13 Most Scenic Destination Half Marathons in the US

Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or running a marathon is something on your “maybe one day” list, running a half marathon somewhere that the scenes are distractingly beautiful can be a huge motivator to sign up. What’s more, the wildly increasing popularity of this race is urging many runners country-wide to find the most enjoyable options.

Now, you may be wondering: Just how popular have half marathons become?

According to Runner’s World, around 303,000 people completed a half-marathon in 1990. Fast forward to 2004, and this number more than doubled. Then 2013 rolled around, and by the end of the year, 1.96 million U.S. runners had completed this race. So in under 25 years, the number of people to complete a half marathon increased more than 6 times over.

If you’re able to sign up for a scenic route, the miles will fly by and you will be given an opportunity to take in your beautiful surroundings (unlike when you’re driving and can’t pay but so much attention to anything other than the road).

Plus, having enjoyable scenery will make your race all the more memorable. So whether you prefer cool city views, being in the mountains, or looking out onto the ocean, there is a scenic half marathon waiting for you to become a part of.

In this article, we are going to look at 13 half marathons in the U.S. that offer the benefit of amazing views.  For each event, I’ll also give you the information for the date of the next race, the average cost, and provide you with a link to the race’s website.

1. Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half Marathon

This half marathon has been voted to be among the top 7 most scenic half marathons in the U.S. by Forbes magazine, and it’s no wonder, considering runners get to enjoy views of some of the country’s most celebrated vineyards, active farms, and widespread ranches throughout wine country.

This challenging and curvaceous route starts at Cuvaison Carneros Winery and finishes at City Hall in Sonoma Plaza. During the race, runners embark upon a journey of ascending hills, wide open spaces, and scenic views of Napa-Sonoma Marshes Wildlife Area, San Pablo Bay, and Mount Tamalpais. Runners also look forward to seeing animals in their natural environment during this race, including donkeys, sheep, llamas, goats, chickens, and even pigs.

Following the race, participants can explore nearby wineries, visit historical sites, and participate in a variety of festivities surrounding the race. This year, the race begins at 7:00 am on Sunday, July 19, 2020. Registration is $180 and is limited to those who are 13 years of age and older.

2. Miami Half Marathon

Over 20,000 runners enjoy perfect racing weather each year during this winter marathon in Florida, which is scheduled next for January 31, 2021. The scenic course is designed to keep runners motivated all the way through to the festival going on at the finish line at Bayfront Park.

This half marathon route shares most of its trails with the full marathon, so all runners stay together through most of the course.

Because the oceanfront city of Miami is at sea level, the race route is mostly flat, including only a few mild inclines as runners traverse bridges. This is a fun race with entertainment provided along the entire course for both runners and spectators to enjoy.

One extra perk about this Miami course is that it’s registered as a “Boston qualifying” course, so if you’re aiming to qualify for Boston, you can use this race to do so.

Registration is $135 and opens May 1st. You can register all the way up until the day before the race, but in the final week, the registration fee goes up to $155.

3. The Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon

This single loop half marathon in Portland, Maine is great for runners who enjoy historic war-front sites, lighthouses, and waterfront views of Casco Bay. The upcoming June 6th, 2020 race will offer perfect Maine temperatures for a long run.

This race begins in a gorgeous neighborhood where runners get to admire 19th century mansion homes. The trail then starts on its more challenging uphill climb, where you’ll be able to enjoy scenic river and waterfront views, in addition to historical sites during the second half of the race.

Before finishing up in the cobblestone streets of the Old Port District, you’ll also have a chance to see islands, lighthouses and Civil War-era forts. Upon finishing, racers get to enjoy free food, local craft beer, and entertainment at a block party celebration. While in Portland for this race, many enjoy visiting the aforementioned historical sights, lighthouses, and islands to get a better look.

Registration is $79 through April 17th and then it increases to $89 through June 5th at 2:00pm

4. RunSedona Half Marathon

Known as one of the most beautiful cities in the country, Sedona, AZ is home to this picturesque half marathon that is growing increasingly popular due to its scenic views. The course leads through the Coconino National Forest District, where racers trail along breathtaking red rock formations. The course also affords runners the experience of enjoying the beautiful downtown streets of Sedona.

The RunSedona half marathon has become a popular “racecation” destination for those who are eager to start off their racing year on the right foot and escape the winter weather back home. This race features an out-and-back course with a beautiful backdrop of desert landscapes and sandstone formations highlighted by the orange light of the sunrise.

This half marathon challenges runners with a variety of terrain, both flat and hilly, with all of it being known for its beauty. The course follows along Dry Creek Road, which is one of Sedona’s most scenic paved roads. In addition to the natural beauty runners can enjoy during the race, visitors can also take scenic drives along trails in the red rock hills. This race is being held on Saturday, February 6th, 2021, and registration is just $60 through November 26, 2020.

5. Key West Half Marathon

This half marathon offers runners the perfect opportunity to experience the natural beauty and scenery of this popular destination. Much of the course covers the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, which boasts an open view of the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Runners are also led through Key West’s picturesque Old Town.

To ensure runners get a true, organic experience of the city, the race expo and packet pick-up are held at the Half Shell Raw Bar, which is one of the most popular seafood restaurants on the island.

The next opportunity to run this race is on Sunday, January 17, 2021, and registration costs $95.

6. Anchorage Mayor’s Half Marathon

This half marathon is a summer celebration in Alaska’s largest city. It’s held on the weekend that is the closest to the summer solstice–which is on June 20, 2020 this year– when there are nearly 20 hours of daylight in Alaska.

This half marathon offers the feel of a smaller race than the big-city ordeal that it actually is. Runners are able to enjoy gorgeous scenery throughout the hilly course, including views of Cook Inlet and the Chugach Mountain range. These scenic areas help keep runners’ minds distracted throughout the race, as will the roaming moose and bears as they’re taking their morning stroll down the Tony Knowles Trail.

This destination is perfect for the whole family, whether you’re looking to run a half marathon or you want your children to be able to participate in a free kids’ mile. Registration is $70 through March 31st and prices start to rise after that. If you’re a resident of Alaska, you will receive a $5 discount off the registration price.

7. Kauai Half Marathon

This tropical half marathon offers ocean views through the hillsides in Kauai, Hawaii. Also known as the “Garden Island”, Kauai is home to some of the most beautiful botanical gardens with the widest variety of plants native to Hawaii. In addition, this island is where the Waimea Canyon is located, which is also known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”.

This scenic race begins in Poipu, HI and follows the coastline, giving runners some of the most unbelievable views of Hawaii’s beautiful beaches, tropical forests, and structures made of natural volcanic rock. Runners are further entertained during their trek with live-performing hula dancers and Taiko drum players.

This race finishes with unbelievable ocean views at the Kukui’ula Resort and a celebration at the finish line with more live entertainment and refreshments for the runners. The 12th annual Kauai Half Marathon is on September 6th, 2020 this year and costs $105 to register.

8. Disney Princess Half Marathon

This weekend-long event is probably one of the more colorful half marathons in the U.S. The celebratory weekend is held each year, with the 2021 half marathon scheduled for Saturday, January 9th, 2021 at 5:30am.

This is a fun race for people of all ages and racing levels, as racers historically design their own running gear to match their favorite Disney characters. So, along with the entertaining and scenic views throughout Walt Disney World Resort, you will be able to enjoy watching all of the other runners dressed up in their Disney costumes. You will also notice all of your favorite Disney characters on the sidelines cheering you on. And, if that’s not enough, there are activities and fun shows to see along the course.

The cost of registration varies, depending on when you sign up. The cost and dates are as follows:

Tier 1: 4/7/2020 – 6/15/2020: $188

Tier 2: 6/16/2020– 9/7/2020: $198

Tier 3: 9/8/2020 – 12/29/2020: $208

9. Valley of Fire Half Marathon

Known as “the hardest race you’ll ever love,” this beautiful yet challenging half marathon is loaded with hills–both steep and rolling– as well as dramatic scenery of the northeast side of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. This giant Nevada reservoir lake was formed by the Hoover Dam.

The course follows an out-and-back trail through the Valley of Fire State Park in southeastern Nevada along hills and through the park’s indigenous red rock formations on either side of the path.

Both stunning and dramatic, the difficulty of this route is made up for with the scenery, taking your mind off of the taxing task at hand. This race is held in October, and the 2020 date is currently TBD, as they’re working on permit issues with the Valley of Fire State Park. Registration is $95.

10. Crater Lake Rim Runs Half Marathon

This half marathon goes through the rough terrain of the Pacific Northwest mountains that surround one of America’s most majestic lakes, Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park. The course takes racers around the circumference of the lake at altitudes reaching up to 7,850 feet above sea level. Runners race on paved roads for most of the race, except the last four miles, which turns into dirt/pumice cinders.

The next opportunity to run this half marathon is on Saturday, August 8th, 2020 at 7:30am and registration is $75. The weather for this race is generally ideal–starting in the 50s and rising to the low to mid 70s toward the end of the race. However, runners should be prepared for more extreme temperatures, as lows have dropped into the 30s and highs have reached the mid 90s in the past. The race is limited to a total of 500 racers, and registration is on a first come – first served basis.

11. Covered Bridges Half Marathon

This half marathon takes place just south of Woodstock, VT. It’s known for passing through four of Vermont’s unique rural covered bridges and beautiful, quaint countryside. Beginning at the Suicide Six Ski Area, runners race east alongside the Ottauquechee River through hilly, open farmland in South Pomfret. The course leads through the well-known Taftsville and Quechee bridges, offering runners views of Dewey Pond, and finishes up at the Quechee Polo Field.

This popular race has a $75 entry fee and typically sells out in under ten minutes when registration opens, which is not surprising considering this scenic community race also benefits many local charities in VT. Registration is limited to about 2,300 people to maintain this race’s welcoming and intimate feel.

This race occurs in June each year, with this year’s upcoming race date scheduled for Sunday, June 7th, 2020 at 8:15 am. This is when Vermont sees a variety of temperatures, historically ranging from 29 to 95 degrees, so make sure to arrive prepared. 

12. Malibu Half Marathon

This gorgeous route takes racers along the Pacific Coast Highway with views of rocky bluffs, sandy beaches, and the sounds of waves crashing into the shoreline. Along the way, runners are afforded scenic views of some of coastal California’s truly spectacular areas.

The first part of the route displays the pristine coastline, while runners finish up running past the beautiful beachfront homes, many of which are occupied by some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The race is on November 8, 2020 and registration is $109

13. Mammoth Half Marathon

Racers begin this scenic and picturesque half marathon at Horseshoe Lake, and start by heading toward Lake Mary through Northern California’s High Sierra Mountains at approximately 9,000 feet above sea level. This course continues with a descent along a variety of terrain including both trails and mountain roads. Racers run around lakes and across a bridge, giving runners a wide variety of scenic views.

Mammoth Lakes has an ideal Mediterranean climate during the time of year that the race is held, with dry weather and morning temperatures beginning in the low 50s and average highs hitting the 80s.

This race is being held on Sunday, June 28, 2020. Depending upon when you register, the fee can vary from $79 to $125.

Final Thoughts on Scenic Destination Half Marathons

While the sense of achievement as you cross the finish line of a half marathon is especially rewarding, the scenery of the race can make your experience even better. Every half marathon course gains its character from its atmosphere and surroundings, which can even impact the type of competitors who choose to register.

If you’re looking for a beautiful half marathon to run, hopefully at least one on this list made you feel inspired to register. You really can’t go wrong with these options.


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