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Course Info


The route for the Lean Horse Ultra has changed a few times over the years. Last year, we introduced the third incarnation of the course, which blended the two courses used previously. Originally, the 100 mile course began and ended at the Minnekahta trailhead, following an out and back course entirely on the Mickelson Trail. The route was changed a few years ago, with the start/finish moved to Hot Springs and the now infamous Argyle Road comprising the first and last 16.6 miles with the Mickelson Trail representing the rest of route. In 2011, all three events began at Minnekahta but end in Hot Springs on a hybrid out and back/point to point course (in that the start and finish are at different locations, but runners will complete an out and back on the Mickelson Trail once they reach the Argyle Loop aid station). The same general route used in 2011 will be used again in 2012, with one relatively minor change (explained in more detail below). For the 100 mile course, this will result in approximately 83.4 miles of running on the Mickelson Trail and the final 16.6 on Argyle Road and the streets/bike paths of Hot Springs. For the 50 mile and 50K participants, they will run 33.4 and 13.5 miles of the Mickelson Trail respectively, with each running the final 16.6 on Argyle Road.

Detailed Course Description

All three events will begin at the Minnekahta Trailhead, near the intersection of Highways 18 and 89 west of Hot Springs. From the trailhead, runners will head north along the Mickelson Trail. The Mickelson is a rail-to-trails project that offers a very smooth crushed gravel running surface and includes gentle, but long, grades. 50K runners will follow the Mickelson to a point between the Argyle Loop and Lime Kiln aid stations before turning around and returning to the Argyle Loop aid station. 50 mile runners will follow the Mickelson to a point between the Pringle and Carroll Creek aid stations and the 100 mile runners will follow the Mickelson all the way to Hill City before turning around and returning to Argyle Loop.

CHANGE FOR 2012: In 2011, the 100 mile course included a short (3.5 miles total) out and back on the Custer State Park spur trail to achieve the requisite mileage. This out and back was be completed on the outbound leg only, after leaving the Harbach aid station. The 2012 course will also require a 3.5 mile out and back, but the location of that out and back has been moved. This year, the out and back will be run on a dirt road beginning and ending at the White Elephant trailhead of the Mickelson Trail  (mile 21.5 of the Lean Horse course), which is located between the Pringle and Carroll Creek aid stations . As with last year, the out and back will be completed on the OUTBOUND LEG ONLY. You DO NOT need to complete the out and back on the inbound leg; you will proceed directly from the Carroll Creek aid station to Pringle.

On the return trip, runners in all three events will leave the Mickelson Trail at the Argyle Loop aid station and head east on Argyle Road, a winding, hilly country road. The route follows Argyle Rd. for approximately 11 miles before making a right onto a two-track road across a pasture, which will eventually lead runners to the Coldbrook aid station, just 4 miles from the finish. One final hill awaits just past Coldbrook before the course hits the city streets and bike path of Hot Springs. When you pass the waterfall along the bike path, you’ve got about a mile to go and when you see the Dairy Queen sign up ahead, it’s time for the finishing kick (it’s like our version of Boston’s famed Citgo sign)! The finish line will be in the same location it has been for the last few years, just behind the Mueller Center (the location of the packet pick-up and pre-race meeting).


Start: 4,177 ft.
Max: 5,873 ft.
Total Climb: 3,524 ft.

Start: 4,177 ft.
Max: 5,200 ft.
Total Climb: 1,539 ft.

Start: 4,177 ft.
Max: 4,895 ft.
Total Climb: 919 ft.

Note: Elevation data was calculated by MapMyRun, which tends to underestimate elevation gain. Although the actual gain may be slightly higher, rest assured that it is significantly less than the Black Hills 100, Leadville, Hardrock or the like.