A Noble Course

It is official: the 2015 Noble Canyon 50k course will be the same as last year which, truth be known, is my favorite NC50k course sequence! The course features all of Noble Canyon, an exposed stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, Champagne Pass with Indian Creek Trail, then the classic “Noble Canyon Big Sandy” climb nearing the finish.

Here is a description of the fun and challenge you will face at the 2015 race. Some have described it as a lollipop shaped course; you head up Noble Canyon, do a loop at the top, then head back down the handle.


The course starts and finishes at the Bible Camp in Pine Valley down the dirt road on the south side of the camp. You leave the start line and head north for about a mile on the asphalt road before you connect with the main Noble Canyon Trail at the Trailhead.

NC50k_PineCreekAspahlt  NC50k_NearTrailhead


The lower stretches of the course are scenic and don’t seem too technical on fresh legs and in cooler temperatures. The course weaves around the shoulder of a short mountain and after a couple miles the course exits the formal Noble Canyon trail for a short detour to the Pine Creek Aid Station where historic captain Matt Davis will fill your bottles and send you on your way to connect again with the official Noble Canyon trail.

The course soon enters the actual canyon, climbing some rocky sections and tree-covered single track trail with the mountainous walls of Noble Canyon, like bookends, on either side.  Though uphill, all of Noble Canyon is runnable if you have it in your race plan to do so.

Noble Canyon trail near Big Tree Aid Station

Noble Canyon trail near Big Tree Aid Station

After about 5 miles of climbing you enter the welcome canopy of a large tree where veteran ultrarunner and founding race director Scott Mills and his team will fill your bottles and shoo you out of the station and up the hill.

The climbing continues; up gorgeous single-track trail. If you know what to look for you can see Pioneer Mail, Champagne Pass, and Indian Creek Trail in the distance on the left.  Even if you don’t know what to look for, the scenery is splendid.

After another 2 1/2 miles of the Noble Canyon trail you’ll enter the Penny Pines Aid station captained by Ultrarunning champion Tom Nielsen. He and his experienced folks will fill your bottles and point you to the trail that runs along the cliff’s edge across the highway.


Immediately after crossing Sunrise Highway you will take a left and embark on a five mile tour of the Pacific Crest Trail. You’ll run along the cliff’s edge with a great drop ever looming on your right. You can see for miles down into the Anza-Borrego desert, wow what a great view! If you’re not trying to win this thing, you will surely snap a photo or two along this stretch.

When you come to the Pioneer Mail aid station, this year like last year, you will first need to do a short 1/2 mile out-and-back along the ever steep cliff’s edge before you enter the aid station. You can then enter Pioneer Mail where “ultraspouse” Denise Escola and her team will fill your bottles and point you to the exit.

Much of the course is exposed with few trees. Plan for a hot race day.

Approaching Pioneer Mail Aid Station


The run from Pioneer Mail, to Champagne Pass, and from Champagne Pass down then up Indian Creek Trail is an exposed, single-track trail that is very runnable and extremely fun.  The swooping turns and “longer than you remember” climbs make for an awesome section that I’m so glad has been added to the sequence of the course.

Indian Creek Trail

Indian Creek Trail


After the Indian Creek Trail climb you will “T” into and connect again with the Noble Canyon trail. Turn Right and you’ll shortly revisit Big Tree Aid where the shade will feel that much cooler and the water will feel that much wetter. Scott Mills will again repair your needs and send you down the mountain.

Even though you will be retracing your steps and you are now headed downhill instead of uphill, for some reason elements of the course just got tougher.  The rocks will seem to have multiplied, the stretches between aid longer, and the exposure to the sun more intense.

Matt Davis and his team will offer a blue-canopy oasis with colder-than-normal ice and will send you out for the final stretch.

Outbound a few hours ago you barely noticed running down a sandy stretch of the course. But now inbound to the finish all runners meet and remember the hot, tough, sandy climb. Over the years this stretch has been given many names including “Big Sandy” “The Sierra” “That Sandy Knoll” and other names not suitable for this family program. Needless to say all runners get to experience this late in the race final climb!

You continue retracing your way back to the Bible Camp and across the Finish Line where the Rat awaits your smooches.

Good luck in your training and I look forward to seeing you on the trails.

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