Although the official first day of summer is still over a month away, for many here in Steamboat Springs, summer is right around the corner. With a fresh layer of snow still clinging to the peaks that surround our little valley, one might wonder, are you suffering from a severe case of wishful thinking?

When does summer officially start in Steamboat?

Some people like to mark the start of summer with the Memorial Day holiday, others with the end of the school year. However, for those of us who enjoy the sport of running, summer truly begins with the first Steamboat Springs Running Series race of the season.

What is the Steamboat Springs Running Series?

Lead by a handful of running enthusiasts, the Steamboat Springs Running Series is a local organization that works tirelessly to promote and advance the sport of running in our community. This includes hosting a variety of races throughout the summer (and winter) in all corners of the Yampa Valley. This year’s summer series boasts 13 races beginning in early May and ending in late October. Each race is unique, providing participants with a range of options from the one-mile fun run to the 100-mile ultra. With so much diversity, there is truly something for all ages and ability levels.

With all that snow, what are the early season running options in Steamboat?

Colorado’s temperamental spring weather can make early season running a little tricky, but Steamboat has a diverse trail system that provides ample opportunities to get in those miles, no matter the season or conditions.

Upper portion of the Mad Creek Trail in late May

If you prefer to pound the pavement, the Yampa River Core Trail is the perfect place to run during any season. Commonly referred to as the Core Trail, this 7.5-mile paved path follows the Yampa River and runs right through the heart of Steamboat Springs.

April showers bring May flowers along the Yampa River Core Trail

If off-roading is more your style, there are several lower-elevation dirt trails that are perfect for early season running. My favorite local spot is the Mad Creek Trail, located just north of Steamboat Springs. The trail starts out steep, then gradually flattens out as you follow Mad Creek up a narrow canyon. After about 1.7 miles, the canyon opens up, giving way to a beautiful meadow and century-old barn. Later in the summer, you can follow this trail for miles, deep into the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.

Mad Creek during the spring runoff
The Mad Barn, built in the early 1900s by local homesteaders and used by the U.S. Forest Service

Other local favorites include the Spring Creek Trail and Emerald Mountain/Quarry Trail. Both are easily accessible and located within minutes of downtown.

View of Mount Werner from Emerald Mountain
Early season outing along the Spring Creek Trail

Summer has officially arrived!

Tomorrow, the Steamboat Springs Running Series will officially kick-off summer with the Hayden Cog Run, a picturesque yet grueling 8.4-mile (mostly uphill) race, about 30 minutes west of Steamboat. A shorter 5k out-and-back race and youth fun run are also offered.

There is no better way to explore the area than by hitting the trails on a self-guided tour. So for all you adventure seekers, lace up those sneakers, get out there, and say hello to summer!

Visit the Steamboat Springs Running Series website for more information and to view the 2018 summer race schedule.


Emily Hines is the marketing and special events coordinator for the City of Steamboat Springs. Emily was born and raised in the Yampa Valley and attended the University of Oregon, where she received a Bachelor of Science in business administration with concentrations in marketing and sports business. In 2013, after seven years working on the East Coast for a lifestyle and sports marketing agency, she found her way back home to Steamboat. She loves the outdoors and enjoys sharing her adventures and all that Steamboat has to offer.

Read more from Emily here.

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