Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
What makes a good triathlon town? It’s a little bit the training, a little bit the community, and a whole lot of je ne sais quoi.
We started our search for the best tri towns by asking you—and you delivered. We received nearly 200 nominations, with a couple of tri clubs running coordinated campaigns. (Yes, Clermont, we see you.) And then we narrowed it down based on a few criteria: the local triathlon community, training and facilities, climate, events and access to races, and the other fun things—bike shops, coffee, good restaurants.
Then we had our panel of expert judges (meet them below) make their picks. The battle was fierce and worthy towns were eliminated, until we finalized our list here of the top five tri towns and five honorable mentions. We’ve already announced Madison, Clermont, San Diego, Austin, and Charlotte as the winners. Today we’re highlighting the honorable mentions.
Best Hall Of Fame Tri Town
We’ll be honest, our panel of judges put Boulder at the top of their list, but this perennial favorite deserves to go into the hall of fame. Historically, many of the best triathletes have made this Colorado spot their home—and, during the summer, the Southern hemisphere pros flock to the town for its elevation, mountain riding, and endless trails. As one nominator put it: “I don’t even live there, and I think it’s got to be the best!”
Best Next Big Tri Town
Park City, UT
According to one of our expert judges, “Park City is going to become the next Flagstaff for triathlon training.” Many of the top elites are just discovering this mountain town at 7,000 feet, right outside Salt Lake City. The summer provides long days with epic mountain rides, and a vast system of trails for running. Plus, there are three pools in the small town and the Olympic venue nearby for inspiration. Down the mountain, in Salt Lake City, you’ll find Intermountain Healthcare subsidizing local triathlon clubs, races, and youth groups.
Best Destination Tri Town
Sure, the Big Island gets all the triathlon press, but there’s a good reason pros—like world champ Daniela Ryf—head to Maui instead when they want to prep for the big day. The weather is just as idyllic, the training just as picturesque, and the crowds a lot quieter. Plus, it’s home to the XTERRA World Championships. Most Hawaiian locals will tell you Maui is an outdoor adventurer’s paradise. Bike the longest paved road in the world from sea level to the top of Haleakala crater or ride the West Maui Circle then jump in the ocean for a swim.
Best Winter Tri Town
When the weather turns cold, triathletes head for Tucson. At the base of Mt. Lemmon, Tucson has become a go-to spot for winter training camps. Ride out of town and into the desert or head up one of the popular climbs besides Lemmon: Kitt Peak, Madera Canyon, or over Gates Pass into Saguaro National Park. The trails around the park are also popular run destinations—but watch for cactus. For swimming, there’s no better pool than on the University of Arizona campus. You can swim outside all winter, but beware: Sunscreen is needed even in December.
Best Bang For Your Buck Tri Town
Des Moines, IA
In the middle of central Iowa is a hidden triathlon gem. For years, Des Moines was home to the HyVee Triathlon—one of tri’s biggest prize purses. Now, the city will host the 70.3 North American Championships. And the local triathletes and clubs couldn’t be more excited to show off their endless country roads, hundreds of miles of connected bike paths, indoor Olympic-sized pool, and dozens of lakes to swim in. “Living in Des Moines and being immersed in this culture is the reason this runner turned into a triathlete,” one nominator said.