Trail runners typically prefer the solitude of the trail over schmoozing. But as the sport’s popularity surges, these athletes will be making their way out of the woods and into the city of Estes Park for America’s inaugural trail running conference. On June 21-22, the Estes Trail Ascent Conference will bring together industry leaders and professional and recreational runners for seminars on training, gear, nutrition, trail advocacy, and discussions about the future of trail running. On Saturday, June 22, a 5.9-mile trail run at 8,500 feet will cap off the conference.

When conference director Terry Chiplin got the idea for the event, the Estes Park resident and running coach wasn’t looking to create the most significant trail running event on the continent; he was merely engaged in a healthy debate over which mountain town was Colorado’s true trail-running mecca. “I’d attended a summit in Vail, and the city wanted to brand itself as Trail Running USA,” Chiplin says. “Vail is great, but I believe that Estes had the best and most varied trails and it was time to prove it.”

It’s hard to argue with him. Trail running legends like Scott Jurek regularly train in Estes Park (most notably on the Lumpy Ridge trails, with their namesake rounded granite domes and scenic views of the Estes Valley and Continental Divide). Estes is also the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park’s 355 miles of trails and is home to the Estes Park Marathon—it’s also where Chiplin’s business, Active at Altitude, hosts some of the most popular trail running camps and vacations in the country.

“The number of trail runners and races is increasing at a huge rate in the United States,” Chiplin says. “Now is the time to focus on the sport, and the direction we want it to go in this country, and Estes is absolutely the right place to do it.”

In the minimalist spirit of trail running, Chiplin aims to keep conference costs low. For those who pre-register, the two-day event is only $42, or $22 for one day. “Part of the brilliance of trail running is that all you need is a pair of shoes and some water to get out there,” Chiplin says. “We wouldn’t dream of changing that.”

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—Images courtesy of Active at Altitude