North Fork Trail Race

Race Information

Welcome to the North Fork 50 Mile/50K Trail Race!  This page has about everything you need to know to run the race.  Click the link above for a printable pdf copy of the 2017 race information.  If you have any questions that are not answered here, please feel free to call or email the race director - janice@northfork50.com  303-903-3533


Timeline


Friday before the race 4:30-7:00 p.m. Number Pickup – Pine Valley Ranch Park


Saturday, race day:

  • 5:30-5:45 a.m. 50 Mile Early Starters Number Pickup and Check-in
  • 5:50 Briefing at start line for early starters
  • 6:00 50 Mile Early Start
  • 6:00, 6:20. 6:35 Shuttle departs from Fire Station to Start (You may not have time for a bathroom stop if you are on the 6:35)
  • 6:00-6:45 50K and 50 Mile Number Pickup and Check-in
  • 6:50  MANDATORY BRIEFING AT START LINE
  • 7:00 50K and 50 Mile Start
  • 11:00 Start of Barbecue (runs until 8 p.m.)
  • 3:45 p.m. Cutoff at 31.9 miles (Meadows) for 50 Mile
  • 5:45 p.m. Cutoff at 38.2 (50M)/20.2 (50K) miles (Shinglemill)
  • 6:45 p.m. Cutoff at 42.3 (50M)/24.3 (50K) miles (Buffalo Creek)
  • 8:00 p.m. Cutoff at 46.4 (50M)/28.4 (50K) miles (Homestead)


Number Pickup


Race numbers and T-shirts may be picked up 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Friday before the race at Pine Valley Ranch Park in the lower parking area. This is also a good time to be sure you know the way to the start and to the parking area at the Fire Station in Pine.  Numbers can also be picked up at the starting area on race morning from 6:00 to 6:45 a.m. for 7:00 starters, 5:30-5:45 a.m. for 50 Mile early starters.


Pine Valley Ranch Park Start/Finish


The Park: The race starts and finishes in Pine Valley Ranch Park, which is located in Pine, Colorado, about 40 miles southwest of Denver (see directions below). The park is at the end of Crystal Lake Road, accessed from Pine Valley Road/Hwy 126 in Pine. The race start is on the Narrow Gauge Trail, behind the bathroom building at the end of the lower parking lot, near the large information sign. Note there is no drinking water in Pine Valley, so fill your pack/bottles before you head for the start.  The finish line and post-race festivities will be at the large picnic shelter below the lower parking area (there will be bottled water available after the race).


Directions to Pine Valley: The street address for Google Maps or other navigation programs is 30400 Crystal Lake Road, Pine, CO. There is a link to Google Maps on the Contact page. For those who like directions the old-fashioned way:


From the Denver Area: From CO-470 west of Denver take U.S. Hwy 285 south toward Fairplay about 30 miles to the stop light (the only stop light you will encounter on 285) in Pine Junction. At the stop light, turn left (SE) onto Pine Valley Road (County Road 126). Go 5.8 miles down the big hill toward the town of Pine and follow the brown signs to the park. It will be a right turn onto Crystal Lake Road from southbound Hwy 126, and the turn comes immediately after a sharp lefthand curve marked by a flashing warning light. It is about a mile into the park on Crystal Lake Road. If you are directed to the Fire Station to park, continue about a quarter mile past Crystal Lake Road on Pine Valley Road/126 to the Fire Station on your right at 6th street.


From Bailey, Fairplay or other places south of Pine Junction on U.S. 285: Take 285 to the stop light in Pine Junction and turn right (SE) onto Pine Valley Road (County Road 126). From there, follow the directions above to the park or Fire Station.


From the Colorado Springs Area: Take U.S. 24 west to Woodland Park. At Woodland Park, go north on CO-67 toward Westcreek and Deckers. At Deckers, 67 becomes Highway 126/Deckers Road. Continue on 126 (its name changes to Platte River Road and then Pine Valley Road) toward Buffalo Creek and Pine. It is about 42 miles from Woodland Park to Pine, but it could take an hour or more in the dark on race morning. At the far end (not really very far!) of historic downtown Pine Grove, the North Fork Fire Station is on your left at 6th St. Park here or go on about another quarter mile to Crystal Lake Road to see if parking is still available within the park. You will be directed to turn left into the park or to turn around and go back to park at the Fire Station. It is about a mile into the park on Crystal Lake Road.


Parking


The County limits our use of the parking lots in Pine Valley Ranch Park, as the park is open for other users all day.  So many of our cars will have to park remotely. The first 60 arriving cars will be directed into the park. All remaining cars will be directed to park at the North Fork Fire Station in Pine, about 1-1/4 miles from the start/finish. Carpooling is encouraged to help us get as many runners into the park as possible. Someone will be directing you to parking from the intersection of Pine Valley Road/126 and Crystal Lake Road, either into the park or to the Fire Station about a quarter mile from Crystal Lake Road.


If you have a crew that will be dropping you off and then leaving the park right after the start, let the parking staff know that and you will be directed into the park. Your crew must then leave immediately after the start, as the ranger counts parked cars shortly after the start.  By late morning as runners begin to finish and leave the park, there will be no limitation on parking and crews can return to the park.


Shuttle Bus from Fire Station


A shuttle bus will run from the Fire Station into the park at about 6:00, 6:20 and 6:35 a.m. Keep in mind that if you are on the 6:35 shuttle, you might not have time for a bathroom stop. Allow plenty of time to park, shuttle to the park and check in at the race start. Bring a bag to the start with everything you’ll need at the finish so you won’t have to go back to your car until you are ready to go home.


There is NO return shuttle from the finish. (It is just cost prohibitive—sorry.) After the race, you can hitch a ride to the fire station with runners leaving the Pine Valley lots, or race staff will transport you if needed. This is never a problem, as there are always folks leaving the parking lot who will give you a ride.


Start


At 6:50 a.m. there is a mandatory briefing at the start line with essential information for all runners.  Make your way to the start line by that time.


The race will start promptly at 7:00 A.M. ALL RUNNERS MUST CHECK IN AT THE START BETWEEN 6:00 AND 6:45 A.M., EVEN IF YOU PICKED UP YOUR NUMBER ON FRIDAY NIGHT.  We need to know who is actually starting the race so we can accurately keep track of all runners on the course.


Note there is no drinking water in Pine Valley.  Fill your pack/bottles before you head to Pine Valley.


Early Start


There will be a 6:00 a.m. start only for those 50 Mile runners who are not confident that they can finish the race within 14 hours. The Homestead aid station at 5.3 miles opens at 7:30 a.m. and will not likely be open yet for early starters. Carry enough water to get you to Homestead the second time at 10.1 miles. Early starters must check in on race morning between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. Early starters will not be eligible for age group awards unless there are no other finishers in your age group who started at the regular time. Please notify the race director of your intention to take the early start by email at janice@northfork50.com as far before race day as you can. You must notify the race director of your intention to take the early start by 8:00 p.m. on Friday before the race. 


Drop Bags


You can have drop bags at the finish and at Buffalo Creek and Meadows aid stations as follows: 

  • Bring a bag for the finish with everything you will want after the race so you won't have to go to your car until you are ready to go home.  Put your bag on the signed table in the large picnic shelter below the parking area on race morning.
  • All runners may send a drop bag to the Buffalo Creek aid station, which is mile 14.7, mile 24.3 in the 50K and 42.3 in the 50 Mile.  All runners will be able to access their Buffalo Creek drop bag twice in the race.
  • 50 Mile runners may send a drop bag to Meadows aid station, which is miles 16.3, 22.1 and 31.9, so 50 Mile runners will be able to access their Meadows drop bag three times. 
  • Leave your Buffalo Creek and Meadows bags at the signed locations in the parking lot on race morning. 
  • You may use anything you want for a drop bag, but make sure it is sturdy, and keep it to a reasonable size. Write your name and race distance clearly on your bag 
  • IMPORTANT: When you finish with your drop bags at the aid stations, you must move them to the area signed “Drop Bags Ready to Go to Finish.” The only way race staff will know if you are finished with your bag is if it is in the finished bags area, and only finished bags will be returned to Pine Valley before the aid station closes.
  • Buffalo Creek finished drop bags will be picked up at about 1:30, and Meadows finished drop bags will be picked up at about 2:00. These bags will be returned to Pine Valley at about 2:30. Finished bags will also be returned during the afternoon when race staff get a chance to go out to the aid stations.
  • Bags not placed in the finished area will be returned from Meadows at about 4:30 p.m. and Buffalo Creek bags at about 7:30 p.m.


The Course


The 50K and 50 Mile start together, and the course is the same for both races for 15.1 miles. At that point, the courses split, so watch the signs carefully. The 50 Mile runners will do an 18-mile segment and return to the split point, from which they will complete the same course as the 50K. The 50K is actually about 32 miles long. See the Course page for a detailed narrative description of the course and for printable versions of the course directions/turn sheet, elevation profiles, aid station distances and course map.


Course Marking


The course will be marked with surveyor’s ribbon, small flags, and signs. The 50K course will be marked with yellow.  The additional 18 miles of the 50 Mile, miles 15.1-33.1, will be marked with orange.  In addition, red and white striped ribbons will be placed at trail junctions on the trails you do NOT take.  Never take a trail marked with red and white striped ribbons!  Samples will be shown at the pre-race briefing.  Turns will be very well marked, and there will be occasional “confidence” markings in between. Don’t turn off the trail you are on unless the course markings clearly tell you to do so. At some trail junctions, there may be ribbons going more than one way, in which case you will see a sign that tells you which way to go. SIGNS ALWAYS GET PRECEDENCE OVER RIBBONS.


If you have doubts about whether you are on course, keep going until you get to the next trail junction. All trail junctions have signs showing the names of the trails. If there are no course markings at the trail junction, you are off course. Turn around and go back the way you came until you see course markings. NOTE: In 2011, vandals removed markings from a key turn, causing runners to miss the turn. Most runners turned around at the next trail junction when they saw there were no markings, and they got back on course. But some kept going past unmarked trail junctions and did a lot of extra distance. You should carry the course map and/or turn sheet, just in case.


Aid Stations




Click the link above for a printable table of aid stations. All aid stations except Tramway Creek at mile 33.8 of the 50 Mile (which is self-service water only) will have water, GU electrolyte drink, Coke, Sprite, Mountain Dew, GU gels, S!Caps and an assortment of sweet and salty snack foods, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and fruits. By late morning, they will also have ice.  Aid stations are 4 to 6 miles apart. It will likely be warm or even hot in the afternoon, so carry at least one water bottle. If it’s hot (as usual) and you’re moving slowly, it can be a long time between aid stations!


Trail Rules


  • Runners must stay on the marked trail. 
  • If you must leave the trail for a "nature call," go well off the trail and be sure to bury all waste and paper. 
  • THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO LITTERING. All trash must go in receptacles at the aid stations. If you leave the aid station with anything, you must carry it to the next aid station. Anyone who violates this rule may be disqualified and prohibited from running the race in the future. If you should see any trash that has been accidentally dropped on the trail, please pick it up and carry it to the next aid station to dispose of it. 
  • You will likely see other trail users, especially mountain bikers—yield to horses; bikers are supposed to yield to you but you never know. Please be courteous.


Crews and Spectators


The only aid station that can be accessed by vehicle for the 50K is Shinglemill at mile 20.2.


Crews for 50 Mile runners can drive to Meadows (miles 16.3, 22.1 and 31.9), Rolling Creek (mile 27) and Shinglemill (mile 38.2). It is a long, slow drive to Rolling Creek for which you need good vehicle clearance, so you may want to skip that one if you go to Meadows.





Observers are welcome to run or hike into any of the aid stations. No aid (other than encouraging words!) may be given outside of aid stations and their adjacent parking areas, and no one may accompany runners at any time other than allowed pacers as provided below.


Pacers


No pacers are allowed in the 50K (except on the Pine Lake Loop as noted below). Runners in the 50 Mile may have one pacer at a time from the Meadows Aid Station at 31.9 miles or any time after that.  Pacers can hitch a ride to Meadows from Pine Valley with aid station support vehicles at 8:00 or 10:30 a.m.


Runners in both races may have as many people as they like join them on any part of the Pine Lake Loop Trail in Pine Valley Ranch Park, the last .4 mile to the finish.


Cutoffs


The following cutoff times will be strictly enforced: 

  • Meadows (31.9 miles) – 3:45 p.m. 
  • Shinglemill (20.2 for 50K, 38.2 for 50M) – 5:45 p.m. 
  • Buffalo Creek (24.3 for 50K, 42.3 for 50M) – 6:45 p.m. 
  • Homestead (28.4 for 50K, 46.4 for 50M) – 8:00 p.m.

We have to enforce these cutoffs as we are required to have everyone off the course by dark and out of Pine Valley Ranch by an hour after sunset. Any runner who refuses to leave the course after missing a cutoff may be refused entry to the race in future years.


Dropping Out


We keep track of all runners, so if something should happen that makes it necessary for you to drop out of the race, NOTIFY AN AID STATION CAPTAIN OR GO TO THE SCORING TABLE AT THE FINISH LINE to let us know you have dropped. If you are unaccounted for at the end of the race, search & rescue may have to search for you and you will likely get the bill.


Switching Races


You can switch from the 50 Mile to the 50K any time before the race starts. Please email the race director at janice@northfork50.com to switch. If you are registered for the 50 Mile and decide to drop down to the 50K on race day, you must exchange your number for a 50K number before the race starts. No part of your entry fee will be refunded. Runners may not switch from the 50 Mile to the 50K after the race starts. If you start the 50 Mile race, you will not be counted as a 50K finisher if you switch to the 50K course during the race (whether on purpose or by mistake). 32 miles out of 50 is a DNF.


Post-Race Festivities


The post-race party and barbecue will take place at the finish line in the large picnic shelter below the lower parking lot. There will be great food and beverages (including beer!) from about 11:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. Plan on hanging around after the race to bask in the glow of your accomplishment, socialize and cheer for later finishers. You might want to bring a comfortable chair, as the only seating in the shelter is the picnic table benches. The post-race barbecue is free to all runners, families, friends and volunteers. If you park at the Fire Station, be sure to bring a bag to the start/finish area with everything you will want at the finish so you won’t have to go back to your car until you are ready to go home after the post-race festivities.


Awards


All finishers who have made all the cutoffs on the course and complete the distance they started will receive finishers’ awards. 

  • Awards will be given to the overall male and female winners of each race (who will also receive their first place age group awards). 
  • Age group awards will be given to the first 3 finishers in the 29 and under, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60-69 and 70+ age divisions.
  • There will also be an award in each race for the first male and female finishers running their first ultra.
  • Early starters in the 50 Mile are not eligible for awards unless there are no other finishers in their age group who started at 7:00. 
  • Any ties for awards will be broken by coin toss.


Weather


North Fork is normally a warm to hot weather race, though just about anything can happen with the weather in the mountains in June. Keep an eye on the forecast. The average high temperature for Pine in early June is around 75 (which can feel pretty hot when you are working hard out in the sun!), and the average low is in the low 40s—so you will most likely have a cool start and warm or hot afternoon. Rain showers and even heavy thunderstorms are quite common. BE PREPARED!!


In Case of Cancellation


In the unlikely event the race gets cancelled by the Forest Service or the County due to fire danger, weather, trail conditions or other unforeseen events, we would try to give partial refunds with any entry fees that have not already been used for race expenses, but we cannot promise refunds.