What’s Your Favorite Aid Station

Many of us have already hit the trails for a race this year and are looking forward to more this summer. At the vast majority of these races, we’ll stop at one or more aid stations (or a couple dozen if you’re running the Vermont 100). For the most part, these aid stations serve the utilitarian purpose of providing food and drink. However, some aid stations take it a few steps further by offering hot food, full-on smorgasbords, music, entertaining themes, adult beverages, or other mood boosting amenities. We’d love to hear what you favorite aid station is and why!

Scenic Aid Station

Setting and scenery can greatly enhance an aid station.

If you’re interested in finding out how to make the most of the aid stations at future races, pick up the latest issue of Trail Runner magazine (No 73) to read my Trail Tips article Acing Aid Stations: Use Them to Speed Up Your Next Race.

BONUS: By leaving a comment, Benjamin Dunn won an entry in the inaugural Slickrock 50 mile on October 8 outside of Moab, Utah. He’ll have the option of upgrading to the 100 mile or downgrading to the 50k. Since not h might not be able to get out to Moab, the entry will be transferable to anyone of the winners choosing.

There are 73 comments

  1. Jim Blanchard

    Actually the aid station that has left the most lasting impression on me was Ford's Bar on the WS course. Two gruff guys in the middle of the night, water [runners only one year, pacers can do without]. "Don't sit down unless your sick, someone else will need that chair. We don't want to make friends, just fill your bottle and keep moving." As we left my pacer said that those guys were mean. "Sure, but we didn't dawdle did we?" I should add that it's a remote AS with a pretty good drop off on one side, no room, but I really liked the minimalist approach.

  2. Steve Pero

    That's an easy one….Virginius at Hardrock. It's where Deb and I announced our engagement in 2001. Plus it just might be the most extreme aid station in the country!

  3. Turi

    The Hobart aid station on the Tahoe Rim Trail course. Always great themes – my favorite was an Irish Pub theme, where they had you toss a dart at a dartboard before you left, kept some kind of score, and awarded prizes later. I think they had a bottle of Jamesons back there somewhere, too…

  4. Benjamin Dunn

    I have to agree with Steve on Kroger's although his Rendija Canyon aid station is always a welcome sight at Jemez.

  5. Perry

    My favorite aid station is the one my wife has found and is waiting there for me. Nothing like having loving crew to help you!

  6. Jadon Ross

    I think any trail aid station is 100 times better than a road race aid station. I love having "real" food to choose from, after so many road aid stations with just water and possibly a GU.

  7. Rob T

    AWESOME. Was looking at this race but didn't know If my wife and I could both swing the reg. Fingers crossed!!

    My favorite aid station is soup, towards the end/in the dark. I can only take Gu for so much before I crave sweet potatoes and soup. Also, it takes a special person to man an aid station…if they looked bummed/bored when I get there…imagine how I'm going to feel!

  8. jeff

    hells gate at zane grey. it sits on top of one of the fingers coming down from the mesa and offers an amazing view. it is a remote AS w/ no roads in. it's no-nonsense, no frills, but has a powerful vibe that can't help but rejuvenate and inspire. there's a sense of solidarity with those staffing that AS; totally off the grid and operating in epic mode. does that make sense?

  9. Chris

    Lately it's been any aid station with cola. I'm not much of a soda drinker, but when I do get a chance to have a few sips during a race it lifts the spirits and motivates me to the next aid station in hopes of more cola!

    Chris

  10. Michael Helton

    Foresthill aid station at Western States. Lon runs it very well, it is where runners finally get to pickup pacers and it is where I first met Bryon in person!

  11. Brad Koenig

    Please put my name into the hat for Slickrock 50! Thanks!

    I'll always remember Hopeless Aid Station at Leadville (inbound, on the way home), a bivouac a few hundred feet from the top of Hope Pass. It was my first 100 and I'll always remember that view, the llamas, the hot noodle soup, the 3 runners in the med tent (passed out with oxygen masks), and how everyone looked beaten and deathly. I can't wait to get back there.

  12. Chris G

    I love the aid station posted in that photo. Aid Station #4 at Moab's Red Hot 50K+. I've returned to Moab 3 times to experience the views and I will be back next year.

    I've never been to Kroger's Canteen but when I was trying to decide which aid station to volunteer last year, I found this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NDd8JpR4IA. Insane!

    Finally, Coyote 2 Moon has the best aid stations hands-down. Food, booze, costumes, and friendly volunteers.

    ChrisG

  13. Michael Foster

    My favorite aid station came during the Barr Trail Mountain Race, right before Barr Camp there was an aid station designed as Candyland, complete with the high school kids dressed as candy characters, and they were handing out some candy. I was exhausted from pushing a little too hard earlier in the race, and the gummy bears and junior mints gave me quite a jolt! Of all of the great aid stations, that one will always stick in my mind! The race also does an aid station challenge where they are manned by the local high school cross country teams, and I believe that aid station won by a large margin!

  14. Gretchen

    Tunnel Creek at Tahoe Rim Trail!! Also, a close second goes to the Maiden Lake aid station at Waldo. Those ladies really give the spa treatment – shoulder rub, face wipe, latte. Seriously!

  15. Ryan Kircher

    I'm partial to Mayqueen Inbound at Leadville. The place is a trap. Big tents, nice people, warmth, beds, and tons of food. The course goes through the tents, so you have to subject yourself to the comforts.

    Best advice anybody gave me was to have my crew wait for me on the other side of the aid station out in the dark & cold, that way you're forced to go through in a timely manner to meet up with them.

  16. Ultra Steve

    For me it is Margaritaville in Vermont. It is worth taking the time to have your picture taken with the festive and colorful cast, although I didn't bother to stop that long until my third running :) They include fast paced music, margaritas for the taking, and a warm welcome.

  17. pittbrownie

    Kroger's Canteen. Really hard to get tequila all the way up there, but the volunteers come through every year. Hopeless is pretty cool as well, with the llamas chillin' all over the place.

    Never been through Brown's Bar at Western, but I've heard good things about it. Pacing through this year and looking forward to a visit.

  18. dml

    I'm always partial to the aid station i'm at. Would love to run this race, but with family, it's hard to get everyone moving in the same direction at the same time. dml

  19. Craig Thornley

    Dimple Hill aid station at McDonald Forest 50K in Corvallis Oregon. It is located on this little hill at 18 miles with a beautiful view of Western Oregon "greenness." We always have a theme: Eugene hippies, Big Lebowski, Braveheart, Faux Body Builders, Fletch… We always have a theme food or drink (alcohol isn't allowed so we just pretend – yeah right). We have fun and give great aid, but check this out. Two local runners decided to get married during the race at the aid station this year. The bride took the early start, the groom the regular start (an hour later). Lots of family and friends came to the aid station for the ceremony which was performed by the co-RDs. Then, after spending a quick minute in the consummation tent (fully outfitted with everything a couple would need), they ran together to the finish. Now that was awesome. Best aid station, well, except for all my aid stations at Waldo, of course :-)

    Once you get all these nominations are you going to do an AJW poll to let your readers pick the best one?

  20. Cody Hanson

    So far, ruckachuckee last year. I was a pacer but there was nothing like coming into a mini lit up city inhabiting both sides of the river in the middle of the night. Fun people, and the rafters who took us across were pretty badass, just rowing hard all night just upriver from what seemed at the time to be a decent rapid (it was probably a ripple, but still if they faultered at all that would be a sh** show trying to get runners to the other side). Very good times.

  21. Sarah

    Craig took my answer! I've only run the McDonald Forest 50k once, but the Dimple Hill aid station is one of the most memorable. It was the hippie theme the year I ran it. Not only are they fun, but that crew is super helpful and experienced.

  22. Howard

    Oilcreek 100 – Aid Station Wolfkiel Run. Christmas Theme. Christmas Lights and music it was great and got my mind off waht was a head for a few moments. It was like coming into the North Pool from the dark late at night. Presents lined the hill as we climbed out of the aid station. Oil Creek is the best event I have attended to date.

    1. @taylornelson44

      Howard! I have worked that aid station since day one, I honestly look forward to race weekend more than I do my own birthday or even Christmas itself! The feeling I get after helping all those runner and trying make their race so much more enjoyable is better than feeling of seeing all those presents under the tree when I was younger.
      I work on setting up all day Friday, work the spaghetti dinner and packet pickup that night then back into the woods at 4AM till about 3AM the next morning, a couple hours of sleep, then back to the middle school to watch the last finishers. Race is only a week away, and you could say I'm SUPER excited! Thank you so much, and hope to see you again! -Taylor

  23. swampy

    The aid station at the Hellgate 100k where they have a breakfast buffet. Sausage, bacon, eggs toast. It almost makes up for the fact that the race started at midnight.

  24. Anonymous

    The Burger station just past the river at HURT I believe it is called Jackass Ginger. Good burgers and Great people. Plus you get to go there 5 times!!!

  25. Jon

    Ive heard the aid station under the golden gate bride during the headlands 100 is pretty cool. Personally, my favorite aid station is usually the last one.

  26. Brent

    My experience is admittedly limited, but of those I've experienced, I'm going to have to go with the Rendija Canyon aid station at Jemez. Super fast, friendly and encouraging volunteers.

  27. Chris

    My favorite aid station is Heaven's Gate at the McNaughton Park (Pekin, IL) 100 mile race. Now called the Potawatomi Trail Runs, the Heaven's Gate aid station is still the best! The buffalo trail runners are massively encouraging (including willing to run a 10-mile loop with anyone), knowledgeable (most are ultra runners), have super selection of food and drink (including hot food and a variety of alcoholic beverages), will help you rest up (in lounge chairs or tent and sleeping bags), and always have a fire going at night to keep you warm and mellow. If I wanted to have a "pacer" for every single 10-mile loop during the 100 mile race, I could get a different volunteer from Heaven's Gate each time! That is awesome support. Any knowing I was a vegetarian, they supplied me with veggie burgers on demand. How sweet is that?

    -Chris

  28. Anonymous

    I second gretchen's vote for maiden lake at waldo. It literally is a spa treatment there and comes at a much needed point after a LONG steep climb. Most of the aid stations in that race are a lot of fun…ditto for TRT.

  29. Tony Mollica

    One that sticks out for me was the last one at Fool's 50K, Peninsula, Ohio (Near Cleveland). It wasn't the aid station itself but a colorful character that was working there. My friend Joe Burke was the Captain there. (He is known as "The Flag Guy" for running road races with a pack with a big flag on it to salute our Service men and women.) I came into the station completely tired with dead legs, and he asked me what I needed. I replied "A new pair of legs!" He said he didn't have any but offered me Tums which I gratefully accepted. Then he deadpanned "The rest of the course is downhill from here," then he paused and added "except for the part that goes uphill." The rest of the course had more uphill than downhill or flat; but his comment made me laugh the rest of the way especially when I was going uphill.

    Sometimes all you need is something to get your mind off of what hurts!

  30. Christian Johnson

    I mulled this one over for a while and no single aid station really stood out, instead it was a person that was at some of my favorite aid stations.

    Roch Horton.

    He is simply the best person to have as an aid station captain. I've through aid stations that our captained by Roch at several different races and without a doubt I am always better off after I leave. He thinks of everything from food and beverage to foot issues and even reminds you to empty your pockets filled with trash.

    My vote is for a Roch Horton run aid station.

  31. Paul Atkinson

    The picture for the article was an aid station at the Moab Red Hot 50k. I ran that race and the aid station volunteers were amazing. That’s what makes a good aid station knowledgably volunteers. These volunteers (some of the camped out) drove their 4×4 for miles over slickrock to make sure we had water and food. Meeting new people and making friends is one of the many great aspects of racing.

  32. Anonymous

    Champex during the UTMB. The whole town becomes an aid station with dance music, disco lights and great food.

    Graeme.

  33. Pat W

    The Hamburg Road Aid Station inbound at the Catoctin 50K. I'm always feeling like complete crap at the time I get there. Nothing better than a smiling face, some encouragement, a cold towel and a popsicle to get me thru the 6 mile Death March back to the finish.

  34. stephan willow

    Road 2060 at Pine to Palm. Folks came down off Wagner Butte hammered, cold and wet. Folks left full as they could handle, drier and warm. That aid station saved my bacon in 2010. Hoping they have a much easier time of it in future years.

  35. Joe

    Waldo has great aid stations–particularly the twins, which runners visit twice, and the theme changes…Last year it was heaven the first time thru and hell the second time. All the aid stations at Waldo are awesome!

  36. Jill Homer

    Flathorn Lake at mile 22 and 86 of the Susitna 100. You stumble in off a frozen lake when the temperature is 20 below zero and Peggy has a raging fire, hot chocolate and coffee, homemade jambalaya, warm brownies, juicy orange slices and water inside her rustic cabin. More than a few racers have asked her to adopt them so they can move in for good.

  37. Peter

    The Gil's Athletic Club in Ipswich MA at Stone Cat 50miler. Great aid stations, grilled cheese, bacon, eggs, and tons of shots of every liquor you can imagine. so much spirit, music, friendly faces. best aid station i have ever not run thru

  38. Brian Walter

    I've been there (the aid station pictured above). Certainly scenic, and welcome after a the biggest climb of the race.

    My favorite was the mile 24 aid station at Dances with Dirt Devils Lake last summer. It sits on top of the east bluff and offers incredible views over the lake and a luscious green valley. It offered a welcome rock to sit on and enjoy the views (and rest) and the Chips Ahoy! cookies there tasted homemade!

    Second place goes to the only aid station in the Twin Mountain Trudge outside Laramie, WY. Whisky in a shot glass made of ice and scrumptious lemon cookies.

    Evidently I run for cookies.

    I'd run Slickrock for cookies.

  39. KA

    I don't tend to hang around at aid stations, and rather try to carry what I need on me rather than be reliant as I have a silly peanut allergy. An aid station with pb&j sandwiches or nut cookies could turn problematic for me.

    Sort of on topic, but it was interesting running a trail race in the UK last year and seeing the different approach over there. Jelly babies instead of gummy bears (which did not look at all appetising after many hands had delved into the bowl and sweatily removed the powder coating on the remainder), water instead of electrolyte mixtures, and no ice, just sponges soaked in cold water to grab.

    Hmm, favourite aid station so far would have to be one on the mid point of a low key 50k with friends to celebrate another runner's birthday. Birthday cake and a mini party at 25k was pretty good.

  40. Ken

    My favorite aid station is the Hyannis Drive station at the Kneeknacker 50k in Vancouver, B.C. The station is supposed to be water only but the station team go all out and have loads of food, sponges to cool off with and great music blaring away. It's set up only five miles from the finish and just before the last big climb so it a great place to regroup.

    Ken Eng

    Smithers, B.C.

    Canada

  41. John.Corvallis

    I remember my first time at Brown's Bar at Western States. It is one big party sponsored by the Hash House Harriers. Bob Marley was blasting from speakers above the aid station and bouncing up the canyon. (That year they played my favorite Marley album, Babylon By Bus.) Fortunately, the previous aid station warned me that I would hear them miles before getting there. When I did arrive, bright neon lights broke the darkness offering an oasis to a weary runner. They offered beer along with all sorts of good stuff. At the end of the race, I compared experiences with my neighbor/training partner who was a bit behind me. He thought it was one of the worst aid stations on the course.

    The next year I was running slower and hit Brown's Bar after sunrise. They played boring music. Most of the people there were sleeping. The place stunk of stale beer and vomit. It made me think of a frat party the morning after. At the finish, my training partner, a few hours faster than me, told me how great it was. I realized why he was disappointed the previous year.

    Timing is everything

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