Getting started in adventure racing is awfully intimidating. Sure, it sounds awesome on paper, but when you start to seriously consider the prospect of hiking, cycling, kayaking, or snowshoeing your way through the wilderness in a race against time, you can quickly feel overwhelmed. So, maybe hold off on registering for the ten-day Patagonian Expedition Race until you’ve gotten some beginner-friendly adventure races under your belt. Here are five great races for your first foray into the wild world of adventure racing in the US.
Where: Oviedo (near Orlando, Florida)
Organizer: Florida Xtreme Adventures
There are plenty of options at this event. The Father’s Day Adventure Race, typically held near Orlando, Florida, boasts a one-hour family race, a three-hour sport race, and an elite six-hour race for teams of two or three people.
The family course includes mountain biking, about a mile of paddling, and two miles of hiking. There’s also a pre-race clinic on how to read a map, how to use a compass, and proper canoe paddling technique.
For those with a bit more experience, the three-hour course includes longer bouts of biking, paddling, and overland hiking. The elite race spices things up with more demanding tasks—two hours of each discipline, often involving tougher terrain and upstream paddling.
If you want to bring along some less-experienced comrades, you can participate in the family race for free if you’ve also signed up for the sport or elite races.
Where: Orcas Island, Washington
Organizer: Quest Races
If you’re the type to take on a big challenge right off the bat, the Island Quest Adventure Race might be up your alley. The three or 12-hour adventure race in the San Juan Islands of the Pacific Northwest challenges teams of two, three, or four to hiking, biking, and kayaking (12-hour race only) through the chain of islands that lie between Washington and Vancouver.
If you choose the 12-hour event, you’ll want to make sure you and your teammates have had plenty of time to practice navigation, paddling, mountain biking, and hiking so you’re ready for the challenge. Make sure you plan out how to get there too—you’ll need to catch a ferry to race HQ on Orcas Island.
Where: Cable, Wisconsin
Organizer: 180 Adventure
For a mix of land and water navigation right in the middle of the Heartland, look no further than Stubborn Mule. This multi-race event has a five-hour race that’s perfect for beginners, but you’ll also be rubbing shoulders with grizzled veterans competing in the 30-hour race. They might even teach you a thing or two!
Solo competitors can compete, as can teams of two, three, or four people. The course involves road biking, mountain biking, hiking, and paddling, albeit on lakes, not down a raging river. If you don’t have your own boat, no worries; the race provides canoes for teams and kayaks for solo racers.
Where: Bentonville, Virgina
Organizer: Adventure Enablers
As the name suggests, this race is not designed for beginners but good for first-time adventure racers. Don’t think it’ll be a cake-walk, though—the event covers 10-15 miles of trekking, 12 miles of paddling, and about 15-20 miles of mountain biking in Virginia’s Shenandoah River State Park.
The gear requirements and rulebook are more relaxed, so if you want to work out the nuts and bolts of how to actually do an adventure race before getting bogged down in rules and regulations, this is a great choice.
Where: Great Pond Mountain Wildlands, East Orland, Maine
Organizer: Strong Machine Adventure Racing
The Wildlands Adventure Challenge will take place for the first time in October and offers fun for the whole family. The race offers a one to three and an eight-hour variant; the shorter version is perfect for a newcomer including hiking and canoeing in provided boats. The 8-Hour race will be an adventure by foot, bike, and kayak through the diverse terrain in the Wildlands.