One of the reasons I started Northwest Dirt Churners is to explore trails in certain sections of the Pacific Northwest and describe the area so readers could plan a trip around that experience. Sometimes, however, it’s much easier to pay an experienced guide to run with, eat fine meals, have a campsite set up for a good night’s rest, and meet other trail runners. As Aspire Adventure Running founder Abram Dickerson says, “Frequently, runners don’t need a guide to do our routes; they need logistical support and information to unlock wilderness trails. What’s great about our model is that if an incident does occur on the trail or if there is someone on a trip with less wilderness experience, our staff can provide the education, support, and emergency response that is more consistent with traditional guiding.”
Several companies focus on trail running in the Alps, Patagonia, Central America, Africa, and other spectacular places around the globe. However, with the picturesque trails of the Pacific Northwest, we’ll focus on our experiences with guided trail running tours and camps in our region.
I’ve made two trips with Orange Torpedo on the Rogue River’s Wild and Scenic area in Southern Oregon. Orange Torpedo Trips is a river guide company with tours throughout the Pacific Northwest, with a running/hiking option on the Rogue River. The 42-mile Rogue River National Historic Trail follows the Rogue River from Graves Creek near Merlin to Big Bend across the river from Agness. A guide follows runners by raft, which means the only thing runners need to carry is water and a gel. Before the run, Orange Torpedo asks about dietary needs and beverages of choice. The guide will set up aid stations as needed along the route. Trips have three, and four-day options. A custom two-day run may be arranged based on availability. Runners stay in lodges along the route, where family-style dinner and breakfast are served to all the guests. Orange Torpedo will have your bags in the room and a cold beer in the fridge waiting at each stop. Once finished, Orange Torpedo will shuttle runners back to the operations center in Merlin.
Orange Torpedo Rogue River Guided Price: 3-day $1349, 4-day $1649 (based on double occupancy)
Founder Abram Dickerson came into running with a climbing and mountain sports background. “Running became a way to explore the remote wilderness and backcountry trails and terrain with less weight and more fitness,” remarks Dickerson. “With that also came some logistical issues. Shuttles, key swaps, and crewing often were necessary to do the routes that I found most interesting. That logistical need, paired with the craving for delicious food and snacks at the end of big mountain days was and has continued to be the essence of Aspire.”
Aspire trips have always been grounded in the wilderness. “Our goal is to unlock remote, beautiful, and wild spaces in a way that is sustainable with best wilderness practices and uniquely tailored to the needs of runners,” states Dickerson. “We’ve worked hard to develop different trip ‘styles’ that open up these paces to runners of all distance levels.” Aspire even has a crew operating in specific roles: Sweep, Super, and Camp so all runners, no matter the pace, will feel comfortable in a group setting. “Our trips are magnets for mountain/endurance athletes who are looking for a non-competitive and ego-free challenge,” declares Dickerson. “Each trip brings together like-minded folks who are quickly adopted into the Aspire family.”
Aspire offers three types of running trips.
- Stage – A focus on big multi-day running goals.
- Rendezvous – For communities of runners to gather and celebrate trail and mountain culture.
- Skills – Courses that help runners develop the tools for more independent backcountry travel.
Jacob Nigro attended the Territory Run Camp with Aspire from Mt. Baker in 2021. “The best part was being out somewhere new and exploring cool new areas,” exclaims Nigro. “I’m not sure if the guides just picked the best locations, or if you really can’t go wrong in that area, but every day’s trails were stunning. Also, since we were staying nearby, we didn’t have to get up super early to get there on time or worry about getting back too late. Most days we were out 8-3, so we had lots of time to chill/recover each day.”
“The food was really good and varied, says Nigro. “Things were cooked fresh in the kitchen for each meal. They made hot breakfasts, such as frittatas, oatmeal, etc, and hot dinners, such as soups, roasted veggies, and pasta. They also made homemade dessert each night. Finally, they had a keg from a local brewery, as well as assorted cans. I know that they had vegan versions of everything. Lunches were DIY since we would be out. They gave us the stuff to make sandwiches, wraps, etc. They also had a large supply of electrolytes, bars, and gels that we could bring for fuel as well.”
Nigro did say the routes ran were different than what was on the website, which was frustrating since he downloaded them to his watch beforehand. But Nigro declares “it was a really good experience! I especially like this ‘Rendezvous’ style trip (compared to their ‘Stage’ style trips like the Wonderland) because it allowed people to run what they felt comfortable doing, instead of being forced to do the same route as everyone else.”
Alpenflo’s JT Lehman creates outdoor group learning experiences. “With Alpenflo, I’m trying to create experiences where people can enjoy an epic trip while learning the skills they need to scheme up their own adventures in big-mountain environments,” states Lehman. Apenflo’s previous experiences involve scenic places like the Baily Range in the Olympics, Mt. Margret Backcountry near Mt. St. Helens, and the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Subscribe to the Alpenflo newsletter to learn more about upcoming trips.
Alpenflo experiences range from $350-$500
Steens Mountain Adult Running Camp is a new camp from Max King. If you ran cross country in high school in Oregon, you have probably run or know someone who participated in the classic high school running camp in the remote area of Southeast Oregon. The high elevation camp is a lot of fun and whips runners into shape quickly. King has been a coach at the camp for years. He’ll use his experience to run a camp with adults in mind, emphasizing trail running skills, team building, etc. In addition, King has put on other adult trail running camps in scenic areas including the Wild and Scenic Rogue River, for 2022.
Steens Mountain Adult Running Camp is $1975 for the six-day experience.
Evergreen Excursions is a trail running tour company started by Orcas Running and Evergreen Trail Runs. Evergreen Excursions started in 2021 and I decided to try their North Cascades trip through Park Creek Pass last September based on a low price of $400. Unfortunately, wildfires changed the point-to-point route to an out and back. It also changed the logistics in that we camped at the original start, had to get up very early and drive to the Colonial Creek Campground. We had our van, but others had to set up, take down, and set up tents in a day’s time. I’m not a fan of out and backs, especially if I have to pay for it. So I asked for a refund but was denied because I didn’t add the trip insurance when I sign up for the trip. Please note, that every tour company has a no refund policy with a trip insurance option.
Camp host Katie was very nice but had never run as far as the 39-mile course. So she didn’t realize headlamps were needed for a distance this large on a challenging course. The guides had never been on the Thunder Creek Trail either. One guide helped a runner at the back finish and the other guide told me to go ahead because she was struggling. So I had “to guide” a runner to the finish since he had no headlamp. The North Cascades were wonderful, but I can’t help but think that I would have had more fun running by myself or with a group of friends. The $400 basically went to the camp spots and some beer and food at the end. Since Evergreen Excursions is new to the touring business, I’m hoping they learn from this and provide better trips to trail runners in the future.
Evergreen Excursions offer trips to North Cascades, Ross Lake, and Goat Rocks for $400-$425