Searing summer heat creates an incongruous situation for the average trail runner: It's the finest time to be outdoors but often local trails are just too hot to perspire along. Hence, heading to cooler climates that are ideal for running just for their short season (typically the summer months of June, July or August) might just be the answer.
These spots, covered in snow in the winter, offer a stellar climate for scarpering along in the summer.
Trails: Around Lake O’Hara
Head to the Canadian Rockies and set up camp to take full advantage of the hordes of trails that lie in this acclaimed landscape. High alpine ledges, fireworks of wildflowers and multitudes of mountain lakes with running routes that weave every which way create a vibrantly verdant setting for jogging.
However, if this piques your interest, you'll need to get planning now. Parks Canada limits access to Lake O’Hara to a smattering of busloads each day. It's frustrating if you don't get a spot but this policy creates crowd-free trails even in the height of summer. They accept reservations for the campsite three months in advance for a stay of up to three nights.
Trail: Laugavegur Trail
The Laugavegur is possibly Iceland's most famed trail linking the Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk Nature Reserves … and it’s beloved for a reason. Each day, expect a different view as you trot along this trail carpeted with lush forests, volcanic mountains scattered with obsidian boulders, natural hot springs, gushing geysers, rhyolite hills scarred with color, lava fields, as well as soot-colored arctic deserts capped with imposing glaciers.
It’s 34 miles long and can be run in five days if one opts to stop at the mountain huts at Hrafntinnusker, Álftavatn, Hvanngil and Emstrur. Ensure you check weather conditions thoroughly beforehand as Icelandic weather can be a fickle beast. On the plus side, due to the midnight sun, you’re not in a rush to beat the clock and reach camp before night falls.
Trail: Lost Lake
The Lost Lake Trail (around 15 miles each way) starts just a few miles from the sea, rising upward through springy spruce forests until it bursts into a sub-alpine tundra to reach a lake surrounded by glaciers in every direction. This high-alpine terrain is riddled with lush splashes of colors. Picture brown backs of marmots interspersed with feisty-colored flowers and bright blueberries, ready to be crammed into a parched mouth.
The trailhead is about five miles from Seward or you can stay at the Primrose Campground (right on the Kenai Lake) to explore a few different runs each day. Try and walk the route on an off-day and you'll see how brutal a mere mile can be. Watch for black bears (and cubs) … and don't forget bug spray.
Trail: Tour du Mont Blanc
Follow this world-famous trail race (around 104 miles) as it swirls through France, Italy, Switzerland and ends back in Chamonix. Take seven days to run the route at a leisurely pace (around 15 miles per day) with a rest day in the Italian town of Courmayeur.
Expect to trot along Roman trails, sliding along winding tracks to soak up the astounding summer scenery. You’ll advance across alpine pastures littered with grazing cows, dense forests, pass through medieval villages and jaunt across green swards while snowy mountain tops peer around the horizon. For added luxury, one can even pre-arrange a taxi service to drop your bag at the end of each day’s run at a prearranged village hotel.
Trail: Around Slettnes Lighthouse
In Northern Norway, due to the midnight sun, there is no darkness in the summer. So, with 621 miles of coastline to explore in this northern region, there’s plenty of daylight to keep you running through the day and the night. This is the time to get treading on the trail as the summer sun forces the snow to retreat, while flowers emerge after their winter sleep.
Stay in Slettnes lighthouse (the world's northernmost mainland lighthouse) on the Nordkyn penisula for a few days to explore the network of easy trails along the Arctic Ocean. With over 200 miles of marked routes, ranging from easy to moderate ability level, this trip has no shortage of spectacular views. Expect to see ancient settlements, a mysterious labyrinth, and (if you’re running at night) the midnight sun looming over the Arctic Ocean.
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