One of the coolest things about the sport of triathlon is that you get to see a unique perspective of a place. Although the goal is typically to get to the finish line as fast as possible, how much better is a race when you have those incredibly scenic triathlon, pinch-me, “wow, this is beautiful” moments along the way?
We asked a handful of the most-traveled pros to weigh in on the most scenic triathlons they’ve raced, and here are eight of the stunners they chose—in no particular order.
Ironman and Ironman 70.3 St. George, Utah
Good news for anyone racing the now-in-Utah 2021 Ironman World Championship next May: This event is an overwhelming pro favorite, despite the fact that it also features one of the toughest bike and run courses. “It’s very different scenery compared to anything else you see,” said pro triathlete Trevor Wurtele. The combination of red rock vistas and high-altitude forests create some of the most scenic, otherworldly landscapes in triathlon. The swim in Sand Hollow Reservoir—surrounded by rocky formations and red-sand beaches—kicks the race off to a beautiful start. But the standout is the bike climb through the sandstone cliffs of Snow Canyon State Park. “Snow Canyon is incredible,” said Jeanni Metzler, who finished second at the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. Skye Moench summed it up: “It’s hard to beat the beauty of St. George.”
Challenge Wanaka, New Zealand
Look at one photo of this race—or just envision racing around the set of Lord of the Rings—and you’ll want to add Challenge Wanaka to your bucket list. Braden Currie, a native of the idyllic New Zealand town who has won the event twice, still names this race as one of the most scenic triathlons he’s ever done. The swim in Lake Wanaka’s Glendhu Bay features reflections of the snow-capped Mount Aspiring and water “so clean you can drink it” (says Challenge). And it only gets better from there. “Nothing beats riding lakeside with the Southern Alps mountains as the backdrop,” Currie said. Plus, the run course takes place on undulating mountain bike trails, which, he said, “I would choose over a road run any day of the week.”
Challenge Kaiserwinkl-Walchsee, Austria
The hills are alive on this half-iron-distance course in the heart of Austria’s Northern Limestone Alps. Heather and Trevor Wurtele said that in terms of scenery, “anything in Austria” tops the charts (including Ironman 70.3 Zell am See-Kaprun). “The Austrian countryside and roads are amazing to race on, and by far the best location for just going out and enjoying a bike ride before and after the race,” Trevor said. The crystal-clear swim takes place in Lake Walchsee, tucked into the foothills of the Kaisergebirge Mountain Range, and the bike and run courses wind past quaint farmhouses and expansive meadows with jaw-dropping peak views along the way.
Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
The sport of triathlon didn’t discover this small town in Northern Idaho, but it certainly brought more attention to its rugged splendor. Centered around a 30-mile-long glacier-fed lake surrounded by pine trees, the Pacific Northwest destination gives off an immediate “away from it all” vibe. “I especially love the swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene,” said two-time 70.3 CdA-winner Haley Chura. “I always take a moment during this race to recognize how lucky I am to swim in such a beautiful location. The bike and run course also offer glimpses of the spectacular lakefront and surrounding mountains.”
Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Mont Tremblant, Québec
With its charming European-like village set against mountain peaks, Mont-Tremblant makes for a postcard-worthy race venue and one of the most scenic in triathlon. Outside of the pedestrian-friendly center, the surrounding area becomes wilder and more forested. “Lac Tremblant is one of the best bodies of water I’ve swum in: clean, cool, peaceful, and tree-lined,” said Sarah True, who has taken second place twice at the 70.3 version. The bike course, mostly on a scenic highway, is “hilly and engaging,” she said, as is the dynamic run course, which “takes you through the ski resort, along the lake, and on a tree-lined bike path.”
XTERRA USA Championship: Ogden, Utah
Located at the base of Snowbasin Resort, the XTERRA USA Championship traverses the mountains of Ogden on a challenging course every fall. Although the swim was cancelled in 2021 due to elevated bacteria, the epic 19-mile mountain bike was a colorful highlight for Lesley Paterson, who recently took third.“This year was especially gorgeous,” she said. “Literally we were biking through pink tunnels with the fall trees turning. The trails were all epic! I just love being in the mountains.” The 2021 course entailed a 2.5-mile run, 19-mile bike and 5.5-mile run on technical, single-track ascents rewarded by fun and flowy downhills.
Ironman Western Australia and Ironman 70.3 Western Australia
Known for its magical forests, white-sand beaches and humpback whale sightings, Busselton is a relaxing coastal town where Aussies go to vacation. It should come as no surprise that it’s also a dreamy place to do an endurance event. “Busselton is a beautiful location just south of Perth,” said Sam Appleton, who took fourth in the iron-distance event in 2019. “It’s a flat and fast course, but offers amazing views, and you get to swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Indian Ocean.” The swim course goes under the Busselton Jetty, an iconic mile-plus-long landmark. Then you get the best of both worlds on the bike course—riding along the coast and also through the eucalyptus-filled Tuart Forest—finishing with a run along the Geographe Bay.
Ironman 70.3 Pucón, Chile
Images that emerge from this Chilean half-Ironman are striking for one 9,000-foot reason reason: a snowcapped, active volcano looms over the city, creating a dramatic setting for the challenging course. “Pucon might feature the hilliest run course on the 70.3 circuit, but the steepest climb rewards you with an incredible view of Villarrica Volcano,” said Haley Chura, who took third there in 2017. Two other reasons to sign up: The swim features a black sand beach and, Chura said, “visiting Chile in January can be a nice break from the Northern Hemisphere winter.”