Lake Tahoe is perhaps the best rugged running area in the West. The Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile trail encircling Lake Tahoe, is actually a system of smaller trails and loops that link together, each offering varying degrees of difficulty and terrain. It’s a popular destination for runners wanting to get into the outdoors and breathe the fresh mountain air without venturing too far from their hotels. There are several towns surrounding the lake within a short drive from trail heads so visitors can go for an easy jog or plan a several-day backpacking adventure. Mid-July is the ideal month to see wildflowers in full bloom and take a refreshing dunk in the lake.
Another backcountry running area prime for adventurous runners is Great Basin National Park. Located in the eastern part of the state, near the town of Ely, Great Basin is home to the oldest living being on Earth: the bristlecone pine. Exploring Great Basin’s trails is not for the faint of heart – the elevation starts at almost 7,000 feet and climbs skyward from there. There are several backcountry trails with varying degrees of incline and difficulty. Depending on the trail -- trails range in length from less than a mile to 13 miles -- runners will see stands of ponderosa pines, remnants of gold-mining operations, a six-story limestone arch, several alpine lakes and bristlecone pine trees.
As a reward for a challenging and exhilarating run, visitors may want to visit the Lehman Caves near the park’s visitors center. The caves, formed over thousands to millions of years, have beautifully developed stalactite and stalagmite formations and are one of the best places to see the rare “shield” formations.