Top 5 half marathons in California

If you love running but can’t dedicate enough time to training for a full marathon, a half marathon is still a great way to challenge yourself! Check out the top five half marathons in California to get you excited about starting your training.

1. San Luis Obispo Half Marathon

Usually occurring on the first weekend of May, the San Luis Obispo Half Marathon is a great starter half marathon.  The course features rolling, golden hills, the heart of the downtown area, and ends at the famous Madonna Inn.

The amount of visual stimulation distracts first-time runners from the length of the race, and the elevation gain/decline is moderate. In addition, this race offers a large expo with tons of free gear, food, and drinks, as well as multiple length options of 5K, 10k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon races.


2. Yosemite Half Marathon

Yosemite Half Marathon usually sells out the day it opens for registration due to its popularity among California runners. The course surprisingly has almost no steep uphills but does feature six miles of rough road and four miles of downhill. If you have bad knees or shins, I would highly recommend checking out a different race.

However, the views on this course are hard to beat. Even though the race cannot place take place inside the boundaries of the National Park itself, Bass Lake (the primary location of the race) features incredible views, wildlife, and the opportunity to take a dip after your race!

3. Lake Tahoe Half Marathon

This race is for the ultimate go-getter. If you are willing to make the trek out to Lake Tahoe you can experience four days of the ultimate outdoor racing experience. There are more than 20 events over the course of three days (you can register for as many as you want!), including multiple half marathons, full marathons, and even a 72-mile “Midnight Express Ultra Marathon. With the addition of the stunning lake and surrounding forest, this event is a no-brainer for experienced runners looking for a new challenge.


Lake Tahoe has incredible views for runners
Lake Tahoe has incredible views for runners

4. City to Sea Half Marathon

One of the best point to point races on the California Coast is the City to Sea Half Marathon on the central coast. The race benefits the local community college, Cuesta College’s, athletics programs, and is a great race for beginning runners.

The course takes you from the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo out to the shores of Pismo Beach. It is also one of the more affordable races, with early bird pricing starting at $70, and last chance race day registration topping out at $100.


5. Big Sur/Monterey Bay Half Marathon

This race is a personal favorite of mine due to the combination of course difficulty, incredible views, and creative finisher medals (because as much as you don’t want to admit it, you love wearing that thing around all day after your race and posting and Instagram a photo with it on).

The course follows the ocean’s edge for about 11 of the 13.1 miles and offers quite a bit of a challenge elevation wise. This is not a course you should be looking to PR on, but it is one you do not want to pass up if you are an avid runner.


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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.

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rebecca-hext is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival