Big Sur International Marathon (Big Sur to Carmel, CA)
Credit: David Royal / AP

In 'Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch,' Henry Miller described Big Sur as the "California that men dreamed of" and "the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look." Jack Kerouac spent time in a cabin in Bixby Canyon and wrote about it in a book called 'Big Sur.' The nebulously defined stretch of California's Central Coast only has 1,000 residents, but its reputation for natural beauty and serenity for vacationers is outsize.

The marathon there is no different. Along the 26.2-mile route, runners encounter redwoods, gently flowing streams, the occasional wild turkey, live Taiko drummers, wildflowers, and ranches. The most stunning part of the race is right around mile 13, when runners cross Bixby Creek Bridge, a California landmark with open views of the Pacific. Be sure to stop and smell the roses, so to speak; this is one of the most scenic marathon courses in the U.S.

More Information: There's no qualifying time for Big Sur, but space is limited to 4,500. [Late April;]