The 50K Race
The race is an individual run of a portion of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. This is a point-to-point race that begins in Ohiopyle, PA (elev. 1200 ft.) and ends at the Route 31 trailhead near Myersbrook, PA. (elev. 2760 ft.) Total distance is 50 kilometers. The 50k race has a ten (10) hour time limit for completion, with a time cut-off of six (6) hours at the mile 19 aid station. Runners will be required to be out of the mile 19 aid station within six (6) hours (1:30 P.M.) in order to be allowed to continue in the race.
The nineteenth annual 50 kilometer race will begin at 7:30 a.m. on June 8th 2024. The start line is at the Falls Lot in Ohiopyle, PA. The course will follow the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, terminating at the Trailhead near Route 31.
We will have bus transportation available prior to the start of the race. The bus will pick up runners near the 50K finish area and transport them to the start line, before the race. There will be no transportation after the race. Since it is a point-to-point race, runners are welcome to bring a crew. There are designated parking areas at each of the checkpoint/aid stations, which must be utilized. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a state park, and we are fortunate to receive a permit to run the race. Failure to use the designated parking areas could result in a revocation of our race permit.
*The Website is in the midst of an overhaul. Thank you for your patience. More info will be added soon.
50K Race Rules
Violations of the following rules could result in a racer’s disqualification. The list is not intended to be all-inclusive, but instead, is designed to inform racers of some of the rules specific to this race.
Runners must check-in prior to the start of the race and must verify their finish time at the finish line following completion of the race.
Race numbers must be visible on the front of the runner at all times during the race.
All runners must be out of the mile 19 aid station within six (6) hours, in order to continue.
Racers are not permitted to obtain any outside locomotive assistance. If a racer leaves the trail, they must return to the trail by their own power at the point where they ran off the course and complete the race.
Runners are permitted to have crews for the race. Crews are welcome to meet their runner at any of the aid stations. Crews may also access the trail at intermediate points, if so desired. Crews may not carry supplies for the runner and may not help to propel the runner in any manner.
Pacers will not be permitted in the 50k race.
Entrants must be at least 18 years of age on or before race date, no exceptions.
There will be no refunds, transfers or deferrals once your entry has been accepted.
Parking for crew must be in designated areas only.
50K Aid Stations
There will be fully stocked aid stations at the following locations:
Aid Station 1 - Maple Summit/Jersey Hollow road crossing (11.6 miles)
Aid Station 2 - Route 653 trailhead (19.3 miles)
Aid Station 3 - Seven Springs Resort area (26 miles)
While a crew is not required, each runner should plan on carrying food and fluids between each aid station.
The 50K Course
A 50 kilometer wilderness trail, traversing state parks, state forests, state gamelands, and other public and private lands. This is a very scenic and challenging course. Difficult footing is the norm, as steep grades, logs, rocks, steps, mud and other obstacles abound. The trail is maintained by the state and features concrete markers at every mile. This is a feature of which few ultra races can boast. The entire course is permanently marked with yellow blazes, which makes getting lost difficult. The majority of the trail is rugged single-track, with some meadow crossings in the Seven Springs Resort area. Stream crossings are not an issue on the course, as the park service maintains log bridges across them. However, the bridges do get slippery, especially in the morning when they are covered with dew. Please exercise caution when crossing the log bridges.
The hiking trail has now been permanently routed around Lake Tahoe in the Seven Springs Resort area. Racers will exit the woods below Lake Tahoe, climb a short grade and then run clockwise around the lake. About halfway around, the trail will cut off to the left, there is a wooden post in place that will point the way. We will add small surveyors flags in this area on race day to help with navigation.
The finish is in the trailhead parking area along Route 31. Please note that there is an aid station for the 70.5 mile race on the North side of Route 31, the 50K race will end before reaching Route 31. There is an access trail that leads from the parking area to the LHHT that will be used. Runners will turn left, off the LHHT and onto the access trail to the parking area. The turn for the access trail is appoximately 300 yards before the 31 mile post on the LHHT. If you see the 31 mile marker, you have run too far and missed the turn. Crews that are meeting their runners should park in the Rt 31 "snowmobile lot" parking area, which is on the north side of Route 31. There will be a shuttle for crew and spectators to use to access the finish area lot. We will have signage up on race day.
Here is a Google Map of the course with Aid Station locations.
Here is a Plotaroute Map of the course with elevation (click Menu on top right of map) & gpx downloads.
50K Drop Bags
Drop Bags: Runners are permitted to leave drop bags for all Aid Stations and the finish. Drop bags will be collected at the pre-race dinner, and at check-in, near the start line. If you plan on leaving a drop bag, please have your race number, your name and the Aid Station where the bag is to be delivered clearly visible on the outside of the bag. Do not put items in your drop bag that require special handling. No fragile items, or items that require ice or refrigeration.
Current Course Records for the 50K course
MEN: Adam Hill 4:32:06 - 2009
WOMEN: Martha Nelson 5:07:40 - 2009
We will have a pre-race dinner on Friday, June 7th, 2024, beginning at 5:30 P.M, with packet pickup starting at 4PM. The dinner is free for all registered individual and team runners.The pre-race dinner and meeting will be held at the Ice Pond in Ligonier. Volunteers will be on hand to check-in runners, brief runners on the course and answer questions regarding the race. We will distribute race numbers and shirts at the dinner. The pre-race briefing and dinner usually wraps up by 7:00 p.m, Please plan accordingly.
We will also be collecting drop bags at the dinner. Drop bags will be allowed for all Aid Stations and Finish. Remember that thunderstorms with cold, drenching rain are common in the area at this time of year. Plan on dressing accordingly, or have the appropriate clothing in your drop bags. Drop bags will also be collected at the start on race morning.
Race morning registration will begin at 6:30 A.M. in Ohiopyle, PA. The race itself begins at 7:30 A.M. Parking will be located in the Ferncliff Natural Area parking lot https://goo.gl/maps/ML2arh69UMrGedhN7 . Packet pick-up, runner check-in and drop bag collection will take place at this time. The Start Line will be located in the Falls Lot on the other side of the bridge.
There will be a bus available on race morning to take runners to the start. The bus will leave the finish area (Rt 31) promptly at 6:15a.m. Runners who wish to take the bus should select this option at the time of registration. This is the only bus service that we provide. Runners that require a ride back to the start area will have to make their own arrangements. Also, if you drive to the start, you will have to make arrangements to get your car to the finish. There is no overnight parking permitted in the parking lot at the start. If you leave your car at the finish, please do not park in the few spaces where the trail exits the woods, as the race directors will need this area to set up the timing equipment and food tents.
We will most likely offer camping on Friday night once again at the Ice Pond, but no shuttle will be provided from Ice Pond to the finish area. Campers must drive to Rt 31 and take the finish shuttle themselves.
Crews are responsible for their own food and drink. Please do not litter. As is true with most trail races, our ability to continue this race depends on the conduct of the runners and crews. We are given permission each year for the use of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. With more participants each year, we need everyones help to avoid parking, driving and littering infractions. Crew infractions may be attributed to your runner and result in disqualification.
Race management is not responsible for lost crews.
Pacers are NOT allowed at the 50K distance.
Here is a Google Map of the course.
The 50k team relay race will consist of three (3) legs that teams of two (2) or three (3) members will run. The first transition will be at the 11 mile aid station, the second transition will be at the 19 mile aid station. This will result in distances of approximately 11, 8 and 12 miles. The time limit is ten (10) hours. Awards will consist of trophies for the first place male, female and mixed teams.
The 50K team relay race will begin at 7:30 a.m. on June 8th, 2024. The start line is the Falls Lot in Ohiopyle, PA. The course will follow the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, terminating at the Trailhead near Route 31. This is a point-to-point race. We will have bus transportation available prior to the race. The bus will pick up runners near the 50K finish area and transport them to the start line, before the race. There will be no transportation after the race. Since it is a point-to-point race, runners are welcome to bring a crew. There are designated parking areas at each of the checkpoint/aid stations, which must be utilized. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is a state park, and we are fortunate to receive a permit to run the race. Failure to use the designated parking areas could result in a revocation of our race permit.
The team relay transitions will be at the existing aid stations at miles 11 and 19 along the trail. Each team is responsible for getting their runners to the correct transition area. Teams must check in with the transition area captain.
Aid Station 1 - Maple Summit road crossing (11.6 miles)
Aid Station 2 - Route 653 trailhead (19.3 miles)
Team Relay Rules
The Team Relay race will be governed by the same rules as in the individual 50k race.
Runners must follow the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail at all times, if you get off the trail, you must return to the trail at the same spot, under your own power.
Transitions may only occur at the designated areas.
Relay runners may not use pacers or "mules".
Each team member must complete a 50k team application and sign the waiver.
The team captain should mail all of the applications together along with the required entry fee.
All team members must be 18 years of age on or before the race date.
Each team is responsible for the transportation of the team members throughout the race. Race management can not transport team members to the various checkpoints.
Click on the links above for more information on the 50K course.
The following is a brief history of the Laurel Highlands Ultra. Much of this history was printed by Mel Cowgill after the 1999 race. It also appears in the race recap for that year. Thank-you Mel, for providing this information.
The Laurel Highlands Ultra began as the "ultra challenge" in the late 1970's when brothers Joe and Paul Butchko discovered the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The trail had just been completed by the State of Pennsylvania as a permanently marked hiking trail along the Laurel Ridge in the Southwestern corner of the state. The two brothers began running sections of the trail and soon decided to try and run the entire length in one day. So they invited a few friends to join them and the race was born.
That first attempt proved a true challenge, as none of the runners made it past fifty-seven miles that day. The first official run was held the following year (1980) with seven starters. Four of the runners made it to the finish line in Seward. Joe Butchko was one of those finishers. His brother Paul served as the official timer, and has remained as the race timer to this day. The race began at the southern terminus of the trail, running north for seventy miles. Each mile is permanently marked with small concrete monuments. The first two editions of the race, 1980 and 1981, were seventy miles long. In 1982 the starting line was moved back, next to the falls in Ohiopyle State Park, thus adding the extra mileage that now makes the course 70.5 miles long. Although, as many runners will attest, the final mile in Seward seems short.
The Laurel Highlands Ultra has many unique features. It is one of the few point-to-point trail races in existence. During its first twenty years, this feature also made it one the toughest races, as each runner was responsible for his/her own aid along the course. It was quite a scene to see a runners crew moving between road crossing so that their runner would be well supplied with food and fluids. The more adventurous of the crews were able to locate unmarked or well hidden roads that allowed them to access their runners at more points along the course.
In the year 2000, for the twenty first running of the race, Tim and Loreen Hewitt took over the duties of race directors, adding many changes to the race. The cut-off time was increased from eighteen hours to twenty-two hours. Aid stations were added at the timing checkpoints and at a few other access areas. A team relay was also added to give runners a taste of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail without a full committment. These changes proved very positive to the race, as the number of entries increased. The finishers rate also improved dramatically due to the changes.
The next big change was the addition of a fifty kilometer race in 2006. The 50k race is also a point-to-point race, beginning in Ohiopyle and ending at the trailhead near Route 31. The course is one of the more difficult 50k's in the country as it climbs out of the Youghiogheny River Gorge before traversing the terrain around the area ski resorts.
The 2009 race saw both the men's and women's course records fall. Adam Hill from Ontario, Canada broke the men's course record by a scant ten seconds. Martha Nelson shattered the womens course record by forty-four minutes. Martha also finished second overall in what was her first ultra. Not a bad introduction to ultrarunning!