Trail Running Around The Rockies in Colorado

trail running, Colorado

Phil heads up a trail in Tabernash. (Photo:

Greetings from Colorado! How would I describe trail running around the Rocky Mountains in Spring? Breathtaking. Literally.

I’m in an area called Tabernash, which is sandwiched between Winter Park, Arapaho National Forest and Rocky Mountain National Park. I can easily see why the population of 165 people have chosen this slice of heaven to call home. Seated in a valley surrounded by pine forests and soaring snow-covered peaks, Tabernash has natural beauty in abundance at 9,000 feet above sea level.

After a day in Denver, my husband and I headed out west to Devil’s Thumb Ranch to attend tonight’s wedding of a dear friend who hails from the Rocky Mountain state.

Of course, the first thing we did after checking into our room was to change into running gear and head out to the trails on the ranch’s 6,000 acres.

trail running, Colorado

Karla runs with the mountains by her side. (Photo:


It’s the mud season here. Snow still covers the ground, but that famously warm and bright Colorado sun melts it by day, leaving a mix of mud, snow and slush on the trails. That didn’t stop Phil and me from eking out 3 miles. Sure, we could have run along the road where it was nice and dry. But I live in NYC. I run roads all the time. We wanted to get the scent of pine into our lungs and mud on our shoes.

trail running, Colorado, Devil's Thumb Ranch

Views of Devil’s Thumb Ranch from the trails above it. Look at that sky! (Photo:


It was muddy alright. The plain where the ranch sits gave us a real life mud run, as slop splashed onto the back of my legs and squished under my sneakers while we headed into the surrounding hills. Navigating the mud made keeping a brisk pace challenging. I had a few near total wipe-outs as my shoes slid in the muck.

trail running, Colorado

We found a relatively dry trail higher above the plain. (Photo:

But as soon as we got a bit into the woods, the mud gave way to snow or drier dirt paths.

I was also in for a major altitude adjustment. To call it a run would have been generous. It was more like run, walk and wheeze, run, walk and wheeze. It did get easier by the end of our 3-miler, but both my husband and I felt the lack of air in our lungs.

This I know: you altitude dwellers can kick my sea-level living derriere any day of the week.

I’d anticipated the run being challenging. I remember how hard running in Park City, Utah was at 7,000 feet. I also hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and will never forget what 19,341 feet, and all the various elevations leading up to that, feels like: exhilarating and exhausting.

trail running, Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kilimanjaro

Karla at the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. (Photo:


And I was right. Running at 9,000 feet was hard. As was the hour and half yoga class I took this morning. By the end of class I wasn’t sure if the buzzy feeling in my head was a familiar yoga high or altitude high.

trail running, Colorado, altitude training

Colorado greeted me with—literally—breathtaking views on my run. (Photo:


But altitude or no altitude, I’m going to keep on running in the Colorado sun. With literally breathtaking views, how could I not? Maybe my lungs will even thank me for training at altitude when I get back to New York City. Here’s hoping!

Karla Bruning is host of On The Run, New York Road Runners’ web show about running. She has completed six marathons, two triathlons and trains with the New York Harriers. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


04 2013

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  1. Kristi #

    sounds like an amazing place to run (and a good challenge!) :)

  2. 2

    That looks like an absolutely amazingly beautiful place to run…So jealous of the scenery! Glad you were able to have time for the run while you were there! And you climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro? That’s awesome too!


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