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Wonderland Mountain Challenge Course Overview


Wonderland Mountain Challenge

The Wonderland Mountain Challenge at ACE Adventure Resort May 29th features three different race options including a half marathon, 10K run, and 5 mile hike. These stunning race routes will take you into the New River Gorge past scenic overlooks, cascading waterfalls, and abandoned coal towns. Folks who have participated in this run tell us it one of their favorites and return year after year while first timers are certain to fall in love with these West Virginia trails. Run wild with us this Memorial Day weekend and let’s kickoff a great summer season!

Course Overview

The run kicks off next to ACE Adventure Waterpark where half marathoners and 10K runners will be following the same exact route. Folks hiking the 5-mile walk will start off in a different direction to climb Wonderland Mountain. Everyone will face his or her biggest climb in the first mile of the race route as you gain about 400 feet in elevation. Once you make this initial climb expect the course to level out as you contour along the same elevation following the ridgeline. Just past the second mile marker the 5-mile hikers will join the runners and racers to encounter the first water station on the course.

Leaving the first water station all racers will follow the Sunset Trail beginning their descent into the New River Gorge. This trail starts off relatively flat as you wrap around the point of the mountaintop. At the third mile marker you will begin loosing elevation dropping halfway into the gorge. Once the course hits the Vulture’s Roost trail you will be treated to a phenomenal view of the forest as you run along the top of a 50-foot cliff, hints the name Vulture’s Roost. The next few miles of the course are hands down the most beautiful as you wind your way through the rhododendron thickets and along the cliff-line that defines the rim of the New River Gorge.

Another water station will refresh you just before the four mile mark and you can sprint down the gravel road making your way toward Erskine Trail and some electrifying vistas into the New River Gorge National Park. Keep your eyes peeled, as you will be running right past the old mine entrances to the Erskine coal mine that operated from 1890 – 1936. The trail again stays fairly flat as you follow the same elevation contour through the gorge and into the canyon of Arbuckle Creek at mile 5.

10K runners face the final push in their mountain challenge as they climb up Arbuckle Creek past waterfalls and cascading whitewater. Once you hit the road it is only a short .25 mile sprint around the lake and to the finish line.  Half marathoners will have the opportunity to refuel at a water station before hitting Oather Trail back out toward the rim of the gorge just over one mile to the Concho Overlook. This overlook features a stunning 180-degree view of the New River Gorge and the town of Thurmond. Towering 800 feet above Thurmond the buildings resemble that of a toy train set, this is the best view in all or West Virginia.

As you move away from the gorge you will gain about 200 feet of elevation up to Thurmond Mountain and follow the 3-mile, Thurmond Mountain Trail, around the mountain and through the beautiful mountain forest. Just before mile 11 the final water station will greet sweaty tired runners ready to push through the last 2 miles before hitting the finish line. Thoughts of burritos and cold beer will be dancing in your head as you dash past the aqua blue limestone pond, up Froghopper Trail, and past the cliffs in Aspen Cove. The last half-mile will have you sprinting along the mud obstacle course and back to the finish line at ACE Adventure Waterpark.

Cool off by jumping into the lake, plunging down the slide, or blob your running partner sky high! All finishers will receive a 2021 Wonderland Mountain Challenge race medal, plus a free burrito lunch is provided for all runners along with cash prizes for the overall winners of the half marathon and 10K run. Stick around to have dinner and drinks at The Lost Paddle, and take advantage of the free Saturday night camping for all racers. Get signed up now and run wild with ACE Adventure Resort this Memorial Day weekend. We can’t wait to see you at our Wonderland Mountain Challenge!

BY Chris Colin

Chris Colin is a raft guide, whitewater kayaker, active caver, and as Special Events Coordinator at ACE he manages, promotes, and executes special events like the Mountain Music Festival.