5 Places in Town to Train for the Flagstaff Marathon

By |Published On: August 30th, 2021|Categories: Training Tips|

Wondering where to train for the Flagstaff Marathon? I’ll break down the best places to train right here in Flagstaff Arizona. From easy trail runs to challenging loops to test your fitness, Flagstaff has every terrain to prepare you for race day.


The Daily Go-To: Fort Tuthill County Park, Flagstaff AZ

Fort Tuthill has it all to offer; urban trail, quiet service roads, and even single track trails. Whether you are setting out for an easy mileage day or want to hit some rolling single track trails it’s all possible right from the main parking lot.

The urban trail offers a flatter non-technical option, great for those recovery or easy runs. From the main parking lot head north on the FUTS (Flagstaff Urban Trail System) towards the NAU Campus. This section of the urban trail will connect with the Sinclair Wash Trail about 5 miles out before hitting the Arizona trail and turning to single track at about mile 7.

Hop on some forest service roads by heading south out of the main parking area. You’ll hit a nice hill about ¼ of a mile in passing by the Pepsi Amphitheater on your left. Continue on for a rolling course and sections that may be less maintained then others. This road will continue on for a few miles before hitting Woody Mountain Rd (FR 231), which will bring you out to Rogers Lake and beyond.

Seeking some single-track trails? Don’t miss out on Soldiers Trail, a 6.2-mile loop that offers rolling hills and more technical footing compared to other options at the park. Off of Soldiers trail you’ll find numerous side trails that are worth exploring if you have the time.


Vertical 3+ Ways: Mount Elden         

Looking to add some vert to your run? Mount Elden is a great go too that offers multiple ways to the top with varying difficulties and a total vert of anywhere from 2,000-2,500 ft.

Elden Lookout Road offers the easiest route to the top of Mount Elden. Start where the pavement turns to dirt and you’ll have about a 5.5-mile continuous climb to the top. The footing will be smooth as it is all on well-maintained service roads and the steepness will vary as you climb.

Elden Lookout Trail is one of the more challenging established routes up to the top. It climbs about 2,400 ft with 2.5 miles. It’s one of the shorter routes to the top but steeper and more technical, you’ll definitely find yourself walking at points on this single-track trail.

Heart Trail is another popular way to climb to the top of Mount Elden. This is a well-established single-track trail that will wrap around a portion of Mount Elden before climbing and taking you to the top via the Sunset Trail. This route is popular with mountain bikers so be sure to use proper trail etiquette.

Up for a more adventurous route? Try one of these routes: The Slabs, Blue Dot Trail, or Little Bear Trail.


Single Track for Beginners: Campbell Mesa Loop Trails

 New to trails? Or maybe looking for a flatter single track trail? Campbell Mesa Loop Trails is the place to go! Campbell Mesa offers about 10 miles of single track trails, majority of which are on the flatter side compared to the rest of Flagstaff. These trails are very runnable but do offer a couple technical sections, perfect for a beginner trail runner to earn their trail legs. There are multiple different loops you can do within the trail system and you can even connect with the Arizona trail.


Test Your Fitness: The Peaks Loop

This is a challenging 18-mile loop that should not be taken lightly and may only be suitable for the experienced trail marathoner. Starting at the Snowbowl parking lot you’ll climb up the Humphreys trail to the saddle, turn right and climb towards Agassiz Peak before descending towards Doyle Saddle and down Weatherford Trail. Towards the bottom of Weatherford, you’ll turn right connecting to Kachina Trail where you’ll climb for the next 5 miles back to the Snowbowl parking lot. In total you’ll climb nearly 4,000 ft over 18.3 miles and encounter some gnarly climbs, descents, and footing. If you try to tackle this loop be sure to bring plenty of water and nutrition. If you can complete this run you’ll easily be ready for the Flagstaff Marathon and more!


Get Specific: Flagstaff Marathon Course at the Nordic Center

Running the Flagstaff Marathon? Live in Flagstaff? If you answered yes to both of those questions then there is no reason why you shouldn’t preview the race course before October 2nd.

There’s no better way to prepare for the Flagstaff Marathon course than to physically get there and run it for yourself. Knowing what to expect from the course on race day can be a huge advantage to you. Print a course map off the race website and head out there this weekend for your long run. Even if you don’t run the exact course it’ll give you a great idea of what the footing and terrain will be like.


Live in the Phoenix area? Check out these great running spots down in the valley:

  1. South Mountain Park and Preserve
  2. Papago Park
  3. Phoenix Sonoran Preserve
  4. Piestewa Peak’s Summit Trail
  5. McDowell Mountain Park


– Craig Hunt