9 Fun and Unique Summer Marathons in the U.S.

Many runners have more time to travel to race destinations in the summer months. But there aren't as many marathon races in July, August, and early September. Spring and fall are more popular seasons for U.S. marathon runners since the weather is more comfortable for distance running.

But if hot-weather running is your thing, you still have plenty of races to choose from. Fun summer marathons are out there, especially if you’re willing and able to travel. Consider these unique and exciting places to run or walk 26.2 miles in the summer.

Missoula Marathon

Runner in Missoula

Aurora Photos/Getty Images


Where: Missoula, Montana
When: Late June
Why run this summer marathon: The Missoula Marathon starts early, so participants get to watch a spectacular sunrise from behind the mountains as they run through the scenic Montana countryside. The course finishes in beautiful, historic downtown Missoula.

With a cap of 1,300 participants, this race is perfect for runners seeking a rural, community-supported marathon with beautiful scenery. And with a 7.5-hour course limit, it’s also walker-friendly.

San Francisco Marathon

marathon over bridge
Marty Honig/Getty Images

Where: San Francisco, California
When: Late July
Why do it: The San Francisco Marathon takes race participants on a scenic tour of the city’s natural beauty and famous landmarks, from the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf to gorgeous Golden Gate Park, the Haight-Ashbury district, and the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park. A highlight for most runners is crossing San Francisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge.

Of course, there are some hills, but you won’t be running any of the ridiculously steep hills the city is known for. San Francisco is the perfect destination for a summer marathon, as the city’s typical July weather is typically warm, mild, and dry.

Crater Lake Rim Marathon

Crater Lake

Bruce Shippee/EyeEm/Getty Images

Where: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
When: Early to mid-August
Why do it: One of the most picturesque marathon courses in the U.S., the Crater Lake Rim Marathon is run along the rim of majestic Crater Lake. You'll be challenged by the rugged mountains, with altitudes ranging from 5,980 to 7,850 feet above sea level, but you'll also be seriously rewarded with breathtaking views.

Pikes Peak Marathon

Manitou Springs

 Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Where: Manitou Springs, Colorado
When: Late August
Why do it: If you assume that the Pikes Peak Marathon is difficult based on its name, you’re absolutely correct. The race is so physically challenging that race organizers don’t just let anyone attempt it.

To qualify, you must have completed a half-marathon or longer race in under 2:25:00 or a marathon or longer race in under 6:00:00.

If you make the cut and are up for the challenge, the difficult ascent to the top and running at high altitude are worth the breathtaking (literally) views. You'll have a unique experience and ​a lifetime of bragging rights.

The race begins and finishes in Manitou Springs, but the majority of the course is run on Barr Trail in Pike National Forest. The first half of the course has an elevation gain (start to summit) of 7,815 feet. Once runners reach the summit of Pikes Peak, they turn around and head back down to the finish.

Santa Rosa Marathon

Santa Rosa


John Elk/Getty Images 

Where: Santa Rosa, California
: Late August
Why do it: The Santa Rosa Marathon allows runners to experience all the beauty of California wine country on a flat, fast course. Participants start and finish in the Old Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. The fun continues with a post-race festival at the Santa Rose Beer Fest, complete with pancakes and a free beer-tasting glass, plus vendors and live music.

Sioux Falls Marathon

Sioux Falls, South Dakota


DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images 

Where: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
When: Late August or early September
Why do it: The Sioux Falls Marathon route is a loop course that takes you on a scenic 26.2-mile journey around Sioux Falls. You’ll experience the city’s historic downtown, Falls Park, the Sioux Falls River Greenway, and an award-winning trail alongside the banks of the Big Sioux River.

Air Force Marathon

Dayton OH


Erik Lykins/Getty Images

Where: Dayton, Ohio
When: Mid to late September
Why do it: If you’re looking for a smaller, fast, and well-organized marathon with plenty of inspiration and support along the way, the Air Force Marathon may be for you. From the pre-race pasta dinner at the Air Force Museum​ to running through an Air Force base to the Air Force personnel handing out medals at the finish line, the race offers numerous opportunities to appreciate and honor the military.

Quad Cities Marathon



Ken Ilio/Getty Images 

Where: Moline, Illinois
When: Late September
Why do it: The Quad Cities Marathon course features one of the most scenic river views in the country. It covers four cities, three bridges, two states, and one island, all along the mighty Mississippi River.

Race weekend offers something for everyone. Along with the marathon, there's a half marathon, marathon relay, 5K, Pump-N-Run, a one-mile walk, and even a micro-marathon for the kids.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. USA Marathon List. USA Marathons.

  2. MissoulaMarathon.org. Race Info/FAQ.

  3. San Francisco Marathon. The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon and Elevation Pricing. April 28, 2014.

  4. Crater Lake Rim Runs. Event details.

  5. Pikes Peak Marathon. The Course.

  6. Santa Rosa Marathon. Race Details.

  7. Quad Cities Marathon. Volunteers & Spectators.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.