Spartan races are — proudly — for everyone who commits to putting in the hard work to get tougher. Whether you’re a highly-decorated Olympic athlete, an NFL fan favorite, a recovering alcoholic, a mother of four working a desk job, on a weight-loss journey, or just looking for something to spice up your training, we absolutely THRIVE off of ripping you off your couch and getting you racing. That’s not to say it’ll be easy — in fact, comfortable is the very last thing you’ll be when training for a Spartan race.
And if you’re a true Spartan, you dream of doing hard things. Going one mile farther. Running one minute faster. Climbing a few feet higher. That’s why all of our races are designed to push you past your limits. But a select few of our races — if you can persevere to the finish — will test you like you've never been tested, and make you believe that you are capable of doing anything you set your mind to.
Saddle up, seasoned Spartans, because these 10 races, handpicked by Spartan Race Course Manager Steve Hammond, are unquestionably the hardest races on the Spartan schedule, with venue number one being the holy grail of hard. You’ll face the most intense climbs and elevations; our most unpredictable weather; obstacles unseen on other courses; and thick, unrelenting forest and brush. You’ll be pushed to your breaking point and beyond, and then come out stronger. If you’re up for the ultimate tough test … you’ve reached the right place.
10. SoCal Spartan Trifecta Weekend (Oct. 22-23)
Taking place just an hour north of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, this course is a great introduction to our harder, hillier races. The undulating ranch is protected by California’s most significant private conservation agreement, so the vast, rugged terrain is virtually untouched from the days when frontiersmen, outlaws, and pioneers traversed the land. That means dramatic mountains; plummeting canyons; oak and Joshua tree-covered hills; and broad, heavily-wooded valleys will make this course challenging, but still runnable (if you put in the proper training). Ultra and Beast availability make for a greater trial, to see just how far you can sustain your pace on this course. The raw topography and warm, dusty California air bring this Trifecta weekend in at No. 10.
9. Asheville Spartan Event Weekend (July 30-31)
Often humid and always wet, this North Carolina course is full of surprises and will definitely keep you on your toes. Well-trodden horse trails make much of the race pretty solid terrain, but it would be a big mistake to get comfortable. Right around the corner, you’ll be plunging through unexpected, rushing river runs; deep-forest bushwhacking when the trail all but disappears in front of you; and scaling red clay-laden mountainsides, all of which land the North Carolina course at No. 9 on the list.
8. Montana Spartan Trifecta Weekend (May 7-8)
The course has been dubbed “the most beautiful course in the country,” but don’t let the name fool you. It’s right on the shore of Flathead Lake, which is surrounded by 700 miles of trails engulfed in thick forest, jutting through expansive alpine meadows and constantly climbing some of the 8,000-foot, cascading, rugged mountains. 2021 marked the first Ultra and Beast in Montana, adding an extra element of difficulty to the already-demanding terrain. This tough, wild course fits right in at No. 8.
7. West Virginia Spartan Trifecta Weekend
Summit Bechtel Reserve was the site of the Spartan North American Championship for the few years before 2021 (when it was held in North Lake Tahoe), and that’s because it has the perfect mix of everything Spartans look for in a truly challenging course. After all, John Denver didn’t sing “Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River” about a flat and dry state.
When we visit this venue, West Virginia mountains provide steep inclines and rolling hills, numerous water features keep you swimming and constantly covered in mud (which cakes and cracks in the intense heat), and racers usually find themselves traipsing through some incredibly thick brush. No. 7 is one hell of a climb.
6. Utah Spartan Trifecta Weekend (July 9-10)
The first of the ski resorts to make the list, Snowbasin was home to the 2002 Winter Olympics. And if it’s a challenge fit for Olympians, it’s certainly fit for Spartans. The Mount Ogden Trifecta weekend will have you climbing a 3,000-foot vertical to its summit in one of our toughest treks yet. The trails here are designed for epic ski conditions, so get ready for the staples of the course: intense elevation, technical terrain, and leg-burning hills that are perfect for slot No. 6.
5. Tri-State New Jersey Spartan Trifecta Weekend (Oct. 1-2)
Meet Mountain Creek Resort at Vernon Peak, New Jersey’s largest ski mountain and the second resort on our list. The region’s highest skiable vertical — 1,040 feet — might not sound like much of a hike after Utah’s 3,000-foot summit, but this mountain will be unrelenting in surprising ways. (That's why we're actually coming to Mountain Creek twice in 2022: with a Beast/Ultra weekend at the end of April and our classic October Trifecta weekend.)
Count on the trails being insanely rocky and having to watch your footing. AND, there’s one wild card. When the weather cooperates, this is a tough race. And when it doesn’t (spoiler alert: it usually doesn’t), all hell is let loose. Unpredictability is the name of the game, and the reason that New Jersey comes in at No. 5.
4. Palmerton Spartan Super 10K and Sprint 5K Weekend (July 9-10)
Coming in just outside the top three is the Palmerton race at Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain, yet another steep and daunting ski resort. But this one is on another level. Coined by Hammond as the toughest Super that Spartan offers, elite Spartans year after year have met their match on this mountain. You’ll plunge in and out of incredibly dense forest and face the iconic double-sandbag carry up a double black diamond ski run — the nightmare of many racers prior — before reaching the summit. But you’re not out of the woods (figuratively, or literally) just yet. The descent will offer some super taxing technical terrain, so hold on tight.
3. North Lake Tahoe Spartan Ultra 50K and Beast 21K Weekend
This epic Squaw Valley venue has been home to the Spartan World Championship for the past few years, the Spartan North American Championship in 2021, and the Winter Olympics in 1960. Tahoe is a legit bucket list race course. Pummeling racers with a 6,224-foot surface elevation (and more than 9,000 feet of max elevation) and steep slopes that will scorch your lungs and your quads — along with a frigid mountain-lake swim — this venue holds the record for the most DNFs (racers who did not finish).
Think you have what it takes? There’s only one way to find out: Sign up for this race any year that it hits the Spartan schedule.
2. Big Bear Spartan Trifecta Weekend (May 14-15)
The Big Bear Mountain Resort Beast sends chills down the spines of most West Coast Spartans. This California race is one that your calves will never forget, and if you finish, you'll have a medal that you’ll always remember. With dizzying climbs of over 8,000 feet — complemented by a 1,200-foot vertical drop — this course is equally as difficult for staff to set up as it is for racers to complete. The terrain is completely unrelenting with pressing hills and almost no rest, because the downs are as tough and technical as the ups.
While he recommends preparing to the 10th power for this one, Hammond says it’s unlikely that anyone will be fully prepared for the challenge posed by our second-most daunting venue.
1. Vermont Spartan Ultra 50K, Beast 21K, and Sprint 5K Weekend (Sept. 11-12)
It’s only fitting that the hardest, grittiest race of the year takes place in Spartan’s birthplace and CEO Joe De Sena’s backyard. The Killington course is the toughest in the U.S., and possibly in the world. (Though after witnessing the sights and sounds of the 2021 Spartan World Championship in Abu Dhabi, Killington may soon take second place.)
Hammond described this Vermont course by saying, “You won’t know until you go,” which hints at the never-before-seen obstacles you’ll face throughout your off-trail descents, enormous Green Mountain climbs, shockingly-cold plunges, and a finish line that resembles a scene from a battle. There’s truly nothing else like it, and if you beat Killington, you’re the ultimate badass. If you’re looking for the holy grail of Spartan races … this is it.