December’s Challenge Daytona triathlon festival is appealing to many triathletes simply because it looks like it might actually happen—in a pandemic year where more races have been canceled than carried out, simply having the opportunity to race is a novelty. But there’s another reason Challenge Daytona appeals to age-groupers in the time of COVID: RV camping on the infield of the Daytona International Speedway, where athletes bike and run.
Camping at triathlon events is not an entirely new concept. California’s iconic Wildflower Triathlon was known just as much for its rowdy campground experience as it was for its brutally tough course, and XTERRA events often have campgrounds at or near the start. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, races that offer camping at or near the start have become particularly enticing. Many travelers currently shy away from staying in hotels, and RV rentals have reached new heights nationwide.
While it requires some planning (especially to ensure all COVID risk-reduction recommendations are followed), camping in a tent or RV at or near a triathlon can be quite convenient. After all, rolling out of bed and onto the start line is about as stress-free as it gets on race morning, and your spectators will love having a home base to cheer you on. Perhaps the real win of camping comes after the race—drinking cold post-race beers in a hammock just beyond the finish sure is a nice way to recover.
Ready to camp like a champ? While we aren’t 100% sure what racing in 2021 will look like, it’s still fun to plot out a possible schedule. Consider one of these events with camping at or near the race.
Triathlons Where You Can Camp
White Lake Triathlon Festival
April, Elizabethtown, North Carolina
Camp Clearwater provides a stress-free race base for athletes and spectators alike—in addition to its prime location on the shores of the swim course for the sprint, International, and half-Iron events, the campground is a hot spot for support on the bike and run courses.
Wildflower Triathlon Festival
May, Lake San Antonio, California
Also known as the “Woodstock of triathlon,” Wildflower isn’t just a race—it’s a full-on experience, with live entertainment, wine tastings, outdoor movies, and s’mores by the campfire. The race offers a variety of campground setups, from tent camping in a field to a complete VIP “glamping” experience. Though many triathletes hope for its return post-COVID, the event has struggled with cancellations in the past due to drought conditions and a lack of registrations.
Ironman 70.3 St. George
May, St. George, Utah
This early-season race is an athlete favorite, thanks to a challenging course in breathtaking scenery. Athletes lucky enough to bag a campground spot at Sand Hollow State Park can skip the race morning shuttle that transports athletes 20 miles drive from St. George to the start line. Instead, they can sleep in and stay warm until their starting corral is called.
Deuces Wild Endurance Festival
June, Show Low, Arizona
Though not as well-known as Wildflower (yet) the Deuces Wild Endurance Festival weekend is just as legendary for its tough course as it is the camping experience. Athletes from all events—sprint, Olympic, half-Iron, and XTERRA—take over Fool Hollow Campground for a weekend of celebrating all things endurance. This especially shows on race day, when spectators put on a show for the run course, which traverses through the campground.
Oregon Dunes Triathlon
June, Dunes City, Oregon
The gorgeous Oregon dunes and clear waters of Cleawox and Woahnik Lakes provide a stunning backdrop for both race day and post-race relaxation. Grab a campsite (or rent a yurt) at Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park, which is located on the run course of the sprint and Olympic distance races.
Rev3 Williamsburg Triathlon Festival
June, Williamsburg, Virginia
Chickahominy Riverfront Park is the hub of all activity for the sprint, Olympic, and Half-Iron races of this race weekend. The park is also home to over 120 campsites with scenic views of the Chickahominy River (and all the race action, if you’re a spectator).
July (Northern Indiana), August (Southern Indiana)
Camping and off-road triathlon (like XTERRA or Motus) is simply a natural fit. Though some athletes book a hotel room for creature comforts, most stick around for a weekend in the great outdoors. Athletes racing in the DINO (an acronym for Do INdiana Offroad) Series pack the state park campgrounds where their races are located—not only for the convenience, but for an extra day (or two) of sweet singletrack.
Mountain Man Triathlon
July (Spring) August (Olympic and Long Course), Flagstaff, Arizona
Though the race doesn’t allow overnight parking in the lot closest to its Lake Mary transition area, several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds are located on the course of this popular high-altitude race series. There’s also free dispersed camping (known as “boondocking” in the Coconino National Forest—be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the land.
August, Luray, Virginia
Though camping isn’t typically allowed at Lake Arrowhead, the city makes an exception on race weekend for athletes and spectators at the Luray sprint and International triathlon and duathlon events. The setup is primitive—tents only, no RVs—but comfortable and convenient.
Onalaska Half Triathlon
September, Onalaska, Texas
The Lake Livingston KOA is not only the official race campground of the Onalaska Triathlon—it’s the host. Athletes in this half-Iron race swim, bike, and run from the transition area in the middle of the campground, then return to their tent or RV sites for a celebratory post-race cookout.
Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City
September, Atlantic City, NJ
Though it’s true this seaside town is full of luxury options for lodging, camping is an option for athletes who wish to sleep 100 yards from transition. Located just past the athlete village at Bader Field, this pop-up campground is quite basic, but then again, who expects camping to be fancy?