Best Marathons in Montana

Marathons in Montana for running races

Montana, renowned for its vast skies and breathtaking landscapes, serves as a backdrop like no other for running. From the jagged Rocky Mountains to the rolling Great Plains, the state offers unique races that challenge and inspire. Consequently, runners flock to Montana, eager to test their endurance while soaking in the state’s natural beauty.

The marathons held here are not just races; they’re experiences deeply rooted in the essence of Big Sky Country. As runners tread along the courses, they’re enveloped in a serene environment, often far removed from the hustle and bustle of city life. The vast open spaces and crisp mountain air provide a refreshing change of pace for many.

Moreover, Montana’s marathons are known for their tight-knit communities. Regardless of the event’s size, runners often feel a genuine camaraderie with fellow participants. The shared challenge of the race, combined with Montana’s distinctive setting, creates a bond that’s hard to replicate elsewhere.

In essence, Montana marathons offer more than just a finish line. They present a journey through some of America’s most stunning vistas, all while challenging runners to reach new heights. It’s no wonder that many consider Montana marathons to be among the best in the nation.

Missoula Marathon

Location: Missoula, MT
Date: June

The Missoula Marathon, held in the picturesque town of Missoula, Montana, offers participants a scenic and memorable running experience. Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, this marathon showcases Montana’s natural beauty, blending urban sights with vast, open landscapes. Starting in the countryside, the course primarily offers a downhill path, a feature that many runners appreciate. The gentle decline provides a nice momentum, especially for those targeting personal bests.

Upon starting, runners are greeted with expansive views of the Montana countryside. Wide-open fields, distant mountains, and the occasional glimpse of wildlife set the tone for the first few miles. Then, the route gradually introduces the Blackfoot River. This meandering waterway becomes a companion for participants, offering refreshing views and sounds as they progress. Trees lining the banks provide periodic shade, a welcome respite especially during sunnier race days.

As participants approach the city, the course offers a blend of Missoula’s urban and natural highlights. Historic neighborhoods give way to the University of Montana’s iconic “M” on Mount Sentinel. This landmark, visible from various points, serves as a beacon, guiding runners and reminding them of the approaching finish line. Along the way, enthusiastic locals often come out, offering encouragement, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

The final stretch of the marathon runs through Missoula’s vibrant downtown. Here, the energy is palpable, with spectators cheering and music playing. As runners cross the Higgins Avenue Bridge and make their way to the finish in Caras Park, they’re greeted with celebration and pride. Completing the Missoula Marathon, for many, isn’t just about the distance, but about experiencing the heart and soul of Big Sky Country.

Queen Bee Montana Marathon

Location: Billings, MT
Date: May

The Queen Bee Montana Marathon is a captivating event that takes runners through the picturesque terrains of Montana. Set amidst the backdrop of the state’s varied landscapes, this race truly embodies the essence of “Big Sky Country.” Starting in a serene setting, participants embark on a journey that boasts a combination of scenic beauty and a test of endurance. The gradual inclines and declines of the course ensure that runners of all levels can enjoy and challenge themselves simultaneously.

Beginning in a lush rural area, runners can expect the first segment of the race to be immersed in nature. The sight of sprawling meadows, tall pine trees, and the occasional wildlife sighting makes for a tranquil start. Moreover, the cool, crisp mountain air is both refreshing and invigorating. As participants weave through these initial miles, they’re accompanied by the distant silhouette of mountain ranges, setting a serene tone for the race.

Transitioning from the countryside, the marathon route introduces runners to Montana’s quaint townscapes. Historic wooden buildings, charming local businesses, and friendly townsfolk cheering from their porches add an urban touch without losing the rustic charm. Here, the course offers a flatter terrain, allowing runners to find a steady rhythm as they navigate through the town’s streets and alleyways.

Approaching the finish, participants are led back towards more scenic viewpoints, offering a final glimpse of Montana’s grandeur. As they cross the finish line, the natural beauty that surrounded their journey heightens their sense of accomplishment. The Queen Bee Montana Marathon isn’t just a race; it’s a celebration of Montana’s splendid landscapes and the spirit of its people.

Governor’s Cup Marathon

Location: Helena, MT
Date: June

The Governor’s Cup Marathon is a prominent running event that showcases the diverse beauty of its host region. This marathon, known for its challenging yet scenic course, draws runners from near and far. Kicking off in a scenic suburban area, the starting miles provide runners with a calming environment, replete with tree lined paths and gentle, rolling hills. The initial stretch serves as a warm-up, setting the pace for the adventure that lies ahead.

Transitioning into the heart of the course, participants get to experience a mix of terrains. Winding through urban pockets, they’re treated to views of historic landmarks and bustling city streets. The cityscape provides a stark contrast to the race’s start, adding excitement and energy. Cheering crowds line the streets, offering encouragement and lifting the spirits of every participant.

However, the real highlight of the marathon lies in its natural sections. After leaving the urban setting, runners are met with the sight of vast open fields, sparkling waterways, and distant mountain silhouettes. These terrains not only challenge the endurance of participants with their varying elevations but also offer breathtaking views that make every stride worth it.

As participants approach the marathon’s conclusion, they’re welcomed by an electrifying atmosphere, with spectators cheering them on to the finish line. Completing the Governor’s Cup Marathon isn’t just a test of physical endurance; it’s a journey through diverse landscapes, reflecting the multifaceted beauty of the region. This event stands as a testament to the spirit of community and the love of running.

Madison Marathon

Location: Madison, MT
Date: July

The Madison Marathon, set in the picturesque landscapes of Montana, offers an experience unlike any other. Set off in the cool morning, runners begin their journey surrounded by the vast, open fields of Montana’s highlands. The early miles of the race have gentle rolling hills, presenting an initial challenge yet also granting breathtaking views of the expansive horizon. Additionally, the crisp, fresh air provides an invigorating start, ensuring participants are energized and ready for the course ahead.

Moving forward, the marathon takes runners through a series of serene forested areas. Tall, whispering pine trees flank the pathway, their canopies creating a dappled light effect on the ground below. The sound of nature, from chirping birds to the rustling leaves, creates a calming ambiance. This section, while serene, also has its share of rolling terrains, testing the agility and stamina of participants.

However, it’s the mountainous stretch that is the real showstopper. As participants approach this segment, they’re met with the daunting yet awe-inspiring sight of Montana’s famed mountain ranges. The ascent, though challenging, rewards runners with panoramic views of snowy peaks and deep valleys. It’s a reminder of nature’s grandeur and the small yet significant place humans hold in it.

As the marathon draws to an end, runners descend back towards the starting area, completing the loop. The final miles are a mix of the terrains previously encountered, offering both challenge and familiarity. Crossing the finish line, participants are not just celebrating a physical achievement, but also the unforgettable journey through Montana’s diverse and stunning landscapes.

Bear Paw Marathon

Location: Havre, MT
Date: June

The Bear Paw Marathon, nestled in Montana’s scenic landscapes, offers runners a truly memorable experience. The starting line, positioned amidst a tranquil meadow, sets the tone for a peaceful and rejuvenating run. As participants kick off, the first few miles introduce gently rolling terrains, with occasional wildflowers adding splashes of color alongside the trail.

Transitioning from the meadow, runners soon find themselves enveloped by a thick, lush forest. The canopy of tall pine trees filters sunlight, casting a soft, golden hue on the pathway. Here, the sounds of nature dominate; the chirping of birds, rustling leaves, and distant water streams form a soothing background score. This segment, while serene, challenges runners with its alternating inclines and declines, ensuring they remain engaged.

Emerging from the woods, the course leads participants towards the mountainous stretch of the marathon. These looming elevations, while daunting, provide a welcome challenge for those seeking to test their endurance. The uphill climb, though strenuous, rewards with panoramic vistas of Montana’s vast landscapes, from snow-capped peaks to expansive valleys below. It’s a section that embodies both the challenge and beauty of the Bear Paw Marathon.

As the course nears its end, runners are led back through a mix of the terrains they’ve traversed. This final stretch offers both familiarity and a last bout of challenges. With the finish line in sight, participants are filled not only with a sense of accomplishment but also with the cherished memories of their journey through one of Montana’s most beautiful marathon routes.

Big Sky Marathon

Location: Ennis, MT
Date: July

The Big Sky Marathon in Montana is a testament to nature’s majesty. Starting at high altitudes, the race immediately presents expansive views of the surrounding landscapes. Towering mountains dot the horizon, their peaks often kissed by clouds. For those not used to higher elevations, the beginning might feel challenging, but the breathtaking surroundings provide ample distraction and motivation. The crisp mountain air, though thin, invigorates runners as they embark on this memorable journey.

As participants progress, the course meanders through a series of rolling hills. The path is a mix of compacted dirt trails and occasional stretches of asphalt. Flanking these trails are clusters of pine and fir trees, standing tall and casting long, dappled shadows. Here, the ambiance is peaceful, with only the rhythmic pounding of runners’ feet and the soft whispers of the wind as company. This section, while demanding due to its rolling nature, offers a meditative running experience.

Transitioning further, runners are led towards serene meadows. In these open spaces, one can witness Montana’s famed wildlife, from bounding deer to distant eagles soaring overhead. The grasslands, painted in various shades of green, are interspersed with wildflowers that dance with the breeze. This part of the marathon is relatively flat, giving runners a brief respite before the upcoming challenges.

Towards the end, the Big Sky Marathon reintroduces its initial ruggedness. The path once again climbs, demanding a final push from its participants. Yet, with the finish line drawing closer, the spirit of accomplishment fuels runners onward. Completing this marathon is not just about the physical feat, but also about soaking in the raw beauty of Montana’s landscapes.

Whitefish Marathon

Location: Whitefish, MT
Date: May

The Whitefish Marathon is a captivating race set against Montana’s unparalleled scenic backdrop. The race begins in the heart of Whitefish, a quaint town known for its rustic charm. As runners set off, they’re immediately greeted with the town’s friendly atmosphere, characterized by cheering locals and charming architecture. Soon after, the course leads runners away from the urban landscape, taking them into the embrace of nature.

Heading out of town, runners plunge into stretches of serene forested trails. These pathways are shaded by towering pines and cedars, their leaves whispering tales of ancient times. Every step taken on the soft, earthen track is accompanied by the gentle sounds of nature. This wooded segment, with its moderate ups and downs, challenges yet comforts with its cool shade and tranquility.

Eventually, the trees begin to thin, revealing panoramic vistas of Montana’s iconic mountain ranges. Here, majestic peaks dominate the horizon, some still crowned with snow, even in warmer months. These awe-inspiring sights serve as a perfect distraction from the fatigue setting in, invigorating runners with renewed energy. The course in this section undulates gracefully, mirroring the silhouette of the distant mountains.

As the marathon reaches its ending miles, runners re-enter Whitefish, where enthusiastic crowds await their return. The final stretch is a mix of gentle declines and flat roads, allowing runners to gather their remaining strength and sprint towards the finish. With every stride, the cheers grow louder, encapsulating the community’s spirit and pride in this iconic race. The Whitefish Marathon is not just a test of endurance; it’s a journey through Montana’s most picturesque landscapes.

Cedar Creek Marathon

Location: Columbia Falls, MT
Date: September

The Cedar Creek Marathon stands out as a beacon for nature enthusiasts and marathoners alike. Nestled in a picturesque region, the race begins near the pristine waters of Cedar Creek. With the early morning mist rising off the water, runners find themselves enveloped in a serene atmosphere, a hint of the journey ahead. The initial stretch, predominantly flat, allows participants to find their rhythm while soaking in the serene vibes of the creek.

Transitioning from the water’s edge, the course leads into dense, lush woodlands. Here, towering trees with their thick canopies create a cool, shaded path, a welcome respite from any harsh sun. The sound of leaves crunching underfoot and distant bird calls adds to the experience. Though the terrain in these woods is slightly undulating, the sheer beauty of nature acts as a perfect distraction, making the gentle climbs feel almost effortless.

Beyond the forested segment, the route presents open meadows, revealing a vast expanse of the sky. These grassy fields, dotted with wildflowers, offer a stark contrast to the earlier wooded sections. It’s in these stretches that runners can feel the gentle breeze, often carrying with it the sweet scent of blooming flora. A few rolling hills are sprinkled throughout this segment, challenging runners but also granting them sweeping views of the surrounding landscape.

As the marathon nears its conclusion, the course loops back, drawing runners closer to Cedar Creek once more. The sound of flowing water grows louder, signaling the end is near. The final miles are a mix of the earlier terrains, blending both the woodland and meadow paths. Upon crossing the finish line, the sense of accomplishment, coupled with the natural beauty of the route, leaves every runner with memories that last a lifetime.

Beaverhead Marathon

Location: Dillon, MT
Date: May

The Beaverhead Marathon is a testament to nature’s splendor, weaving through some of the most breathtaking landscapes. It begins near the famed Beaverhead Rock, a landmark known for its rich history and unique formation. As participants set off, they’re immediately greeted by the vast open plains that stretch out, offering unobstructed views of the horizon. This flat start provides runners with a chance to warm up their muscles and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Venturing onward, the course delves into a series of gentle rolling hills. Each ascent reveals panoramic vistas of the surrounding valleys, while each descent gives a momentary respite and a chance to regroup. In these sections, the sight of distant mountain peaks, cloaked in green or sometimes snow, acts as a motivation, urging runners to push forward. Moreover, the intermittent streams and rivers flowing alongside or across the path provide not only scenic beauty but also spots to refresh.

After conquering the hills, participants are led into dense woodlands. These forested patches, with their tall pines and cool shadows, offer a break from the sun’s intensity. The soft, earthy trails beneath the feet and the chirping of hidden birds overhead create an enchanting atmosphere, almost making one forget the physical exertion. As runners wind through these woods, the serenity and peace of the environment act as a balm to tired muscles.

Drawing closer to the finish line, the marathon pays one last tribute to its namesake, Beaverhead Rock. The course circles back, offering a closer view of this iconic monument. As participants make their final strides, the combination of the rock’s majesty and the diverse terrains they’ve traversed leaves its mark. Finishing the Beaverhead Marathon is about the physical accomplishment and experiencing the raw beauty of nature at its finest.

Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon

Location: Kalispell, MT
Date: September

The Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon is a nature lover’s dream, showcasing Montana’s untamed beauty. Starting near Foy’s Lake, runners are instantly greeted by the serene waterside views and the gentle rustling of leaves. As the trail moves forward, participants find themselves surrounded by dense woods, their canopies forming a protective shield from the sun. The path is well worn but still holds the charm of an unspoiled trail, making the initial stretch both scenic and pleasantly challenging.

Upon emerging from the woods, runners experience rolling terrains. These hills, while not too steep, test the stamina and determination of participants. However, the effort is handsomely rewarded. From these elevated points, marathoners get panoramic views of the Kalispell Valley. Additionally, the descent down these hills provides a brief moment of respite, allowing runners to catch their breath and enjoy the vistas.

The middle section of the marathon is characterized by a blend of open meadows and patches of forested areas. Here, runners can sometimes spot local wildlife, making for exciting encounters. Wildflowers dot the landscape, and the distant mountains serve as a constant, inspiring backdrop. As runners navigate this segment, the combination of flat stretches and mild inclines ensures that the race remains engaging without becoming too strenuous.

As the marathon nears its end, the trail takes runners towards the majestic Blacktail Mountain. Drawing closer to this natural landmark, the path becomes more rugged, demanding one final push. The culmination at Blacktail offers not just a sense of accomplishment, but also panoramic views that seem to stretch endlessly. For many, finishing the Foy’s to Blacktail Trail Marathon is about the unforgettable journey through Montana’s heartland.


In wrapping up, Montana’s marathons truly stand out, showcasing the state’s unparalleled natural beauty. The majestic landscapes aren’t just a backdrop; they’re an integral part of every runner’s journey. From starting line to finish, participants get views that are as motivating as they are awe-inspiring.

Furthermore, the sense of community in Montana’s marathon scene is palpable. Runners come for the challenge but leave with lasting friendships and cherished memories. It’s this unique blend of competition and camaraderie that keeps many returning year after year.

It’s evident that Montana offers more than just a race—it offers an unforgettable experience. Every stride taken under the vast Montana sky leaves an imprint, not just on the trail but on the heart.

In conclusion, if you’re seeking a marathon that challenges the body and uplifts the spirit, Montana should be at the top of your list. The state’s races truly encapsulate the essence of marathon running in its purest form. Happy running!

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