Taking place on December 17th 2022, the Lookout Mountain trail race offered runners the option of three different distances. 50 miles, 18 miles, and 10k running through the rocky bluffs of one of Chattanooga’s most popular trail systems at Lookout Mountain. Including the majority of the Skyuka and Bluff trails loop trail. On short notice I decided to run the 18 mile race. Looking forward to the opportunity to run in an area I haven’t visited in years. Offering some new technical tracks and incredible views. Check out my Lookout Mountain 18 Mile race report!
Lookout Mountain 18 Mile Race Report
Race Director Listed Distance
Distance: 18 Miles
Elevation Gain: 2,500 Feet
Lookout Mountain 18 Mile Course Map & Elevation Profile
Check in and the Start of the Race
Race check in was available on Friday in Chattanooga and at the event starting 1 hour before the race. With the race starting at 8am, I arrived around 7:20am. The parking lot is long and narrow, and by that time I was forced to park probably a ¼ mile away from the start. While a bit of a walk, being at the end of the lot and near a large group of trees gave me a quick bano opportunity as the pot-o-potty line was incredibly long.
Check in was smooth. I grabbed my bib and shirt and headed back to the jeep to make final adjustments. It was cold, starting temp was around freezing, so the walk to and from the car helped get warm and dial in my layers the weather. After dropping my stuff at the car it was back to the start of the race to get going!
Section 1 – Pavement to Single Track
The start of the race runs you through the heart of the stunning Covenant College campus. Running on a paved wide golf cart path for about the first mile. This section offers a bit of ups and downs with one baby climb. With runners using the wide space to jockey into position at the start of the race.
Once you get to the end of the pavement, the course takes a hard left onto a single track. Forcing the 4-5 wide deep course to slowly maneuver into single file. Making for a very slow start to the trail run. Knowing this, if I ran this race again I would now to push that first section to get ahead of the traffic jam.
Section 2 – Single Track to Aid Station 1
Once on the single track, you will start a flowy downhill. I used this section to try my best and off road around the traffic on the trail. The road section at the start allows a lot of road runners to take off. But then slow down drastically on the technical trai;. Which there was a ton of. Making my way around the large block I lead a decent sized group keeping a good but smart pace around the rocky mountain bluffs. The views were great, I assume. I spent a lot of time with my eyes on the trail. Some of the more beautiful sections were alo the most technical.
Working around the bluff starts with a long straight away. Then leads to a noticeable turn following the mountain on your right. This is where the elevation starts to change. Taking you back up the bluff with a few tough but runnable climbs. You will be treated to one false descent, leading to one of the climbs before hitting a few switchbacks. And opening up onto a rocky fireload that lacked any flags for direction. After stopping and waiting for directions, we then took off left. Running about a mile of some fast but quad blasting downhill. Leading us to aid station 1 at about mile 7.5ish.
Section – Aid Station 1 to Aid Station 2
Pulling into aid station 1 I was just due to eat and interested to see what was on the menu. The aid station was pretty minimal with water, tailwind, and two bar options for food. Definitely could have used a couple more options but the snacks they did have were good. Leaving this aid station leads straight into a good sized climb, so I ate as I made my way up the largest climb in the race so far.
After I finished eating, I proceeded back to chopping my way up the climb with a slow run. So far everything in the race had been very runnable. After making the climb, the trail started to turn incredibly flowy and smooth. Mix of some awesome fast single track up and downs, with a few small technical sections to remind you it was a trail run. This leads you down to the river and the last aid station for the 18 milers.
Aid Station 2 to the Finish
Leaving Aid Station 2 (around mile 13.5) you are at, or close to the low point of the race. And now have to work your way back up to the top of the bluff where you started. This will begin with a long gentle climb along the river. It’s all uphill but very runnable. And if you’re a solid road runner this section will be very welcomed compared to what is next.
After a mile plus of a slight grade, the trail takes a left and starts the real fun. With a brutal 1,600+ foot climb. The trail itself isn’t bad or overall technical. The grade is just relentless. So if you’re an uphill monster, this section is for you. Once you make the top of the ridge, you will have about a half mile of some flowy section before a short climb leading to the road crossing just across from the finish. So if you have any juice left, this is where to use it.
In the end my Garmin registered 16.8 miles and 2,800+ feet of gain.
Finish & Post Race
The finish and post race was a bit underwhelming. There was no finishers medal, no finish line snacks or food, and I didn’t see any water. The 18 miler finish felt a bit like an afterthought. Which is a shame, since with 118 finishers it had more racers than the 50 mile or 10k. Making the most popular race distance. So with no post race festivities I made my way back to the jeep and hit the road.
I received an email Dec 18 saying they would be sending out photos that week. But I have still not received a link to any race photos. There is no link on their website or social media.
Conclusion – Lookout Mountain 18 Mile Race Report
Overall I really enjoyed this course. It’s a great mix of technical trails with wide open views and some incredible rock formations / walls. And for the price, it is a race worth thinking about doing. But it does have some drawbacks. It’s a great course but I’m not sure it’s actually 18 miles. With sparse aid and little frills compared to most trail races, you may wonder what the entry fee is going too. If you like the trail running community vibe of some race directors. This isn’t it. And you can easily go run this loop any weekend saving the entry fee. So for me this one is a great one to add if it suits your schedule but wouldn’t be an A race for me.