2020 Yellowstone Small Group Half Marathon

Race day has passed, but the memories will last!

Thank you for joining us at Yellowstone! We have many events remaining on our 2020 calendar, and hope to see you at your next race!

Small Group Half Marathon

August 8, 2020
West Yellowstone, MT

Make some memories this summer! A new course- the Yellowstone Small Group Half Marathon takes place in the town of West Yellowstone, MT, just outside the entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It's a stunning course with breathtaking views of the Gallatin National Forest, huge gulps of crisp fresh air, and maybe even some wildlife! 

After our beta test of small group half marathons, we are excited to bring you a new location with this format, and it's a brand new Yellowstone course (compared to our annual Yellowstone Half Marathon)!


Bib Pickup

There will be no expo, but you can pick up your bib just before your race time (up to 30 minutes before your time slot) near the start line in West Yellowstone, MT

Race Details

Date: Saturday, August 8, 2020
Starts/Ends: 6:30 am - 9:00 am 

Weather: 38° – 79°F
Course Type: Lollipop Loop 
Stroller friendly? No
Spectators allowed? No
Dogs allowed? No

Registration & Pricing

$110 - For all time slots

Refund Policy
Because of the nature of a short time period from registration date to the event date, no refunds will be offered. However, you can defer to another race.

Want to use a deferred credit? 
Login to RunSignup, click Deferrals, Complete Deferments

Quick Info:
Runners will sign up to run their half marathon during a specific time slot. Each time slot allows up to 50 runners in each race. Beginning at 6:30 am on Saturday, August 8, 2020, a new race will begin every half hour until 9 am.

Race Guide
Your Yellowstone Small Group Half Marathon race guide is here! This guide will help you plan your trip, your race, and how to make the most out of your weekend at Yellowstone. This has the answers to almost every question you may have- so please read it! We can't wait to see you!

This race will be a trail race which runs through the beautiful Custer Gallatin National Forest just outside of West Yellowstone- a gateway city to Yellowstone National Park. Run the race, and be minutes away from everything you want to see and do in Yellowstone! 

Course Details

The course will start and end at the old Airport on the West Edge of West Yellowstone. There is a ton of parking there and it is easy walking distance from most of the hotels on the south side of town.

The majority of the course will take place on the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone. The whole course will be marked with pink ribbon and pink sprinkler flags. The course will start out running on flat dirt roads. At about 1.6 miles into the race you will pass through a gate entering the Rendezvous Ski Trails. The trails will have some nice gradual rolling, grassy hills. These trails are very well maintained and runnable terrain. The running surface is going to be grassy and mostly smooth terrain. A good portion of the course will be in shade, as you will be running through the forest. Even though none of the hills are particularly very steep or long, be prepared for the whole course to be rolling hills. 

The aid stations are fewer and more spread out than our normal races, and this is a cup free event. Runners should plan to be more self-supported than they may be used to, and must bring their own means of refilling hydration (handheld water bottle, hydration pack, belt, etc.). We will have 3 aid stations on course which will be mostly self-serve. We will have water, Gnarly Hydrate electrolyte drink and Honey Stinger gels available at all 3 aid stations. The first aid station will be at approximately mile 2.6. The second aid station will be just before mile 6 with race staff as well as medical staff there to assist with any medical issues on course. The 3rd and final aid station will be around mile 9.7. From here, you will make your way back down to the forest service road you ran in on, to connect to the Rendezvous trails. The course backtracks 1.5 miles of the same route to return to the finish line.

This is a trail half marathon. It is very runnable and not terribly technical, but it is trail. We recommended that you run with trail shoes if you have them, but it is not necessary.

Aid Stations: 3
Time Limit: 4 hours

Course Map & Elevation

Now you can use our maps offline with a gps-enabled device!

We plan to mark the course with such rigor that you should not need your own map to help you find your way. However, we have experienced blown down signs and vandalism in the past. Even if for added peace of mind, we recommend downloading the free Avenza app (available for iOS, and Android devices) before the event. There you can find our uploaded maps that work without cell coverage.

Here's how:
1. Download the free app "AVENZA MAPS" to your smart-phone or tablet while your device is online. It’s compatible with iOS, Android, and Windows devices.
2. Open the app > Tap "Store" (Shopping Cart Icon) > Tap "Find Maps" > Search for the following:
     Yellowstone Half Marathon
3. Tap on the label on the map > tap "install" and the map will begin to download.
4. The map is now ready to use “offline”. Simply open the app, click on the Map and your GPS location will appear on the map.

Once you've installed the app, tap below to directly download the race map!


The event will be timed. The first race will begin at 6:30 am, with a new race continuing every 30 minutes until 9 am that morning. Each race will have a rolling start to help spread out runners. Due to the nature of varying start times over the course of the day, we will not have an official awards ceremony. After the event, we will verify and mail out age group awards to the top 5 in each of the following age groups: 11 & under, 12-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69, 70 & up


You will receive a personalized bib and a race shirt before the race, and a finisher's medal upon finishing your race. Runners will also receive a food box at the finish line. No Hydrapouch will be given- runners must bring their own means of hydration to refill at the aid stations and finish line. 

Important Details

• In order to put on the event, we are following the state and local guidelines for the health and safety of the general public. Runners assume the risk inherent in public gatherings.
• Runners may arrive no earlier than 30 minutes prior to their assigned start time, and can start no later than 30 minutes after their assigned start time. Each race will have a rolling start to help disperse runners, avoid congregation, and thin the crowds.
• No spectators. It's not only difficult to see runners along the course, we also need to prevent crowds- even at the finish line. 
• Physical distancing of 6 ft. will be enforced.
• When passing on course, do so with consideration and communication.
• Runners should bring a mask for times when they might not be able to properly distance themselves from one another.
• Staff will be wearing masks, and we will be modifying several elements to the event in order to prevent overcrowding and ensure safety for everyone.
• Trail shoes aren't required, but highly recommended.
• This is a cup free event. Though the race will have 3 aid stations, runners will need to bring their own form of hydration to refill. Hydrapouches will NOT be offered.

#1 In My Opinion for Half Marathons

I would like to compliment you and express my gratitude for such amazing races. In 2017, I ran the inaugural Joshua Tree. In 2018, I ran Yosemite, and this year, I ran Zion. Every race has been a truly remarkable experience. You are well organized and have such great communication to the participants. I know there were challenges due to inclement weather at Zion, but the manner in which you communicated was impressive. I also was there when there was the shuttle situation at Yosemite, and you were also very quick to communicate and acknowledge the problem.

I love your medals. I love your courses, and I love they way you operate. I also love that you give free race photos. What a treat. Moreover, the fact that you recognize the military’s service to the country and provide a discount is so appreciative. Not that many do that. In fact, I can’t think of another race that does that. It means a lot. My father was a 21 year Army Vietnam Veteran, and my husband is a 21-year Navy Veteran. Thank you so much for doing that.

I also have to say that my son was scheduled to run Yosemite in 2018, but he had to bow out, and I think I was a day past the refund due date, and you were so kind to still honor the refund.

I just want you to know that your races have quickly become a favorite of mine. I am at 67 half marathons, and I don’t think any race(s) could compete with the Vacation Races. I want to do all. I don’t know how I can fit it all in, and it may take quite some time, but I will try.

Thank you again for everything. I just really wanted you to know how much I enjoy and appreciate Vacation Races. Keep up the absolute amazing job!!! You are #1 in my opinion for half marathons. No one can compete.

Elizabeth Fellows Wade

Explore the Park

Whether before or after the race, discover the magic! If you've never been to Yellowstone National Park, get ready. It's going to blow your mind. There's nothing like it anywhere else in the world- Pine trees. Geysers. Canyons. Waterfalls. Hot springs. Hot pots. Paint pots. Buffalo. Elk. Eagles. Wolves. Grizzly bears. Scenic overlooks. Hiking trails. Fresh air. Freedom.

Video courtesy of Amazing Places on Our Planet

Yellowstone Explorer Club - Scavenger Hunt

If you’ve run any of the National Park half marathons, you’re probably familiar with our “club hikes” program. If runners complete these iconic hikes inside the National Park within 72 hours of finishing their race they can receive a medallion that resembles an official US NGS survey marker “benchmark”. We also have our “Trifecta” which earns you a small pin by doing a few less strenuous activities.

The “Explorer Club” is a new iteration of this. We want you to have as broad or as deep of an experience with Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area as possible. We have created a scavenger hunt made up of all kinds of adventures and experiences you can have here at Yellowstone. Each item is worth a certain number of points (with opportunities to “level-up”). Earn enough points and you earn yourself the official Yellowstone Explorer badge! This scavenger hunt has so many of our favorites in it, whether you have an afternoon or a week in Yellowstone you should be able to plan an amazing itinerary with these suggestions.

Happy exploring!


-A minimum of 1,500 points (any more earned gets you bragging rights!)
-All items must be checked off during your trip to Yellowstone for the race.
-Post your favorite photos on social media with the hashtags: #yellowstonehalf #yellowstoneexplorer
-Report your score within 72 hours of the end of the race (Wednesday morning).
-Enjoy these activities and the park responsibly - you are an explorer, not an obnoxious tourist!

Pricing and Packages

Sign up today & start planning your trip!

*There is a limited number of entries to each race, and this event may sell out. If the event is sold out, registration will close.

Race Deferment & Credit

You can manage your deferred credit by logging in to RunSignup, clicking Deferrals, and Complete Deferment. From there you can transfer into another race.

Travel Overview

The race takes place just west of West Yellowstone, MT. Runners will park in an open field off of Old Airport Rd., prior to running a loop course in the forest. There are no shuttles for this race.

You can either fly or drive into West Yellowstone. The closest airport is the West Yellowstone airport (WYS) but it has very limited flight options. You'll probably end up getting a flight into Bozeman (BZN), Jackson (JAC), or Idaho Falls (IDA) and then getting a rental car and driving (about 2 hours).


We imagine the majority of runners will be driving to this event, but if you are allowed and able to fly, look for flights into: 

  • West Yellowstone Airport (WYS)
  • Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN)
  • Jackson Hole Airport (JAC)
  • Idaho Falls Airport (IDA)

Keep in mind- unless flying directly to West Yellowstone, considerable drive time is required from the other airports. 


Driving is a little tricky since no interstates go through West Yellowstone.

From the West coast:
If you’re driving from the west coast, you’ll take I-80 or I-84 going east. You’ll then connect with I-15, heading north to Route 20.

From the Southwest:
Go North on I-15 and then get on Highway 20 (Northbound) in Idaho Falls.

From the East:
There are two general routes you can take from the Eastern U.S., depending on where you start from. You can take I-90 West to Gallatin Road. Take Gallatin Road South, right to West Yellowstone.

OR You could take I-80 West and connect with Route 287 which will take you to West Yellowstone through extremely scenic Grand Teton National Park. There are probably faster ways to get to Yellowstone, but this is for sure the prettiest option.


You can find the perfect lodging in town for you and your party on the Destination Yellowstone website.

Whether you prefer a hotel, the convenience of a home-like living space, or want to be a part of the great outdoors there's an option for you! We've partnered with booking.com to help you quickly find what is available for race weekend:There are a few companies we've partnered with to search for the best options in the area for hotels, vacation rentals, and camping areas:



Because of the nature of our timing system for this event, results won't be instantly available. Please allow about 48 hours for us to get the results posted online. We will also email the results link to all runners after the event. 


Why this new course?

We are running on the Rendezvous Ski trails and not our normal half marathon course for a few reasons:

  • The trails are great for running and very well maintained.
  • The Forest Service is trapping and relocating bears on our normal Half Marathon course that runs along the river.
  • These trails usually aren’t available to us, but since we are holding this event in August we get to run on them.

Is it safe?

We understand the concerns regarding COVID19. This event complies with local health and safety guidelines and is permitted with the appropriate agencies. We are taking every consideration to make this a fun, enjoyable experience while also prioritizing health and safety. Among other precautions, a few steps we have taken to ensure compliance are:

  • Social distancing will be facilitated and runners should wear face masks when distancing is not possible.
  • Start groups are limited to 50 people per half hour and there will be a rolling start, ensuring there is no congregation of more than 50 people.
  • Spectators are not allowed at the finish line.
  • Water stations will be hands free, with little risk of contamination.

What kind of swag will be at this race?

Each runner will receive a race shirt and an individualized bib. All finishers will receive a finisher medal as well.

There will be age group awards, but no awards ceremony at the event. These will be mailed out after the race. 

When should I show up?

Runners can show up as early as 30 minutes BEFORE their scheduled start time (and should not arrive any earlier). They may also start their race with our rolling start up to 30 minutes AFTER their scheduled start time (but should start no later).

How long do I have to complete the race?

Just like our other half marathon events, runners will have 4 hours to finish the race. 

What will be at the aid stations?

Though this course will have fewer aid stations than our typical half marathon events, we will have an aid station set up near mile 2.6, 5.9, and 9.7. These aid stations will have water, Gnarly Hydrate (electrolyte drink), and Honey Stinger Gels. Aid stations will also have composting toilets.

Reminder- runners will need to carry their own form of hydration to refill at aid stations. Hydrapouches will not be provided.

Do I need to run with bear spray?

This is bear country, and being bear aware is always a good idea. That being said, the noise and crowds of people are likely to deter any bears. They don't want to be around large groups of people. Running with bear spray is not required, but if you feel more comfortable out there with a can then by all means you should run packing the heat!

Is this the new normal?

For now, probably. The race industry is changing, but no one is sure how much and for how long. For the foreseeable future this is how we intend to hold events so that we can comply with guidelines and restrictions. We will likely learn things from this new experiment that will impact our other events, but these aren’t meant as a replacement. This is just a way to get us out there running and exploring for the time being.

Can I use a deferment code from another VR event for this race?

Yes! You may use a deferment code/deferment credit from another race to run the Yellowstone Small Group Half Marathon.

Remember- due to the compressed timeline, there are no pricing jumps, thus no refunds will be offered. 

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