Mount Wilson Trail Race is Rich in History and Still Going Strong

mount wilson trail race, trail race, california

One of the oldest trail races in California is right here in our backyard: Mount Wilson Trail Race.

“When it started in 1908, the race went all the way to the top, with runners resting for a half hour before coming back down. Now the race goes about halfway up the mountain, to Orchard Camp, an elevation gain of 2,100 feet,” Pete Siberell told LATF.

With a rich history, the race gives runners a chance to explore a trail that is also a part of the Six-Pack of Peaks Challenge (Mt. Wilson, Mt. Baldy, San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, etc.) From 1908 to 1913, there was also the annual Sierra Madre-to-Mount Wilson footrace.

Having seen its fair share of challenges over the decades, from forest fires to an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease in the 1920’s, the Mount Wilson Trail Race is alive and well. This year, the Mt. Wilson Trail Race will be held on Saturday, May 27, 2023, beginning at 7:30 a.m. in Kersting Court. The MWTR course is 8.6 miles in length, starting at Kersting Court, up Baldwin Ave., to Mira Monte Ave., to Orchard Camp and back. The total elevation gain is over 2,160 feet.

A few weeks before race day, LATF spoke with the Race Organizers:

You’re one of the oldest trail races in the state, how has it evolved and grown over the decades? 

Yup, second only to the Dipsea race in Marin County, another of my favorite races.  We have grown the race in popularity over the years, but are still limited to about 350 participants, as it is a single track trail with steep falloffs of 200 to 300 feet along the way.  We added sophisticated timing systems to the race and have added race-related activities over the years, including a pasta dinner/bib number pick-up the night before the race, a kids’ race, a beer garden and a 16 week MWTR training program.

How has the race organization overcome challenges; weather, pandemic, etc.? 

We have soldiered on with the race, always holding it despite fires, slides and the pandemic.  I think it was 2010 when we had big fires in the mountains followed by lots of rain, which caused crazy landslides over the trail.  We pushed the race for a couple months but still had it.  We pushed the 2021 race to October due to the pandemic, and had people run the course on their own and keep their own time.  We moved the race back to May in 2022 and things are starting to get back to normal.

What can runners and spectators look forward to at the expo and race day festival area? 

Race day has become a celebration of the trail and of Sierra Madre.  It is a city tradition each Memorial Day weekend, really the start of summer.  We have lots of booths to explore, MWTR merchandise to buy, music, pizza, a great beer garden pouring a special MWTR Kolsch and festive awards ceremony.   While all participants are welcome, we really like to recognize the runners and walkers from Sierra Madre, along with the volunteers who work on the trail year-round.  We encourage contributions to the Fletcher Fund, which pays for tools and materials our volunteers use on the trail.

Come one, come all SoCal trail runners!

Register here:

  • All runners are encouraged to bring their own water supply for use during the race.
  • Emergency support from Sierra Madre Search & Rescue team will be stationed at strategic points along the course to provide aid, as necessary.
  • Sierra Madre Cub Scouts Troop 110 will hand out water to the runners at First Water (2.3 miles) and Sierra Madre Boy Scouts Troop 110 will hand out water at Orchard Camp (4.3 miles), the turn-around point.

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