My Canadian ultramarathon bucket list

As the second largest country in the world on land mass, filled with Great Lakes, mountains, and stunning Trans-Canada trails, Canada makes for an ideal race destination. As a native to the country who loves to explore the beautiful nature close to home, I have several races on my bucket list that I will be looking to complete in the next few years. With that, here are the details of every ultramarathon on my to do list in Canada.


Location: Charlevoix, QC
Distance: 50k, 80k, 100k
Series: Golden Trail Running Series
Date: Late June – Early July

Previous Winners (50k):
– (M) Jean-Philippe Thibodeau (5:01:49)
– (F) Katherine Short (5:40:42)

The Quebec Mega Run races through the banks of the St. Lawrence River across two mountains near Quebec City. It features nine different events, including a 50k, 80k and 100k. Aside from the glorious scenery, one of the appeals to the race for me is the fact that it’s part of the Golden Trail Racing Series, which is a cross-continent series that takes place in various parts of the world all leading up to one final stage in Europe.

Race website


Location: Whistler, BC
Distance: 50k, 100k
Series: Golden Trail Running Series
Date: Late September

Previous Winners:
– (M) Ryan Becker (4:49:01)
– (F) Kalie McCrystal (5:59:32)

The Whistler Alpine Meadows 50k takes place in one of my favourite spots in Canada – along Cheakamus Lake, and the mountains and tiny villages of Whistler. The race features a 1200m incline and just three aid stations along the way, not to mention the altitude of the Whistler mountains.


The Beav Trail Race takes place in the stunning Hilton Falls Conservation Area inside Milton, ON. The race is quite competitive, with several racers finishing the 50k in under 5 hours.

Location: Milton, ON
Distance: 50k
Series: Ontario Ultra & Trail Racing Series
Date: Early November

Previous Winners:
– (M) Brett Lunnie (4:44:15)
– (F) Tanya Porcellato (4:32:05)


Location: Lake of Bays, ON
Distance: 56k
Series: Ontario Ultra & Trail Racing Series
Date: Early July

Previous Winners:
– (M) Brendan Morphet (5:21:05)
– (F) Trish Benoit (7:45:46)

The Limberlost Challenge follows a 14k loop inside the Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve, that runners are tasked with completing four times for a total of 56k. For runners looking to get accustomed to the course first, there’s also a 28k that features the same loop completed twice.


Location: Port Moody, BC
Distance: 50k
Series: Coast Mountain Trail Running
Date: Early April

Previous Winners:
– (M) Nicolas Leach (4:33:14)
– (F) Emma Thompson (5:18:18)

With an ascent amounting over 1800m, the Diez Vista 50k still manages to boast some impressive times across the board and a fast-paced race in the mountains.


Location: Orillia, Ontario
Distance: 50k
Series: N/A
Date: Late April

Previous Winners:
– (M) Danny Tresise (4:59:13)
– (F) Krista Allen (5:16:12)

Perhaps sounding a bit scarier than it actually is, the Pick Your Poision Trail Race allows runners to select 1, 2 or 4 loops of the course through Craighurst, Ontario, the last of which features the 50k.


Location: Goderich/Auburn, Ontario
Distance: 50k
Series: N/A
Date: Late October

Previous Winners:
– (M) Benjamin Congram (4:59:15)
– (F) Mary Thompson (5:15:48)

The Bad Thing is a point to point race in the beautiful but tiny town of Goderich, Ontario, racing from the Maitland Trail to the Auburn Riverside Retreat. The race site warns that this course is not for inexperienced trail runners. But similar to the Limberlost Trail, there is also a 25k option if you want to get accustomed to the course first. They even have a full PDF of information detailing everything you need to know about the race, only further highlighting its legitimacy. The times aren’t outrageously competitive, but that may also speak to the difficulty of the course.


Run Off The Grid takes place in Mattawa, ON, and is self-described as the longest and toughest remote trail run in Northern Ontario. The course features a 100% trail route through the Laurentian Mountains of Nipissing, across a 12.5km loop.

Location: Mattawa, ON
Distance: 50k
Series: Ontario Ultra & Trail Racing Series
Date: Late September

Previous Winners:
– (M) Rafael Bethencourt Guimera (4:39:26)
– (F) Erin Ackles-Pennington (8:46:49)


Location: Cambridge, Ontario
Distance: 50k, 12-hour
Series: Ontario Ultra & Trail Racing Series
Date: Mid-June

Previous Winners:
– (M) ​Nicolas Cazelais (6:36:43)
– (F) Fay Dunbabin (8:11:05)

The Conquer the Canuck Ultra takes place in Shade’s Mills Conservation Area inside Cambridge, ON. While the race would be local for me, it doesn’t necessary live up to its cool sounding name. The course features 6.25 km loops in a fairly flat forested area. I’ve run only a few times through the area, due to the quickness by which you reach from one point of the trail to the other. The results meanwhile are incredibly underwhelming.


Location: Hamilton, Ontario
Distance: 50k, 50-mile, 100k, 100-mile
Series: Ontario Ultra & Trail Racing Series
Date: Late May

Previous Winners (50k)
– (M) ​Matthew Farquharson – 3:43:32
– (F) Katie McParlan – 4:30:00

Sulphur Springs is one of the most epic races in Ontario, featuring several distances for runners of a wide range of endurance capacities. The race features a 20k loop through the glorious Dundas Conversation Area in Hamilton, ON. It even features a set of highly competitive runners, with both the male and female winning times from 2019 (last available data) significantly higher than most races on this list.


The Blackfoot Ultra, with a slogan “Death by 100 hills on the Prairies”, lives up to its epic sounding name. The race features a 50km, 50-mile and 100k, all through the beautiful mountains of Blackfoot Recreation Area near Edmonton, AB.

Location: Edmonton, AB
Distance: 50k, 50-mile, 100k
Series: N/A
Date: Late May

Previous Winners (50k):
– (M) ​Murray Tuininga – (4:26:30)
– (F) Tess Owen (4:35:45)


Location: Gaspésie, QB
Distance: 50k, 50-mile, 100k
Series: International Trail Runner Association (ITRA)
Date: Mid-June

Previous Winners (50k):
– (M) ​Joshua Ferenc (4:02:22)
– (F) Melodie Gilbert (4:20:56)

At risk of being egotistic, the Gaspesia 100 in Quebec claims to be a “must in the world of Canadian trail running.” Given the remoteness of the location and the depth of terrain, it’s hard not to agree. The race takes place across the shoreline and mountains of Gaspésie, around a UNESCO Heritage Site. It features a 54k, 80k, 100k, and 160k (100-mile event), allowing runners to select a distance that they see fit.

Notos Ultra-Trail

Location: Victoriaville, QB
Distance: 64km, 45km
Date: Mid-June

Previous Winners (50k):
– (M) ​Joshua Ferenc (4:02:22)
– (F) Melodie Gilbert (4:20:56)

Another stunning race in the remote landscapes of Quebec, the Notos Ultra Trail features a 45k and 60k (among shorter distances). I feel like I’m only now learning about how many mountains Quebec can call home to, and this is just another race among many that feel worth checking out.


Location: Rossland, BC
Distance: 50k
Date: Mid-July

Personally, I’d rather my goats stay unbroken. But the obscurity of the name, combined with the outlandish route through the Red Mountain Resort in BC make this an incredibly enticing race. Rossland, BC is known for its high altitude, which makes this all the more intriguing of a pure endurance test through the mountains.


Location: Haliburton, ON
Distance: 50k, 50-mile, 100-mile
Date: Mid-September

Previous Winners (50k):
– (M) Christian Braun (5:02:22)
– (F) Rebecka Schultz (6:04:30)

You kind of know that a race is insane when it offers five different events. The Haliburton Trail Race is another one of those legendary ultramarathons that you hear about growing up in Ontario as a runner, and it would be cool to conquer the course now as an adult. Advertised as taking place through great lakes, forests and streams, the scenery sounds delightful.


Location: Hamilton, ON
Distance: 5-hour, 12-hour, 24-hours, 100-mile
Date: Late July

Previous Winners (24-hour):
– (M) Wade Speirs (117.4km)
– (F) Charlotte Vasarhelyi (106km)

There’s something so sinister yet so enticing about the insanity of multi-hour ultramarathon events. The Barkley Marathons in Tennessee have this kind of reputation for the pure impossibility of the race, and Canada’s own version might just be the Tally in the Valley. In fact, the race was inspired by Laz Lake’s (creator of the Barkley) own Backyard Ultra, which features a very similar presence (albeit only inviting ultra champions to participate). But back to the Tally in the Vallley – like the Barkley, race directors love to throw participants for a loop, changing up the course every year.

Participants run a 7km loop through the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, which they can complete one time, three times, or for hours on end. The most enticing events has to be the ‘Gong Show’, where runners are tasked with staying awake for a full 24 hours as they run a 7km loop every hour. The gong signals the start of every single hour (simultaneously the cut-off to complete the previous hour), and runners race until they physically can’t complete another loop. The race website emphasizes that two runners made it to hour 24 hour mark at the previous event, creating an exciting race to the finish for the winner of the final loop. The insanity of this speaks deeply to me, and after starting with the 21km, this race is extremely high up on my list.


Shifting over to the more notorious Canadian version of the ‘Backyard Ultra’, the BC Backyard Ultra features in the exact same manner to ‘Big’s Backyard Ultra’ in the States, featuring a 4-mile loop that runners have to complete at the stroke of every hour. If you fail to show up to the line at the hour-mark, or fail to complete a loop, you’re eliminated. The race goes until only one person remains standing.

Location: Salmon Arm, BC
Distance: Elimination
Date: Late April

Previous Winners:
– (M) Ihor Verys (261.3km)
– (F) Marina Strike (180.9km)


The Knee Knackering North Shore Run features a 30-mile foot race from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove in North Vancouver BC. Even if you know nothing about those two places, I’m sure you can agree – they sound fun. The race is not for the faint of heart, as it features a 8,000-foot climb, and has been dubbed by Running Wild as one of the toughest races on the continent.

Location: North Vancouver, BC
Distance: 30-mile (48k)
Date: Early July

Previous Winners:
– (M) Brandon Gardiner (4:59:52)
– (F) Marieve Legrand (6:17:27)


Sinister 7 feels like another one of those ‘say you did it’ kind of races, given its reputation in Canada as one of the races to complete. The sinister race takes place through the notorious Rocky Mountains in Alberta, and is aptly named after the ‘demons’ that you will face across the course. Its website even warns runners: “This race will beat you up. For some it will be the hardest thing they have ever done”

Location: Crowsnest Pass, AB
Distance: 50k, 50-mile, 100-mile
Date: Early July

Previous Winners:
– (M) Nick Elson (4:48:05)
– (F) Jenny Quilty (5:17:40)


Another one of the top-tier of famous races in Canada, the Squamish 50 is a race that has always caught my attention, especially just given how insanely beautiful Squamish is as a city. The fact that the races will be the home of the 2023 and 2024 Canadian Mountain & Trail Running Championship speaks volumes to the legendary nature and organization of this race. The event even features a 23k if you want to get warmed up to Squamish life first.

Location: Squamish, BC
Distance: 50k, 50-mile, 50/50
Date: Late August

Previous Winners:
– (M) Nick Elson (4:48:05)
– (F) Jenny Quilty (5:17:40)


The Quebec Mountain races never end! This famous Canadian race takes place at the Mont Grantd-Fonds Ski Center in La Malbaie, Quebec, featuring a 125k, 80k and 65k race. It’s notorious for having elite competition, and as beautiful as any other.

Location: La Malbaie, QB
Distance: 65k, 80k, 125k
Date: Early September

Previous Winners:
– (M) David Hedges (14:40:44)
– (F) Jenny Qulty (16:15:38)


Despite being dubbed the ‘Beaver Flat’, this race features a multitude of hills, dips and turns, and is not flat by any stretch of the imagination. The only Saskatchewan race on our list, the Beaver Flat races across Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, featuring a 2,300m climb. As far as scenery goes, this race looks absolutely stunning.

Location: Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, SK
Distance: 50K
Date: Late September

Previous Winners:
– (M) Andy Collin (5:04:26)
– (F) Caitlin Schindel (5:16:20)

So there is my ultramarathon bucket list in Canada. Which races stand out to you?

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Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


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5 responses to “My Canadian ultramarathon bucket list”

  1. […] hard effort and prepare for what life on the trails will be like racing ultramarathons in 2024. The Sulphur Springs Trail Race in Burlington, ON takes place at the end of May and features a lighter 20k for those not quite […]


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