13 Incredible Triathlons in the U.S.

The Best Triathlon Races in the U.S.

Being a triathlete is no easy feat: In addition to all the laps you have to swim and miles you’ll log on your bike and on foot during training season, there’s also the logistics. Transporting your gear and setting up an efficient transition area can make for a mega-challenging event. So if you’re going to devote yourself to the hours of sweating, planning and traveling that one of these races entails, you should make sure the destination can’t be beat! Our favorite triathlons around the country boast vacation-worthy locales, epic courses and some of the sweetest finisher’s swag out there to help make your race season memorable. Take your pick below and get ready to dive right in!

RELATED: A Beginner’s Guide to Triathlon Training

Keep in mind: Most triathlon events having rolling registration fees, meaning the price goes up as race day inches closer. Sign up as soon as you know which race you want to take on to get the best deal. (Note: The events below are listed by date, starting this spring. Need more time to train? We’ve included plenty of summer and fall triathlons, too.)

13 Must-Try Triathlons in the U.S.

Wildflower Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Wildflower Triathlon

1. Wildflower Triathlon
Location: Bradley, CA
Date: May 2–3, 2015

A mountain-biking triathlon, an Olympic course, or a 70.3-mile race aren’t exactly a laid-back nature walk or camping trip — that is, unless, your destination is this triathlon festival on the central coast of California. Wildflower race weekend is known for being fun, relaxed and festival-like. Yep, camping is even encouraged! Sign up for the Ultimate Wildflower Challenge to take on the 70.3 race on Saturday and the Olympic course on Sunday. Then pitch a tent and sleep under the stars to recover. Registration fees: $175 for mountain-bike tri; $225 for Olympic; $350 for long course

Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon
Photo by Kurt Hoy

2. Escape from Alcatraz
Location: San Francisco, CA
Date: June 7, 2015

Famous inmate Al Capone never broke free from the Rock — but that’s your mission should you choose this epic Northern California race. The super-popular tri starts next to the iconic prison, across the Bay from San Francisco. If you’re a strong swimmer, this one’s for you: The course overall is similar to Olympic distance with a shorter (18-mile) bike ride but longer (1.5-mile) swim through icy-cold (think: 55-degree) water. Finish with a challenging 8-mile run, which involves a 400-step climb up a cliff on Baker Beach, past sights like the Presidio and Golden Gate Bridge. Registration fee: $425

IRONMAN Boulder Triathlon
Photo: Nils Nilsen/IRONMAN

3. Ironman 70.3 Boulder
Location: Boulder, CO
Date: June 13, 2015

With its fast course and stunning Colorado scenery, this is one of the IRONMAN 70.3 courses that draws the biggest crowd. Make sure to fit some altitude training into your schedule if you sign up for this race: The starting elevation is a Rocky-Mountain-high 5,200 feet, you’ll top out at 5,715 and the  gain is a total of 1,243 feet. Registration fee: From $275

Win for KC Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Win for KC

4. Win for KC Triathlon
Location: Kansas City, MO
Date: July 25, 2015

Road races — with aid stations and thousands of disposable water cups along their routes — are traditionally not super-eco-conscious. Being friendly to the earth, however, it one of the main goals of this event in the heartland — in addition to, well, racing hard and achieving your personal best. Racers are encouraged to carpool to the event, food waste from the course and finishing area is composted afterward, and the charity Soles4Souls collects gently used sneakers to donate. The women-only Win for KC is so responsible, in fact, it was the only triathlon in the U.S. to be certified gold level by the Council for Responsible Sport in 2014. Registration fee: $98

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IRONMAN Lake Placid
Photo: Nils Nilsen/IRONMAN

5. IRONMAN Lake Placid
Location: Lake Placid, NY
Date: July 26, 2015

If qualifying for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii is still just a dream, signing up to swim, bike and run your way through this upstate New York town could be a great alternative. Aside from Kona, this 140.6-mile race is the longest-running IRONMAN event in the U.S. After a two-lap swim in clear Mirror Lake, you’ll transition to your bike in the Olympic speed-skating oval. Then with a ride and run full of rolling hills (that amount to a staggering 6,898-foot elevation gain) set amid the beautiful Adirondacks — plus plenty of peppy spectators — you can use the local sites of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics for inspiration. Registration fee: $725

Iron Girl Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Iron Girl

6. Iron Girl Pleasant Prairie
Location: Pleasant Prairie, WI
Date: August 9, 2015

This women-only sprint course is a fun, friendly option for new triathletes or female racers who want to have a blast with friends as they compete in their first event. After a 1/2-mile swim in spring-fed Lake Andrea, you’ll take on a 12-mile bike ride through Prairie Springs Park and finish up with a 5K run. Registration fee: from $110 for sprint distance

Toughman Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Toughman

7. Toughman Utah
Location: Provo, UT
Date: August 22, 2015

Whether you want to jump from sprint- and Olympic-distance races up to a 70.3 for the first time or you’re an experienced endurance racer with your sights on a new PR, this flat, fast course is a smart choice. The 1.2-mile swim takes place in the calm water of a sheltered harbor in Utah Lake State Park. Then both the bike ride (56 miles) and half-marathon run (along the scenic Provo River) are virtually hill-free—helping you pick up the pace and finish in record time. Registration fee: $179

Chicago Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Chicago Triathlon

8. Chicago Triathlon
Location: Chicago, IL
Date: August 30, 2015

Participants have flocked to this race more than 30 years, to experience Lake Michigan in all its mid-summer glory and to feed off the friendly energy of the midwestern city. After a swim in the lake, you’ll ride and run along Lake Shore Drive and pass the famous Shedd Aquarium along the way. Choose from super-sprint (with a 375-meter swim, 10K bike, and 2.5K run), sprint and Olympic distances or get a few friends to sign up as a relay team. Registration fees: Super sprint from $60; sprint from $130; Olympic from $165

TriRock Austin Triathlon
Photo courtesy of TriRock Austin Triathlon

9. Tri Rock Austin Triathlon
Location: Austin, TX
Date: September 7, 2015

You’ve had enough hot nights and beachy weekends to drink a few beers. So spend Labor Day in the cultural capital of the Lonestar State competing in this fun series — swimming in picturesque Lady Bird Lake, followed by a fast bike course and finishing with a run along the Auditorium Shores running path. The sprint distance is ideal for a more low-key weekend — and more time afterward to seek out the best barbecue in town — or you can opt for the Olympic-length course for a bigger challenge. After, swap out your sneakers for some cowboy boots and go kick back as you say “so long” to summer. Registration fee: from $130 for sprint; from $150 for Olympic

Lobsterman Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Lobsterman Triathlon

10. Lobsterman Triathlon
Location: Freeport, ME
Date: September 12, 2015

Whether you’re a local or just love lobster enough you’re willing to travel, this is an ultimate Olympic-distance race. After a 0.9-mile swim in cool Casco Bay (we’re talking mid-60-degrees water), you’ll ride along breathtaking pastures and ocean views around Freeport and Brunswick, Maine, topped off with a 10K run. Then the fun starts, with a lobster bake for all finishers. We love Gatorade as much as the next person, but for some reason, beer and lobster sound better. Registration fee: From $110

Nations Triathlon
Photo courtesy of Nations Triathlon

11. The Nation’s Triathlon
Location: Washington, DC
Date: September 13, 2015

Soak up the nation’s rich past and use it inspire you toward a pride-worthy finish. Following a swim in the Potomac River, you’ll ride through the capital city. Complete the course with a run course centered around the historical landmarks — make your way past the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument to curve past the iconic Jefferson Memorial as you near the finish line. Registration fees: Sprint from $145; Olympic from $190

Kiawah Triathlon
Photo by Jamie Cathcart Rood

12. Kiawah Island Triathlon
Location: Kiawah Island, SC
Date: September 20, 2015

Beach lovers unite! About a mile of the run is along the smooth, packed sand at this golf resort community near Charleston, South Carolina. With a small, friendly race field, a warm ocean swim and super-flat bike and run terrain, this tri (which is approximately Olympic distance) is an optimal choice for newbies. Once you’ve earned your shiny medal (last year’s were shaped like one of the local alligators), treat yourself to a victory beer and enjoy live music. Registration fee: From $125

RELATED: 15 Fun, Fast and Beginner-Friendly Marathons

Great Floridian Triathlon
Photo: Mark Lepow/LepowPhoto.com 

13. Great Floridian Endurance Festival
Location: Clermont, FL
Date: October 24, 2015

The Ironman-distance tri is known to be beautiful (including the warm, calm swim in Lake Minneola), but it’s also extremely tough. It’s full of difficult rolling hills in a state where most racecourses are relatively flat, and though it’s typically cooled off a bit since summer, temps often still reach the mid-80s. Not ready to take on the full 140.6-mile route? There are shorter races and a relay option as well. Registration fee: $450

On the selection process:
To compile this list, we tapped into our network of triathlon contacts around the country — including popular bloggers, experienced coaches and knowledgeable writers and editors. We spent a lot of time reading online participant reviews and soliciting input from the entire editorial team. With any of our top race lists, we believe it’s most important what the triathlete has to say, which is why we spend so much time researching to confirm our selections are based on the participants’ positive experiences, the reputation of the race and the unique value they offer to the triathlete. We try to create these lists to not only feature some of the always-popular, bucket list annual races, but to also shine some light on some newer, smaller or challenging races that offer the triathlete something off the beaten path to create a more diverse (and somewhat surprising) compilation.

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