up early to get a place.
The Trail des Marcaires event takes place in Muhlbach-sur-Munster, in the Alsace region of France. There are three courses to choose from: Le Petite Course (12km), Défi de Muhlbach (31km) and Le Trail de Marcaires (52km).
Organized by the local ski club of Sembrancher, this tough local race climbers steeply up the dramatic Le Catogne peak near the villages of Sembrancher and Orsieres. Nordic walkers, hikers and families are encouraged to participate. The event is part of the Valais Cup series of steep trail races!
Recommended by Run the Alps’ Emmie Collinge, the Trail del Viandante (Wanderer’s Trail) has three spectacular routes that trace a line above the eastern shore of Lake Como. Over 1,000 participants ran along this historic trail in 2015. Each of the races start from a different location, but everyone crosses the same finish line in the town of Piantedo, at the entrance of Valtellina.
Starting in the village of Lutry, along the shores of Lake Geneva, the Urbantrail des Singes (monkeys) take runners uphill along the Lavaux vineyard terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site with picturesque views of the Alps. “Singes” refers to the nickname given to Lutry residents. The course takes you on varied terrain, such as cobblestone alleys, roads, vineyard trails, forest paths, stairs, and more. This event claims to be the first urban trail race in Switzerland. There are also two children’s races, 1 km and 2-km courses.
Taking place in the canton of Fribourg, in the “prealp” region of Switzerland, this course features more rolling terrain than most alp trail races. Superb vistas include the Blanc massif in the distance and, closer to home, the expanse of Lake Geneva. Three distances, entertainment, and raffles make this one of the livelier events of the early season alp trail runs.
This 16-km course is roughly two-thirds trail, one-third road, and runs up the stunning Kien valley, in the UNESCO Berner Oberland World Heritage site. It finishes in the tiny, high Alp village of Griesalp. The race can be run as a relay, and a category exists for Nordic walkers as well.
The Seelisburg mountain run begins in Rütli, a meadow on the shore of Lake Lucerne. The location is famous in Switzerland for being the site of the origin of Swiss independence in 1307. The run finishes atop the alp summit of Laueli. The event is another in the central Switzerland trail races series, and includes 2 km of paved road. It is organized by the Seelisberg ski club.
A trail race at high altitudes through the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the northern Italian Alps. The course travels through mountain paths and trails, as well as snow, exposed ledges and rocky sections, which are sometimes equipped with ropes. The race limits the number of participants to 350. Finishers receive qualification points for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.
Starting in Morgex, in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta, runners have two race options the 25-km trail race or the 60-km ultra trail. The maximum time allowed to complete the course for the trail race is 7 hours, and for the ultra trail, you have 14 hours.
Leaving from Tesserete, Switzerland, this race was designed for a fast but challenging run. The 24 km route begins with several steep ascents, up to Monte Bar and then to the highest point along the trail, Gazzirola, before dropping towards San Lucio where the finish line awaits. The 54 km runners will continue on to enjoy panoramic views; following amphitheater ridges, the unfolding landscape and trail are visible before and behind. On the second day of this event, there is a vertical kilometer — 5 kilometers of distance and 1,000 meters of elevation — known as the Vertical della Croce.
A beautiful run through the Val-de-Travers region of the Jura mountains on the border of France, the Défi International has developed into a full weekend of races. The Défi now consists of several races, over the weekend: a 75 km Trail de L’Absinthe with 2,952 meters of climbing, a 42 km marathon with 1,346 meters of climbing, a 21 km half marathon with 722 meters of vertical, a 12 km race with 460 meters of climbing, and a children’s race, ranging from 300 meters to just under 3 km. The marathon may also be run as a 3-person relay, of 14 km per runner. Often overlooked, the Jura is a friendly, accessible range– less steep than its famous neighbors nearby, with fabulous trail running opportunities through a pastoral and bucolic setting.
Want to run the longest staircase in the world? Apparently, you’re not alone! One of the most interesting trail races anywhere, runners start every 20 seconds, and the course heads directly to the summit of the Niesen, known as “Switzerland’s Pyramid” on a staircase alongside the funicular tracks. Run the Alps Blog Post: The longest staircase run in the world!
Part of the three-race 33M-Cup mountain marathon series, The LGT marathon takes place in the mountains of the Principality of Liechtenstein, tucked between Switzerland and Austria. The race can be run as a relay, breaking down into 25 kilometer and 17 kilometer segments. The first half of the course starts in the town of Bender, and runs along the Rhine river, through the village of Vaduz, past vineyards of the Prince of Liechtenstein and the famed castle of Vaduz. From there, runners climb through the mountains to the finish at Malbun. The full marathon course is roughly one-third each, of pavement, village path and tougher mountain trails. The half marathon includes a higher percentage of roads. An added bonus? There aren’t many races you can finish, after which you can say you’ve run from one border of the country to the other!
Located in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, 2016 was the inaugural year for this race, occurring at the start of the trail running season. The race starts and finishes at the Sportzentrum Prau La Selva in Flims Waldhaus. According to the race description, runners have views of some of the most beautiful mountain lakes in all of Switzerland. For more information, check out this Run the Alps blog post: Il Cuors da Flem: A New Trail Race Comes to Graubünden.
For the 13th edition of this race in 2016, the ViToDoJo – Grand Parcours race in the Valais region of Switzerland, it was renamed as the Torgon Trail. The course starts in the village of Vionnaz and climbs to the border of Switzerland and France at 1,913 meters. There is also a 4.2-km Parcours Populaire.
The race ends in the peaceful village of Torgon, which is situated at 1,100 meters. The town overlooks the Rhône valley, Lake Geneva, and has a splendid panoramic view of the surrounding Franco-Swiss Alps.
Starting at the church in the ancient town of Saxon, Pierre Avoi is one of the earliest mountain races of the season that includes a significant vertical challenge, climbing high into the mountains above the Rhône valley, to the peak for which the run was named. The race is well-supported, with four aid stations. The route often includes some running over spring snow, and features stunning views of the famous valley and adjacent peaks of the Valais. Many Swiss runners view Pierre Avoi as their first serious race of the season.
The Trail Sacred Forests started in 2014 and takes places in Badia Prataglia, Italy, within the Foreste Casentinesi National Park. There are four courses to choose from: Ultra Trail (80 km, +4,200 m), Long Trail (49 km, +2,700 m), Sacred Forests Trail (24 km, +1,500 m) and Short Trail (13 km, 700 meters). In 2017, this event will host the World Trail Championships.
Running from the Schattdorf through Haldi to finish at Butzenboden, the Haldi Mountain Run is part of the central Switzerland mountain running series, and takes place not far from beautiful Lake Lucerne. The race also feature will feature a shorter, kids run, of 2.6 km with 274 meters of climbing.
The Trophée du Scex-Carro is a small, community-based race that includes short, 2.4 km course for local school children. The race beings in the village of Dorénaz, not far from the Rhone valley city of Martigny, and finishes at just under 2,000 meters elevation, at the Cabane du Scex-Carro.
Starting in Santa Caterina (1,750 m) and finishing in Costa Sobretta (2,750 m), this race offers 1,000 meters of elevation gain over a 3.1-km course. For a preview, check out the official video for this race.
Described as Germany’s largest trail running event, the Salomon Zugspitz Ultratrail offers five courses over three days: Basetrail (24.9 km, +1595 m), Basetrail XL (39.3 km, +1,896 m), Supertrail (62.8 km, +2923 m), Supertrail XL (81.4 km, +4131 m) and Ultratrail (101.6 km, +5412 m). These races take place around Germany’s highest mountain, the Zugspitz (2692 m), and with views of the Wetterstein Mountains.
One of the events in the central Switzerland trail race series, the Bannalper Berglauf is a small community race that starts in the village of Wolfenschiessen, and climbs steadily to mountain hotel and restaurant at Urnerstafel. There are four aid stations over the course of the climb. Proceeds benefit the youth ski racing and running programs of the Bannalp ski club.
Started in 1986, Aletsch is one of the older trail races in Switzerland, and takes places in the dramatic Jungfrau Aletsch-Bietschhorn UNESCO work heritage site. The route climbs over a thousand meters, with views of several 4,000 meter peaks, and the stunning Aletsch glacier below the course. Check out Thom Fresnau’s Run the Alps Blog post on the Aletsch Half Marathon.
The Livigno Sky Marathon has been selected as part of the 2016 Skyrunner® World Series. According to Run the Alps’ Emmie Collinge, this race in Italy’s Sondrio region isn’t “for the faint-hearted or the weak-legged, but the views and the satisfaction are worth every ounce of exertion.” For a preview of the course, check out this video.
Whether you choose the short or long course, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful climb from town and through idyllic pastureland, leading up to high mountain ridges and lakes outside of Vacheresse, France.
The Gondo Marathon is a unique double-marathon experience running the Simplon Pass in Valais. It’s the only back-to-back marathon event in Switzerland, taking runners on Saturday from Gondo to Ried-Brig and back on Sunday via different route. It’s a magnificent landscape and mostly single track trail—a must for every Ultra runner.
Though just over the border in France, the Mont Blanc Marathon is one of the world’s best-known series of mountain races, and certainly worth noting here. Events include a Vertical Kilometer, a 10 km, 23 km, 42 km and 80 km distance. There are even three children’s event, ranging from 800 meters to 3 km. Part of 2014 World Skyrunning Championships, the five events are based in Chamonix, France, the internationally-recognized home of alpinism.
Starting in Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the southern Alps in of Northern Italy, this race series include three separate courses held over three days: The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra Trail, the Cortina Trail and the Cortina Skyrace. The courses include circular routes around the Dolomites. The Laveredo Ultra Trail is one of 12 races selected for the Ultra-Trail World Tour.
A marathon route through the Dolomites, the Brixen Dolomiten Marathon starts in the Cathedral Square in Brixen, Italy, and travels up to the summit of the Plose, at 2,450 meters. The race has an 8-hour time limit and can be run as an individual or as part of a relay team — 4×4 or 2×2.
Popular and extremely well-organized events, the Zermatt Marathon and Ultra-marathon are part road race, part trail race. Both are major uphill challenges — the marathon climbs 1,944 meters, and the ultramarathon, 2,458 meters over an additional 3.4 km. The first half of the course follows the road from St. Niklaus to Zermatt. In Zermatt, crowds of cheering onlookers line the route, while the course flattens briefly for a few kilometers. Outside of town, the route then steepens once again, following mostly dirt roads, with some sections of trails. The marathon finishes at the famed Riffelberg hotel, high on the massif opposite the Matterhorn. An amazing 29 4,000 meter peaks are within view at the finish. Registration includes free train transportation around the Zermatt area, a pasta meal and other treats. Registration Deadline: Registration closes when limits of 1,600 for the marathon, 600 runners for the ultramarathon and 200 runner for the two-person marathon relay are reached.
The neighboring towns of St. Moritz and Pontresina are known for their mix of nature, culture, and sport. Located in the Upper Engadin lake region at 1856 meters, the area offers an exceptional mountain ambience. All three Ultraks categories, the “Pitschen” (16.3 km), “Media” (30.1 km) and “Grand” (46.6 km), start off in the center of Pontresina and follow two course loops into the enthralling Engadin mountains. The courses head up towards Piz Muragl situated above Pontresina and then into the Rosatsch region. The “Media” and “Grand” courses will take place in front of the mighty backdrop of the Piz Surlej and of the Piz Corvatsch.
Rochers de Naye begins in the beautiful, small city of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva, home to the internationally-acclaimed Montreux Jazz Festival. From there, it climbs steadily, with magnificent views of the lake, and finishes high above the region, at the dramatic Rochers de Naye peak. The race annual draws at least several serious, elite runners, and is a local favorite, having taken place for more than three decades.
Starting and finishing in Compaccio, Italy, in the South Tyrol region, the Alpe di Siusi Half-Marathon course is surrounded by the Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage site and takes place on Europe’s largest mountain pasture. The event has also been rated as a “Green Event,” as it is considered sustainable and ecologically sensitive.
Starting in the village of Stans not far from the shores of Lake Lucerne, Stanserhorn Mountain Run is about one-third paved road, and two-thirds mountain trail. It is a classic local race in German-speaking Switzerland, finishing atop Stanserhorn peak, with a fabulous view of the lake and surrounding peaks of the Nidwalden canton.
The High Trail Vanoise started in 2016 and takes place in the Tarentaise Valley in southeastern France, five kilometers from the border with Italy. It essentially replaces the Ice Trail Tarentaise, which had been organized by the regional TPS trail running organization. The event offers five different races, including one for kids, and two of which are part of the international Skyrunning series: the HTV Grand Parcours (67 km), Petit Parcours (39 km), Balcons de Val d’Isère (18 km), Kilomètre Vertical (3.1 km) and the Trail Jeunes for children ages 7-11 years (1.4 km). The Grand Parcours gives participants the unique opportunity to walk along the Grande Motte glacier at an altitude of 3,653 meters.
Editor’s note: This race replaces Ice Trail Tarentaise. Read our story about the Ice Trail race, here.
A new trail race series, Verbier-St. Bernard was started in 2008, and has proven itself to be a popular new addition to the Swiss trail running circuit. It now consists of three different events, using the famous resort village of Verbier as the finish point for all events. X-Alpine, the longest race, also starts in Verbier and can be run as a 2-person relay. X-Alpine is truly a remarkable race, consisting of an enormous loop through some of the most beautiful mountain terrain and villages in Valais, on the border with Italy. The race passes by a number of alpine huts, through the villages of Champex, La Fouly and Bourg St. Pierre, as well as the historic monastery at St. Bernard Pass. The Traversée, at 61 km, is a very popular distance, which starts in La Fouly and follows the X-Alpine route to Verbier, passing through wild alpine pastures, high cols, mountain huts and the Col St. Bernard. Liddes-Verbier is a shorter run, using the end of the TVBS route, and finishing with all the other races, in Verbier. The well-organized weekend includes a “Discovery Trail” run for kids, around Verbier and has a few, short trail sections, as well.
Courmayeur is located at the foot of Mont Blanc, and has the honor of being named the highest village in Italy. The Valle d’Aosta Trailers organizes three races that traverse the legendary landscape just outside of town. The 30km route travels mainly along Val Ferret, and showcases a panoramic view of Courmayeur from La Suche. The 60km route explores Val Veny, featuring a new route, dell’Orrido, out of Pre Saint Didier, with a panoramic balcony, a new crossing between Colle di Youlaz and Col Chavanne, and a descent through Calcaires Pyramides. And if you don’t want to miss anything, you’ll like the 90km route which combines the best of both.
Leaving from Rochefort, Switzerland, this short course’s intensely hilly terrain makes it a classic mountain run. Whether an acclimatization run before longer races or a main event for sprinters, this classic route’s difficulty speaks for itself.
This racing event takes runners along the trails of the Val Montjoie in France. It includes three course options: Moins’hard (“intense race”), 40km; Montagn’hard 60 (“extract of mountain”), 60km; and Montagn’hard (unforgettable memories), 107km. The 40km race can also be completed as relay. Along the trail, you will have views of Mont Blanc and Glacier de Miage.
This mountain run starts in the village of Lodrino, running through the village on a paved road. Then, it’s onto trails that climb steeply for nearly 2,000 meters to the panoramic viewpoint at Forcarella di Lodrino. From this high point it’s all downhill– first steeply, then more gently– along a grassy path to the finish at the Piazza di Lavertezzo. An optional shorter race, the Lodrino-Forcarella Mountain Race, is held the same day. The run finishes at the high vista, and runners can then enjoy the walk down to Lavertezzo.
Organized by Chamonix’s energetic trail running club, CMBM, the Cross Relais Nocturne is a nighttime relay race with a festive atmosphere. Starting in Chamonix at 8:00 in the evening, teams of two begin an uphill course with each participant completing six 720-meter loops, for a total distance of about 4.3 kilometers. After the race, there is a buffet dinner prior to the awards presentation. Two, shorter race options exist for kids aged 8 to 15.
The Silvretta Run 3000 is an alpine trail running event in Tyrol, Austria, which started in 2012. It offers three different routes: Small (12.1 km), Medium (29.9 km) and Hard (41.195 km). The funds raised from this event benefits Wings for Life, a charity that supports spinal cord research.
A relatively new event, all three Eiger Ultra races start in the world-famous mountain village of Grindelwald, at the base of the North Face of the Eiger. All routes includes spectacular views of the Eiger and nearby Berner Oberland peaks. Both the 51 km and 101 km routes include long section of alpine running, along ridges, pastures and some of the most scenic views anywhere in this region. These races are now well-known, and a draw a number of elite runners each year. There is also an associated training camp, and other events, as part of the well-orchestrated Eiger Ultra experience.
The inaugural edition of the Swiss Alps Endurance Run takes place in 2017. Within the canton of Valais, the 80km course starts in Oberwald and ends in Simplon-Dorf. Race organizers describe the course as “mostly non-technical,” offering some “incredible panoramas and beautiful views” of the Swiss Alps.
The race designers hope that this route will bring together a community of mountain runners year after year. With a virtually weather-proof route that ascends from Adelboden through a vale and valley before climbing into higher country. The route ends with a plate of pasta and return to Adelboden via the Sillerenbahn.
This three-day ultra-trail event around Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner (3,798 meters), starts and finishes in the town of Kaprun. The GGUT 110 km course travels 110 km with 6,500 meters of elevation gain, leading through seven valleys and along 14 glaciers, surrounded by 300 peaks over 3000 meters high. This race can also be run as a relay. In addition, this event hosts the Glockner Trail (50 km, +2,000 meters) and the Weissee Gletscherwelt Trail (30 km, +1,000 meters).
Starting in the village of Oberwil, this half marathon runs past farms and pastures, by the remnants of the famous Weissenburg Spa and forested woodlands. The course runs along several mountain lakes, finally finishing atop the Stockhorn summit.
Expect little respite from this short but rugged course. The steep 6.4 km route is a mountain test — and many racers return year after year to run Valley Plans-sur-Bex.
After leaving the Plans-sur-Bex, a demanding climb leads runners up through forest trails and pastures. Once in the alpine zone, a final rocky ascent brings racers to shack Neve Plan, nestled in the heart of Muverans, to enjoy stunning views over the plain and Lake Geneva…and some refreshments too!
Starting in the village of Villaroger (1220 m), the double vertical kilometer course begins in the forest. Then, runners rise up to a rocky landscape and cross the Glacier du Varet to reach the summit of the Aiguille Rouge (3220 m). RTA’s Doug Mayer wrote about his experience running the K2-TPS in an August 2015 blog post.
More a celebration of mountain running than a single race, Swissalpine brings together three running series—Swiss Alpine Marathon, Swiss Irontrail and SwissTrail—under one umbrella event. A series of activities take place over the course of the week of Swissalpine, from guided tours of various courses to workshops and exhibitions. Davos turns itself over to runners during the Swissalpine event, and at night the town has a party atmosphere for the evening before and after races. It’s quite a scene! Check out Run the Alps blog posts: K42: A Short Story Swissalpine Marathon: Random Impressions Swissalpine Half
The Montreux Trail Festival is a new 4-day trail event taking place in the Swiss Alps in the canton of Vaud. In all, there are five races to choose from: (1) La Positive1000, 4 km and +1,000 m; (2) La Night15, 15 km and +800 m; (3) La Leysin30, 34 km and +3420 m; (4) La Villars60, 60 km and +4100 m; and (5) La MXtreme160, 165 km and 13,600 m. Also, you’ll find a race families, La Familiale Relais, and a separate race for children, La MX Kids. According to the website, this event will offer “an atmosphere of sports, music and culinary delights, whether you are a runner or a spectator.”
The Orobie Ultra Trail race, which had its first edition in 2015, starts in the Alps and finishes in the medieval city of Bergamo – Città Alta. Taking place in the Orobie mountains, this 140-km race with 9500 meters of ascent has a time limit of 46 hours. During this same weekend, the Gran Trail Orobie race is also held, with a distance of 70 km and 4,200 meters of ascent, and the Bergamo Trail, a 20-km race with 700 meters of ascent.
Described as “the most extreme experience in the Alps,” the Süditrol Ultra Skyrace is a running race along the high mountain trail known as Hufeisentour in the Sarntaler Alps. With three races to choose from, each are qualifying races for the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc.
The Cross du Velan takes place above the Entremont valley, one of the most stunning valleys in all of Switzerland. At the end of the valley is the famous St. Bernard Monastery, high in the alps on the border with Italy. The course starts in the little hamlet of Bourg St. Pierre, passes through long pastures, climbs to the Cabane de Mille on the Tour des Combins hiking route, and then traverses high above the valley, incorporating a high alpine setting, while passing Cabane du Valsorey and Cabane du Vélean. A 21 km race, ending at Azerin, is also available as an option. Runners have the option of doing the 44.1 km route as a two-person relay team, switching at the midway point of Azerin.
The avid mountain runners who designed this course describe it as “hard but still nice.” Centered in Schwarzsee, Switzerland, the route passes along the Schwarzsee high in the Breccaschlund, and via Bull Mountain drops to the bottom of Euschels. You’ll enjoy panoramic views of the Range on the 10 km route. Descent is via the Riggisalp train.
Set in idyllic Leysin, Switzerland, this race boasts lovely mountain views, and is comprised of challenging single track and mountain roads. Leaving from town, the 21 km route climbs the steep ski slopes surrounding the town before tracking southwest on gentler terrain to enjoy views and a gradual descent. The 11 km route doesn’t climb quite so high but otherwise follows the same route.
This 2-day event includes two races: Skyrace Night K1000 (11 km, 900 meters) and Skyrace K2000 (18 km, 2000 meters). These races both begin in the town of Courmayeur. The Skyrace Night edition starts at 9:00 p.m. in the evening and ends at the Skyway Monte Bianco tram mid-station. The Skyrace K2000, in contrast, starts in the morning of the next day, and ends about 18 kilometers later, and 2200 meters up the Mont Blanc massif at the Punta Helbronner tram top station. The first half follows the same route as the Skyrace Night event, with the first 3 kilometers to Pontal D’Entreves comprised of rolling hills. From there, runners take an old hunting path through the forest — and then the ascent truly begins. In just a few kilometers, the trail rises 900 meters to the Pavilion mid-station. (The end point for the race from the evening prior.) The highly-technical, rocky path continues another 1200 meters up to the Rifugio Torino Vecchio — helmets are required for this section. The final stretch of the race leads over ice and up to Punta Helbronner. Once at the top, you’ll enjoy a buffet and descent by way of panoramic cable car.
Check out Run the Alps’ blog post about the Skyrace K1000, “Up—Way Up—in the Dark: Courmayeur’s Mont Blanc K1000 Vertical,” for more information.
Glacier 3000 has a little bit of everything! It starts in Gstaad, one of the more posh mountain resorts in the Swiss alps. Within minutes, though, the route takes one past diary farms, over hills on rolling single-track and dirt roads, then through the village of Gsteig. At the halfway mark, the course suddenly gets steep! First on a dirt road, then mountain paths, and past a Swiss Alpine Club, the race finishes with, yes, nearly a full kilometer on glacier, before reaching the finish line at the top of the Glacier 3000 ski area. Tram rides and a free bus take runners back to Gstaad for a celebratory lunch in the town square.
7.8 km long, this is one of the shortest trail races in Switzerland, but also one of the steeper, with nearly 1,200 meters of climbing over that distance. The race is run in commemoration of local guide Louis Wuilloud, who ran up to the hut in a then record of 1 hour, 45 minutes, to deliver the sad news of the passing of the hut guardian’s son. Eleven years later, the race started, and has continued to this day, making it one of the longer running races in Switzerland — over 45 years! A Grand Trophee des Combins has been run in some years, starting in Fionnay, climbing past the hut, over Col des Otanes, down past the gigantic Mauvosin dam, and finishing back in the village. 21.4km long, the race has a 1,495 meters of climbing. The Trophee event is a great local race, with a fun spirit. It is organized by the local Gran Combin ski club, who notes, “Trail racing doesn’t add years to our life, but life to our years.”
Organized by the Club des Sports de Megève, the Cross des Crêtes offers runners a nearly 13-km course with 920 meters of elevation gain on mountain trails. Megève is located in Haute-Savoie in the Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France. In 2015, there were about 130 runners that participated in this race.
Thyon to Dixence is considered one of the more beautiful trail races in the Valais region of Switzerland. Coming in the middle of the season, and with scenic and relatively short course, it’s become a very popular race. The run starts high on a ridge, and continues above treeline, on a combination of roads and mountain paths, through pastures and alpine areas, to the immense Dixence dam—the finish, in fact, is atop the dam itself. Along the way, runners catch views of the glacier-covered Dent Blanche and the Matterhorn.
Starting in beautiful Engelberg, ringed by mountains, the Berglauf Engelberg climbs fairly steadily over its nearly 9 km course, to the finish at Rugghubelhutte, a high mountain hut managed by the Swiss Alpine Club. The race is another in the series of events that comprise the central Switzerland trail race series. From the top, racers receive a complimentary ride down the mountain on the lift.
The International Rigi Mountain Run is perhaps the best-known in the series of events that comprise the central Switzerland trail race series, drawing over 300 runners each year. The run begins on paved roads in the town of Arth on the shore of Lake Zug, and finishes atop the popular Rigi Kulm. The event is one of the older trail races in the region, too, having first been held in 1984. The International Rigi Mountain Run is a steep push, climbing nearly 1,400 meters in just over 11 km, on a mix of roads and paths. The reward, however is not insignificant– arriving at the summit of the Rigi, with stunning views of central Switzerland.
Sierre-Zinal is, without a doubt, one of the most famous trail races in the world, and for good reason, for the course includes some of the best scenery, anywhere, passing through small alp villages, mountain pastures, and with striking views much of the way. Sierre-Zinal is also one of the longest-running trail races in Europe, having started more than 40 years ago. Called the “Race of the Five, 4,000 meter peaks,” runners can catch sight of five of the most famous peaks of the alps: the Weisshorn, Obergablehorn, Dent Blanche, Zinalrothhorn, and the Matterhorn. The route begins in the Rhone valley, climbs steeply to gain a ridge, then stays above treeline, until plummeting over 500 meters to the mountain village of Zinal, at the end of the valley and near the Italian border. Considered the “New York Marathon” of the alps trail racing scene, the race routinely draws the best trail runners in the world. Sierre-Zinal Run the Alps blog post.
This pair of vertical kilometer races are held in the village of Morgex, Italy, near Courmayeur. These uphill courses offer fantastic views of the Mont Blanc mountain range.
Please note: This race date has not yet been confirmed.
This race spans Monday thru Friday in Zuri Oberland. Each day’s distance varies from 3.6 kilometers to 5.4 kilometers with elevation changes ranging from 285 meters to 535 meters. Over a work week you will run a total of 23 kilometers and 1,935 meters of elevation change. Each race is hosted at a different location, making this a great option for seeing a bit more of the area. This is a race for runners who thrive off of short steep speed runs, leaving you with plenty of time to check out the sights.
Ut4M is a major trail racing event in Grenoble, France. Following an “a la carte” aesthetic, the 2015 edition offers a a selection of courses to be run individually or consecutively, solo or as a team.
Ut4M 160 is the “Diner of the Kings.” This race takes you through paths and trails in four mountain ranges — Vercors, Taillefer, Belledone and Chartreuse — each with its own characteristics. Ut4M 160 visits all the summits. This ultimate race gains over 10,000 meters of elevation. Travel alone in the Solo, run with a partner in the Duo, or take a group of four in the Relay.
Ut4M 90 is “cheese AND dessert.” This route takes runners to the edges of Lake Merlat and the summit of Belledonne (undeniably one of the most beautiful view of the entire course). Farther along you’ll get views of Lake Doménons, the Cross of Belledonne, and the entire Chartreuse massif and valley.
Ut4M Vercors and Ut4M Chartreuse: you can run one or both after one night recovering.
Ut4M Vertical is “a little icing on the cake.” After only two years, the route rising from Rioupéroux to Arselle has made a name for itself, and a reputation as one of the most intense vertical kilometers in Europe.
Part of what is considered one of the world’s hardest triathlon, the Inferno trail race cover the steep portion of the running segment of the triathlon route. The start is in Lauterbrunnen, at the start of one of the most photographed valleys in all of Switzerland. From there, the route climbs through the village of Murren, above the steep walled valley and then directly up to the summit of the Schilthorn, the 2,970-meter high peak popularized during the ski scene in the James Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The race is named for the world-renowned Inferno ski race, first run in 1928, which starts atop the Schilthorn.
Just a few years old, the Supertrail du Barlatay is already proving itself to be quite popular– due, no doubt, to the scene terrain over which it passes. Running through the high country of Pays-d’Enhaut, in the French-speaking Vaud canton, this event consists of three races: the Ultra trail du Barlatay, the roughly marathon length Trail du Barlatay, and the Trail Découverte, at 31 km. Passing by four lakes, the races take in this beautiful region of grassy peaks, 360-degree views and scattered, small pre-alp villages. The ultra begins in the darkness of early morning. The Supertrail has a strong emphasis on care for the environment, and the Découverte, or Discovery race, is done without bib or timing.
This loop race starts and ends in the Swiss village of Gohl. The course brings you along hills and ditches, past isolated farms, over gravel, fields and hiking trails. It offers charming views as you climb towards the high point of the race at 1,300 meters just before Hohmatt. This race prides itself on getting you away from the everyday hustle and bustle of life. Immerse yourself in a different world for the pure pleasure of running in nature.
With three events over the course of the day, the Mountainman is one of the best-known trail events in all of Switzerland. It also serves as the Swiss trail running championships, so the best Swiss mountain runners will be taking place, as well! All three courses are almost entirely on mountain trail, with a variety of dramatic views of much of this area of the country. Each course passes through a variety of farmlands, forests and small villages, and is extremely well-supported, with enthusiastic volunteers. The finish includes a tough, final uphill push to the summit of famed Mount Pilatus– a dramatic completion that includes no shortage of cheering onlookers. When you’re done, the steepest cog railway in the world provides the descent to the valley. Run the Alps Blog Post: Defying Expectation: An Ultra Marathon, Some Buttermilk, and a Helicopter Ride.
One of the flatter mountain courses, this race passes through beautiful forests above 1800 meters, in the broad valley of the upper Engadine. The course stays mainly on dirt roads, and passes through the classic alpine resort of St. Moritz. An optional 10k is available, and even a very short kid’s race!
A new trail race on Switzerland’s summer mountain run scene, the Ultraks race offers a variety of distances for all levels, starting and finishing in the world-famous village of Zermatt and including classic views of the Matterhorn along the route. The 16km run passes through outer villages, as well as some countryside, an above tree-line stretch, and the beautiful Riffelalp resort. The middle-length run incorporates more mountain terrain, and includes the remarkable suspension bridge over Gletscher Gorge. The 46 km course is a real mountain test piece, with multiple climbs, starting with a tough uphill the famed Gornergrat viewpoint, and finishing with a plummeting downhill to Zermatt for the finish.
This event first started in 2013, and takes runners from 250m to 2950m on Belledonne Cross, from Vizille (Isere) to Aiguebelle (Savoie). Runners have the choice of three courses: The Integrale (144km), North Crossing (85km) and Ridge Track (47km). Along the Integrale, you can see lakes visible from the route, which consists of 90 percent single-track.
This new race honors Christian Rey-Bellet, the former fire department commander in Champéry who died in a mountain accident. With 1,000 meters of ascent along a 6-km route, the race website compares it to a 16-km effort. Starting from Champéry, the course climbs to Croix de Culet. Race fees include a t-shirt, pasta dinner at the finish and a ride in the cable car back to Champéry.
Starting in the village of Nendaz, above the centuries-old Rhône valley city of Sion, the Nendaz course climbs out of the valley, passes Lake Tracouet, climbs Dent de Nendaz, and then incorporates an airy descent and a second climb, to the Saint Laurent hut. The route continues past the Prafleuri hut, passes the Dixence dam, through high alpine territory, and then descends to Nendaz.
A shorter, 30 km option climbs from Nendaz to the Pra da Dzeu meadow forest, passes through the village of Cleves. There are two significant climbs–one up the Basso d’Alou, and a second to Combatseline.
Started in 2012, the FORCETHON Verbier raises money for FORCE (Fondation Recherche sur le Cancer de l’Enfant), an organization supporting research and training on children’s cancer. The 7-km route starts in Verbier and ends at the Savoleyres restaurant, where a pasta party is held for all the runners.
Please note: This date for this race has not yet been confirmed.
Started in 2015, the Trail du Saugeais takes place in the Jura mountains in the Franche-Comté region of France, just across the border from Switzerland. Along with three different running courses, ranging from 11 to 33 kilometers, this event also features a children’s race and two “Canitrail” distances, which allows participants to run with their dogs. After the race, you can enjoy some traditional Morteau sausage, local Comté cheese and more. For more information, check out the Run the Alps blog post from October 2016: Trail du Saugeais: Racing in the Jura Mountains of France.
First run in 2003, many now consider the UTMB to be the world’s most famous trail race. Encircling Mont Blanc, the race starts and finishes in Chamonix, a town long-considered to be the home of alpinism. It passes through Courmayeur, Italy, Champex, Switzerland, and includes several high passes around the Mont Blanc massif. Today, the UTMB series includes a variety of other races which take place during the last week of August. Entry is by lottery, and each race requires a specific number of UTMB points, which are allocated based on the difficulty of designated qualifying races. The other events include: CCC: Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix (101 km +6,100 m): A race on a portion of the UTMB route from Courmayeur, Italy, into Switzerland, and finishing in Chamonix. TDS: Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km +7,250 m): A race that follows the Grande Randonnée hiking paths, crossing though the mountainous Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, and Tarentaise regions, and the Aosta valley countryside. OCC: Orsières – Champex – Chamonix (53 km +3,300 m): The shortest of the UTMB series, the OCC is a new race that begins in Switzerland, spends most of its time on the Swiss side of the border, save for the finish over the French border and into Chamonix. PTL: La Petite Trotte à Léon (approx. 300 km +28,000 m): A larger and more wild version of the UTMB, the PTL offers a demanding alpine challenge. The route is not marked, but participants are given GPS waypoints and a map. The event must be done in teams of 2-3 participants. The qualifying race? The UTMB itself– or the insanely challenging Tor des Geants.
One of the most unusual trail races anywhere, Collon Trek begins in Italy, in the hamlet of Bionaz in the Valpelline region, climbs a high pass, traverses a glacier, and finishes in Switzerland. The race reaches its high point of 3,080 meters when crossing over into Switzerland’s Eringer valley, at Col Collon. Runners use microspikes and other forms of traction, to assist during the glacier section. The run finishes in the village of Arolla, on the Haute Route between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. Collon Trek celebrates the shared culture of these two valleys. The race takes place every other year, with 2014 being an off year.
The 4K Alpine Endurance Trail Val d’Aosta starts and finishes in Cogne, Italy in the Gran Paradiso National Park. The 4K in its title refers to the four majestic mountains in the Aosta Valley, also described as “silent spectators” along the course: Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. Runners must complete the course within the time limit of 155 hours.
The VCV connects Villeret in the Bernese Jura (760 meters), to Chasseral (1,607 meters). Begin by running through the famous gorge of the Combe Grède before turning westward for the races first ascent, which leads runners to steep turning trails, beautiful Jura forests, pastures, wooded pastures and other typical characteristics of the region. The crest Chasseral provides participants with a sublime panorama of the South with breathtaking views of the plateau lakes of Biel, Murten and Neuchâtel and the Alps. To the North you will see the windmills of Mont-Soleil, the Vosges and the Jura.
This race attracts elite runners as well as local walkers. All are welcome!
With races for children and adults, the whole family can participate in the Hohsaas Mountain Run. If two parents run the race, then their kids can run for free. This race is part of a running series organized by the Upper Valais’ running association, Laufsportverband Oberwallis. The adults start in Saas-Grund, and everyone ends up at Kreuzboden at the finish for a spaghetti dinner.
Organized by the CA Dents du Midi athletic club, this race (formerly known as the Tour de Bellevue) debuted a new route in 2015 from Collombey-Muraz to Troistorrents, passing through the Pointe de Bellevue. Located in the canton of Valais, this course offers exceptional views of Lake Geneva and the Dents du Midi in the Chablais Alps.
An informal series of fun runs from August through October, these small community races start from the Col du Petit Saint Bernard, on the border between Italy and France. Racers collect their bibs at the historic hospice, a partner to the bigger and better-known Col du Grand St. Bernard hospice. The course takes runners to the summit of Lancebranlette (2,936 m), from where they walk back to the start.
Ovronnaz-Rambert starts in the small, high mountain village of Ovronnaz, and goes steeply uphill, finishing at Cabane Rambert, a classic Swiss Alpine Club hut. The route leaves town on a paved road, turns to dirt, and finally trails as it climbs steep past pastures and alp scenery, to finish with a remarkable view of the Valais alps, and the nearby Grand Combin. From the hut, racers walk back to Ovronnaz after the event.
There may be no more famous stage trail race in the world. The Gore-Tex Transalpine Run includes eight villages, and runs through some of the most scenic areas of the alps, from Germany to Austria and finishing in Italy. The course varies from year to year, and often includes Switzerland, as well. Runners enter as a two-person team, and the event is fully supported, with supplies and baggage moved from town to town, daily. Coming nearly 300 km in the Alps, this race has it all, from forests to high alpine passes, cruising through pastures, though uphill pushes– you name it. Famously well supported, the Transalpine run is considered one of the all-time classic Alp trail running events.
This epic 116-km ultra marathon encircles the fabled Monte Rosa massif. Starting in Italy at the foot of the Matterhorn’s southern side, runners will finish in Switzerland. You have the option of two races: the Stage Race, which allows runners to complete the course in a period of three days, and the Ultra Marathon with a time limit of 30 hours. We can’t say it any better than the UTMR website; “majestic mountains, wild high passes, spectacular valleys, remote hamlets, traditional villages, flower filled meadows, leafy forests, mountain tarns, demanding ascents, breathtaking descents and miles and miles of superbly runnable trails – the UTMR promises you a journey through an amazingly diverse landscape, through a region rich in history, culture and tradition.”
Taking place in Bouveret, within the canton of Valais and on the shores of Lake Geneva, the SwissPeaks Trail will have its first edition in 2017. There are five different races to choose from, such as the 12-km course that’s reserved for women only. This event is 100% Valaisan, with these varied courses that offer some incredible views, including the summit of Grammont, one of the highest peaks overlooking Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).
A classic Valais trail race, the Grimpette, or “little climb,” is part of the Valais Cup series. It begins in the ancient valley town of Riddes, passes through town, then climbs steeply past vineyards and the cobblestone roads of the village of Iserable, and finishes with a steep uphill push past a series of farms, to end in a pasture high above the Rhône valley. Be sure not to miss the lunch at the village soccer field, followed by the complimentary tram ride back to the valley. Run the Alps Blog Post: Grimpette des Bedjuis: Not the UTMB.
Part road race, part gravel road, part trail, this is one of the most famous marathons in the world. It’s hard to write about it, without pouring on the superlatives! Beginning with a flat 10 km in the sports-oriented Swiss city of Interlaken, the route passes through towns and villages, as it climbs steadily to Lauterbrunnen at the 20 km mark. With its steep cliffs and dramatic waterfalls, Lauterbrunnen is one of the most-photographed spots in all of Switzerland… save, perhaps, the Eiger, where the race finishes. Once through a lap in Lauterbrunnen, the course suddenly climbs a steep 450 meters to the alp village of Wengen, leaves town and narrows to a gravel road. At this point, runners have dramatic views of the Jungfrau and Monch peaks, and, around the corner near the finish, the Eiger’s famed North Wall. The Jungfrau Marathon is an uphill battle, with over 1,800 meters of climbing. In addition to being one of the most famous, it’s also quite popular, with over 4,000 runners participating.
Both courses for the Dolomiti di Brenta Trail start at Lake Molveno, surrounded by the mountains of the Brenta Dolomites in the Trentino region of Italy. This event held its “zero edition” in 2015. It’s one of three races that make up the Trittico dei Laghi or the Triptych of the Lakes.
Starting in the village of Gargellen, this race takes you up to the Kesslhütte station. After which, you continue to the highest point of the route – Bergstation Kristallbahn at 2,220 meters. At the finish, you will be rewarded with spectacular views of the Austrian Alps and the Montafon valley.
Please note: This date for this race has not yet been confirmed.
Part of the central Switzerland trail race series, the Möserelauf is organized by the Malters ski club, home to the start of the race and a suburb of the beautiful small Swiss city of Lucerne. The race is truly a home-grown affair, with sometimes just several dozen runners, and the winners awarded a bouquet of flowers.
Considered one of the hardest races in the world, the Tor des Géants course covers an astounding 330 kilometers with over 24,000 meters of elevation gain. It starts in Courmayeur, Italy and then winds its way through the Valle d’Aosta. Runners will take trails at the foot of the highest 4,000-meter peaks in the Alps and travel through the Gran Paradiso Natural Park and the Mont Avic Regional Park. The time limit for this extremely challenging course is 150 hours.
Started in 2007, the Südtirol Drei Zinnen Alpine Run takes place in northern Italy, in the South Tyrol region. Runners follow a challenging course through the Sesto Dolomites and finish at the Rifugio Antonio Locatelli S. Innerkofler, above the Laghi dei Piani. This 2-day event also has children’s races, with distances ranging from 300 to 2,800 meters.
Not far from the French border, the Dents-du-Midi range towers over the mountain villages of Troistorrents, Val D’Illiez, and Champéry. For years, the circumnavigation of this range in a day, was a test piece for the Swiss military. Entirely on paths, this is very much an alpine race, with remote sections on the far side of the range. Starting and finishing in the beautiful village of Champéry, the course passes by several huts, climbers over two above-treeline cols, and runs through the tiny, picturesque hamlet of Mex. Be ready for stiff climbs, for a total elevation gain of 3,700 meters!
The Adamello Ultra Trail takes place in Italy, on the border of Lombardy and Trentino, within two natural parks: Stelvio Park and Adamello. The courses are run entirely on mule tracks and military paths used during World War II. This 3-day running event offers three courses: the Aldamello Ultra Trail (180km), Adamello Trail (90km) and 30 Trail (30km).
Also known as the Chandolin Double KM, this is two races in one. Both start together, near the floor of the deep Val Anniviers. One thousands meters up, in the village of Chandolin, is the finish of the vertical kilometer course. For those who want more, keep going to the top of L’Illhorn, and the spectacular finish of the double kilometer course—exactly 2,000 meters higher than the start. This is a classic Valais-region race, featuring a course that wends its way past farms, villages, and finally mountainous terrain, and finishing with a great party afterwards. Run the Alps Chando Double KM Blog Post
Humanitrail is two trail races, on the same day, with a very worthy premise: 100% of the proceeds benefit disadvantaged children in Nepal. The runs both start and finish in the village of Diablerets, a magnificent range with plenty of open territory that offer far-ranging views of many of the larger ranges of Switzerland, including the Dents du Midi and the Mont Blanc massif. Each course passes through a number of small villages en route, and is well-supported. Humanitrail also includes a 1, 2 or 3 km kid’s fun run, as well. The event is new, having started in 2011, but is gaining in popularity.
L’Yverdon-Chasseron is a new race in the canton of Vaud to raise money for SEP Lausanne, a nonprofit agency that helps people living with multiple sclerosis. The 20-km race starts in Yverdon-les-Bains along the shores of Lake Neuchâtel, after which it climbs steadily through the forest up to the summit of Le Chasseron in the Jura Mountains.
The Wildspitzlauf starts it in the village of Steinerberg, near the middle of Switzerland and not too far from Zurich. One of the longest-running trail races in Switzerland, it has been an annual event for more than three decades. About half paved road and half trails, the route climbs up from the village, alternating forest with pastures, and finishes at the grassy summit of Wildspitz. The day also features a 2 km long kids race, with 350 m of vertical.
Run the Alps’ founder Doug Mayer has described the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges as having “a warm, friendly, and ‘locals first’ feel about it.” The event offers two courses — the 15-km P’tit Trail des Aiguilles Rouges and the 50-km Trail des Aiguilles Rouges. Organized by the local CMBM trail running club, the 50-km course alternates annually over three different routes. (For more about CMBM, see this story.)
Verticalp wastes no time getting down to business, climbing 930 meters in just over 3 km. From there, the course passes through high pastures. A kid’s run covers about a third of the course, to the first aid station. The race is organized by the nearly 90-year-old Ski Club Grand St. Bernard-Reppaz.
Offering three courses of varying difficulty through rugged mountain terrain of Valais, this race traverses diverse and wild landscape. From grassy vales to true alpine, the routes are designed to challenge and inspire. The 40-km route traverses mostly singletrack trail and features several technical ascents, including a stunning summit and ridge run along Grand Bonvin.
The Altitrail Chalin is an original fall challenge. Leaving from Massongex, the route climbs to Chalin using ski runs, forest roads, pastures, and high mountain trails at the foot of majestic Dents-du-Midi. Enjoy drinks at a summit cabin and a bus ride down.
Please note: The date of this race has not yet been confirmed.
Starting in France at the Hospice du Petit-Saint-Bernard, this race takes participants on a course through three mountain passes above 2,500 meters and into Italy. It takes place in the fall, before the snow arrives to these high mountain trails.
Started in 2006, this unique event in the Courmayeur-Aosta Valley includes 4-6 pit stops serving beer to the runners. If you would like, you can even participate in the race with your dog. Prizes award to top three male and female finishers, as well as for best costume.
Please note: The date for this race has not yet been confirmed.
The Trail Vallée de Joux takes place in the rolling country of the Jura mountains, in the french-speaking canton of Vaud. The three races pass through a protected nature reserve, and are 90% on trails. Though the courses do include some classic summits of the region, in general the Jura tends to be a bit more rolling, with less vertical, than other alp races.
The Napf Marathon and half marathon takes place in the pre-alp Emmental region of green, rolling hills. It runs over a combination of road, easier village paths, and more challenging mountain trails. The course features views of the Jura mountain range, and the Bernese alps in the distance.
This unique event in the distric of Saint Maurice in the Swiss canton of Valais offers a series of défis or challenges for trail runners at all levels. The shortest course offered is 6 kilometers with an ascent of 436 meters, and the longest is 62 kilomters with over 3,500 meters of elevation gain. Altogether, there are over a dozen different race options. At the end of the race, you can have a raclette dinner at the collège de l’Abbaye.
This trail race started in 2010 with the “zero edition” of the course. Today, this event pulls in over a thousand athletes to participate in 4 different courses with a range of distances and elevations. Departing from Omegna in the Piedmont region of Italy, the course winds uphill through the mountains above Lake Orta.
The “Vertical Kilometer” race has been growing in popularity in recent years. A sanctioned trail race that’s part of the International Skyrunning Federation’s series, the “VK.” as it’s sometimes known, is measure by its vertical distance rather than the length of the course. These runs are short, and very steep– and nowhere is that more true than at Fully, Switzerland, where the course reaches grades of up to 60%. Fully is internationally-known as the fastest such course in the world, and racers come from many countries each year to test their steep-trail running mettle. The Fully VK course passes through vineyards, then gets down to business, climbing directly up an old funicular route. Someday soon, someone in the world is likely to break 30 minutes in the VK– and when it happens, it’s quite possible it’ll be at Fully. Interested in trying a VK? Fully is a great place to do it! Run the Alps Fully Vertical KM blog post.
This marathon takes places in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, starting in the village of Ilanz and finishes Thusis, located at the northern entrance of the Viamala gorge on the Hinterrhein River. The first edition of this race was held in 2014. At the aid stations along the course, you’ll find oranges and bananas, but you’ll also be able to snack on Swiss food specialties, such as birabrot (dried fruit bread), biberli (a sweet bread filled with almond paste) and local cheese.
This beautiful run starts in Thusis, and finishes in the village of Donat, and runs through the wild Mala gorge in the scenic canton of Graubunden, not too far from the noted town of Davos. For several years in a row now, the Trans Viamala has won the title, “Most Beautiful Trail Race in Switzerland,” in an online poll on a Swiss trail running web site. There is the option of a shorter walk, and a 4.4 km junior course for kids.
The Gantrisch Trail race, which started in 2015, takes runners through Naturpark Gantrisch in the canton of Bern. It has three distances for adults, as well as a children’s race. The trail consists of single trail and field and forested paths. Race organizers recommend a trail backpack for the 20-km and 30-km courses.
Three point-to-point races all ending in Sondrio’s main square where you’ll feast on local delicacies and delectable regional wine until all the finishers are in. The perfect way to end any running season, but watch out for those vineyards; they’re tougher than they look. To learn more, here’s a video from the 2015 edition of this event.
Please note: The date of this race has not yet been confirmed.
An uphill climb from the shores of Lake Neuchâtel, and through the forest by the shortest route, the Verticale d’Hauterive takes you to the summit of Chaumont. After you cross the finish line, you can enjoy an apéritif and risotto aux champignons with the other finishers. On a clear day, you will have a spectacular view of the Swiss Alps across the lake.
Please note: The date for this race has not yet been confirmed.
The last race of the Valais Cup series, La Derupe takes place not far from the route of Sierre-Zinal, but at lower elevation due to its late date. This short, steep race starts in the Rhône valley village of Chalais, and switchbacks up through forests, to the mountain town of Vecorin. Entry includes a ride back to the valley on the local telepherique.
Officially launched in 2016, this night race starts at sunset and travels in the heart of and around the City of Fribourg. This semi-urban trail race has one course with a distance of 27 kilometers and 900 meters of elevation gain. It’s described as “exigeant, sauvage, surprenant et pas plat” (demanding, wild, surprising and not flat).
This race is held on New Years Eve in the city of Zurich. The race starts in the Unterrohr Sports Center. Each lap brings runners back through the sports hall. The course is comprised of 90% natural surface and 10% asphalt. The loop course follows the bank of the Limmat River.
You have three course options for this event: the nearly 10-km P’tit Trail, the half-marathon or the marathon. All three events start in the town of Moutier, in the Swiss canton of Bern. The picturesque course takes you along the mountains that surround the town – the Raimeux, Graitery, Montagne de Moutier and Moron.
Please note: Race organizers have not yet finalized a date for this event.