Swimming under snowcapped peaks at Ironman Alaska. Biking down the Keene descent at Ironman Lake Placid. High-fiving costumed spectators in Hippie Hollow at Ironman Texas. Running on the turf in Camp Randall Stadium at Ironman Wisconsin.
These experiences provide a lifetime of memories for the triathletes who had the courage to start, the strength to endure, and the resolve to finish an iron-distance event. There are so many races steeped in tradition and history that it was hard to select just a few to highlight in this guide to the best Ironman triathlons for 2023.
Whether you’re looking for the title of Ironman at an eponymously-branded event or want the more personal touch of a local race, there is more than one way to complete your 140.6-mile journey.
Plotting out your 2023 triathlon season? Be sure to check out our full collection of 2023 race guides, featuring the best races in the U.S.A. for every level of triathlete, from beginners to Iron-distance.
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: New PRs On A Fresh Course
Oct. 22, 2023
The rebirth of Ironman California might have been delayed one year thanks to a bomb cyclone that cancelled the event in 2021, but the second try in its new Sacramento location proved to be a big hit among those on the West Coast. One of the highlights included the downriver swim in the American River that connects with the Sacramento River to exit near the famous Tower Bridge. The swim was so quick, it resulted in some of the fastest Ironman swim times on record. The bike course takes athletes on an ultra-flat (700 ft. gain) two-loop tour of wine country in the Sacramento River delta farmland. The run is flat and fast and has three distinct segments: The first portion goes along the Sacramento River through Miller Park Marina; then runners continue through Old Sacramento onto the bike trail. The final section returns downtown for two finishing laps around the California State Capitol building, which provides a perfect opportunity to see family and friends before your final run down the red carpet. If you race both Ironman California and 70.3 Santa Cruz in 2023, you will receive a special medal for completing the NorCal Challenge.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: A Late-Season Capstone
Nov. 19, 2023
A favorite on the Ironman circuit for over 15 years, Ironman Arizona calls Tempe its home. Also known as the “Valley of the Sun” for its warmth and 300+ days of sunshine, this world record-breaking course offers scenic desert vistas through Arizona Native American country. The race begins with a one-lap swim in Tempe Town Lake that’s so narrow it feels more like a river. This means it can get crowded, but athletes will be able to hear the cheer of spectators as they swim close to the shoreline. The swim is typically wetsuit legal as water temps hover around the low to mid 60s. The bike course takes athletes on a zigzag route out of Tempe toward Mesa to the Beeline Highway. Once on the highway, there is a gradual 10-mile climb through the Salt River Indian Community to the turnaround. Then, athletes return to Tempe Beach Park to start the second and third laps. Elevation gain is only 2,500 feet, but it can be windy on this out-and-back course. The two-lap run takes place along both shorelines of Tempe Town Lake into quiet Papago Park. There are gentle rollers, and the run surface is a mix of crushed granite and pavement. There’s not much shade, so wear sunscreen!
RELATED: 5 Common Ironman Training MistakesSection divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: A Bespoke Endurance Experience
Oregon Single Anvil Triathlon
June 8-11, 2023
Centered around Henry Hagg Lake in Gaston, Oregon, the Oregon Anvil Ultra Triathlon is not for the faint of heart. This course will have you running through evergreens and biking along the lakeside with challenging Pacific Northwest terrain. This multi-day event has the Single Anvil Triathlon (140.6) as well as the Double Anvil Triathlon (281.2), aquavelo, duathlon, and team race. This is a family-run event and their dedication to individualized support is such that it’s limited to 60 athletes per race. In addition, athletes looking to apply must reference events they’ve done in the past five years that are ultra-triathlons or endurance-based. There’s a mandatory pre-race pasta dinner and race briefing, breakfast and coffee at the swim start, and lunch, dinner, and a late night snack served daily. Athletes will also enjoy free race photos and a free 30-minute massage with a therapist that they can utilize during the multi-lap event. The swim course is 1,584 feet long with four to five buoys, so expect to do several rounds. The bike goes around the lake, utilizing the road to cross the dam. Expect exciting inclines, frequent rolling hills, and many loops. The run is a 1.45-mile loop that goes onto a lakeside trail and gravel service road, so expect many laps here as well.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: Stateside Crystal Blue Water
Bear Lake Brawl Triathlon
Sept. 16, 2023
St. Charles, ID
The Bear Lake Brawl Triathlon takes place at Bear Lake Hot Springs on the Idaho side of the lake. Often called the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” due to its sparkling blue water, the swim course has a diamond shape that athletes complete four times. The bike course goes entirely around the lake twice and has some nice rollers on the east side. The run is a two lap, out and back course with a flat, scenic section along the lake. In 2020, a stacked field of PTO pros came to this race to compete for a $20K prize purse in the 70.3 distance, won by Sam Long. (Triathlete was there to report on the first pro race back after the pandemic break.) This event has full, half-iron, Olympic, and sprint distances.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: Gain, Gain, Gain
Ironman Coeur D’Alene
June 25, 2023
Coeur d’Alene, ID
Also in Idaho, Ironman Coeur D’Alene is almost as well known for its hilly terrain as it is for the spectacular views. In 2023, the event will celebrate its 20th anniversary. The swim course has a two-lap format in pristine Lake Coeur D’Alene, but it can be quite choppy if there is wind. The bike has some long climbs, wicked descents, and sweeping lakeside views of mountains peppered with pine trees. It’s certainly a scenic, but challenging two-lap course with a whopping 7,051 feet of elevation gain. In fact, for athletes who compete at both Ironman Coeur D’Alene and 70.3 St. George in 2023, they will qualify for the Apex Challenge—an honor for completing two of the most epic bike courses on the North American circuit. The run takes athletes three laps along the lakeside with just 1,435 ft. of gain. Although the pictures show cool blue lakes and peaceful green trees, make no mistake, it can get hot in Idaho in the summer, so prepare accordingly.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: Texans and Hippies
April 22, 2023
The Woodlands, TX
Ironman Texas is special in that it’s the first full-distance race in North America each year. The race is held in The Woodlands, a master-planned community on the shores of a 200-acre freshwater lake. The swim is point to point and takes athletes through a narrow canal that’s packed with spectators cheering from the shoreline. With average water temps of 82 degrees, it’s always a toss up as to whether the swim will be wetsuit legal. The bike has a reputation for being flat and fast, with only 1,224 ft. of gain, but it’s often windy and not very scenic due to two laps on the Hardy Toll Road. The run is by far the best part of the race and is rumored to be one of the best on the Ironman circuit, because of the spirited section that goes through legendary Hippie Hollow. This segment of the run features tie-dye banners, costumed spectators beating drums, and twinkling lights in a party that gets even more rowdy when the sun sets. Everything is bigger in the Lone Star State, and that’s certainly the case for 2023, as Ironman Texas will be the regional championship for North and South America and will offer a whopping 165 slots (65 just for women) to Kona—the most ever awarded at Texas.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: An Iron Classic
Sept. 10, 2023
Ironman Wisconsin is somewhat of a tradition in the triathlon community. From the journey up the helix towards transition, the “Three Sisters” hills on the bike course, and the experience of running under the bright lights of Camp Randall Stadium, IM Wisconsin is steeped in tradition. The swim is a two-lap course in Lake Monona and the impressive Monona Terrace on the waterfront is electric on race morning. It’s also the best place for spectators to watch the swim. (Just remember, after you get in the water, you have to take a second to “MOO!”) The two-loop bike course has 4,120 ft. of gain and takes athletes through rural, country roads past red barns, quaint farms, and up some challenging hills. The “Three Sisters” are the fabled hills of the Wisconsin bike course: Old Sauk Pass, Timber Lane, and Midtown Road. The Verona Loop is a party right in the middle of the bike course, so look for great spectator support there. The two-loop run is a unique experience as athletes get to run on the turf inside Camp Randall Stadium—home of the Wisconsin Badgers! State Street is electric with spectators cheering from cafes and coffee shops, but the best part is the finish line on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. in front of the ornate Capitol Building. IM Wisconsin will also host the 2023 North American TriClub Championship.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: An Awesome Alternative
August 13, 2023
This cheeky race in Michigan, with their titanium twist on the half-Ironman moniker and the motto, #UNBRANDED, is one of the largest, non-branded, full-distance races around. Their tagline is: “Be more than a number. Be a Titan!” The 11th edition of MiTi will take place at Versluis Park in Plainfield Township, Michigan. Athletes will swim in the clear, spring-fed waters of Versluis Lake, which is typically mid to upper 70s. The bike is a two-loop hilly course. One of the coolest parts of the race is that athletes are encouraged to cross the finish line with their family members. There is a spectator point of entry on the run course at the corner of Versluis Dr. and Northland Dr., just ahead of the finish. This event also offers 70.3-, Olympic-, and sprint-distance races and will serve as the USAT Ultra Distance National Championship in 2023.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: An End-Of-Season Independent
Great Floridian Triathlon
October 21, 2023
The Great Floridian is the state’s original and longest-running, full-distance triathlon and claims to be the longest-running, independent, full-distance in the world. Over the past 33 years, the event has attracted competitors from all 50 states and more than 30 countries. In fact, it was one of the reasons Clermont has become the triathlon destination it is today. The challenging course inspired the slogan, “Are You Tough Enough?” The race kicks off at Clermont Waterfront Park for a two-lap swim in calm Lake Minneola, a hilly bike with almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain, and a flat run along the shoreline. There’s even an open-water swim practice and continental breakfast the day before the race. The day after the race, stick around for the awards ceremony and BBQ. In addition to the full-distance race, the event has a wide variety of options: a full-distance aquabike and relay, 70.3, long-course duathlon, sprint, open-water swim, and sunset half marathon.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: Views for Days
Ironman Lake Placid
July 23, 2023
Lake Placid, NY
Ironman Lake Placid is another triathlon institution that draws a large contingent of U.S. and overseas competitors to the picturesque shores of Mirror Lake. This calm, clear lake in the heart of Lake Placid is surrounded by tree-covered mountains for miles and is considered to be one of the best Ironman swims in the world, with water temps in the high 60s to low 70s. It even has an underwater cable buoy line that sits a few feet below the water for navigation purposes. The bike course boasts exceptional views of the Adirondacks with 4,182 feet of elevation and passes by local spots like the Ski Jumps, Whiteface Mt., and the Olympic Center, as well as the famed Keene descent- where you drop 1,500 feet over 4-5 miles. The run has just 1,604 feet of gain, ranging from flat to rolling and hilly with a spectacular finish at the Olympic oval.Section divider
The best Ironman/iron-distance triathlon for: Southern Suffering
Sept. 24, 2023
Chattanooga, Tennessee, is such a popular destination for triathletes that it’s home to two Ironman events every year: the 70.3 in May and the 140.6 Ironman Chattanooga (actually 144.6) in September. The swim goes downstream in the Tennessee River and can have a lot of current, or no current, depending on water levels. One of the most spectator-friendly courses, friends and family can watch from the Riverwalk, one of the pedestrian bridges, or the exit at Ross’s Landing Park. If you’ve done the 70.3, the bike course is essentially two loops with 4,808 feet of elevation gain that goes past Lookout Mountain, into South Georgia, and through historic Chickamauga. The two-loop run follows most of the 70.3 route along the Riverwalk, Veterans Bridge, and Walnut Street Bridge, but it also has an extended section across the river- a long uphill climb at Barton Avenue- to round out at 1,100 feet. of gain. If you do the Choo Double, both the 70.3 and 140.6 in 2023, you will receive the Lookout Challenge medal.