Race Information

Michigan's Dragon Trail above Hardy PondMay 20, 2023
7 or 14-hour cut-off

Camp Harvest, Newaygo, MI
Teams of 1-4

A United States Adventure Racing Association Regional Championship
(14-hour race only)

Presented by: “Remax Renay”–Renay Deering-Horton

The adventure event of the year in Michigan!

Gather your team and get ready to experience challenging but “doable” northern Michigan terrain just 40 minutes north of Grand Rapids. Your goal is to find as many checkpoints as you can before the cut-off, using topographic maps and traveling by mountain bike, canoe/kayak and on foot. Click on the Register page above to sign up but read on for all the details…

Mountain bike miles and miles of dreamy, roller coaster singletrack on Michigan’s Dragon, a world-class multi-use trail above scenic Hardy Pond. The trails are designed for all skill levels, provided you have at least some dirt trail bike experience, but the faster you go, the more challenging it gets! This may be the best mountain biking you’ll ever do in a race. You’ll also bike on some beautiful forest-lined gravel roads and for 14-hour racers, we’ll throw in a few rugged two tracks.

Biker on Michigan's Dragon Trail above Hardy Pond

Trek and orienteer through beautiful Manistee National Forest and other woodsy areas. It’s “Goldilocks” terrain – not too steep or too flat, not too thick or too open. Defined, often runnable terrain that has never been raced on before. No swamp crossings but a few gorgeous ones to look at like the one below. Super detailed LIDAR maps and vetted checkpoints.

Paddle scenic flat waters with a bit of navigation to keep you on your toes. A short section of scenic river paddling. Enough paddling (but no portaging) to break a sweat but not too much where it feels like a slog. We want to make sure you have plenty of time to enjoy the biking and trekking! Bring your own canoe or kayak to save money or rent at 35-50%+ off normal rental costs.

Celebrate after the race with a spaghetti and salad dinner, awards and raffle, sharing epic stories of success and what you’d do differently next time.

Scenic marsh overlook on one of the trek sections

You Can Do This. Here’s Why…
Don’t let the duration keep you from an incredible experience. This is not a “non-stop” race like a triathlon or marathon. Adjust your pace to the duration, maintain a positive attitude and make sure you know how to follow a topographic map and use a compass to find off-trail checkpoints. We can help you get ready with our free clinic and lots of online resources. If you are new to adventure racing, scroll down to the bottom of this page for a short tutorial.

7-hour race: We’ve decided to add 60 minutes to the 6-hour race so teams can enjoy more or all of the course. All checkpoints are optional. You can even skip one of the sections. Skipping the paddle or one of the treks would be the most likely scenario, but if you don’t have a bike or are really uncomfortable with biking on dirt trails (the Dragon requires some “mountain” biking experience but is certainly not an advanced/rugged trail), you could bike the gravel and paved roads which would allow you to obtain quite a few checkpoints. We’ll even allow you to access a trekking section on the Dragon without having to do the singletrack if you wish.

Bypassing the singletrack would cost you a few checkpoints but would shave off 1-1.5 hours and would help ensure that you have time to get back to the finish if you are running behind or just doing the race at a slower pace. You could even skip the biking altogether if you really want the race to be more of a 3-4 hour experience based on average walking/hiking and beginner paddling speeds. So, you’ll be missing out on quite a few checkpoints but we will allow this to encourage people to participate and hopefully invest in a bicycle for the next race.

14-hour race: We are estimating that faster teams should be able to finish in closer to 12 hours but we’ve bumped up the cut-off to 14 hours so more teams can get the majority or all of the checkpoints. Also, be aware that the trekking section furthest away is optional. You can choose to skip it altogether or in the case of running well behind and possibly missing the 14-hour cut-off, you may be required to bypass it and take the “short course” instead. You’ll still be a ranked finisher but this will free up approximately 3 hours (15 miles of road biking, 4 miles of trekking), allowing you to maximize the singletrack, paddling and other trekking areas and make for a better overall experience.


  • Solo: females, males
  • 2-person: mixed, females, males
  • 3-4 person: mixed, females, males

What’s Included
See the Register page in the drop-down menu above for entry fees and youth or military discounts. Entry includes:

  • Tech shirt featuring the Dragon trail around Hardy Pond, outlined in red and come to life! Crew or v-neck. You must register about 2 weeks in advance of the race. Or, pick our stainless steel pint or buff.
  • Post-race spaghetti and salad dinner
  • Chance at over $2,000 worth of top finisher prizes and dozens of raffle prizes
  • The first place team in each division will receive a handcrafted wood team trophy
  • All top finishing teams will receive wood individual medals and a gear or gift card prize, provided by our generous sponsors (1st place teams pick first and so on; depth of placements determined by number of teams in each division).

United States Adventure Racing Association (USARA) Regional Championship
The 14-hour race is a United States Adventure Racing Association Regional Championship. Your one-day $8 license is included in your entry (not required for 7-hour racers). We encourage all racers to purchase an annual membership to help grow the sport. It includes supplemental medical insurance, discounts on gear and coaching, and we’ll refund your $8 one-day license if you get the annual membership (14-hour racers). The first place team in the 14-hour 3-4 person co-ed/mixed division will also receive a free entry to the USARA national championship on Sept. 15-16 in Vermont!

gravel road on 14-hour bike section

Skill Levels & Approximate Mileages

  • Biking (and Bike Orienteering): Incredible singletrack on Michigan’s Dragon Trail and lots of it along with a nice mix of dirt and paved roads. The singletrack is doable by all skill levels (some dirt trail riding experience is recommended). We’ll have many checkpoint flags in gullies, peninsulas and on other defined terrain along the way so you’ll need to “stay in contact” with the map as you fly through the trails!
    • 7-hour: 30 miles, including 10+ miles on The Dragon (trail maps) (or you can bike the gravel and paved roads and skip The Dragon)
    • 14-hour: 50-60 miles, including 25+ miles on The Dragon. Optional shorter course will reduce the bike mileage by 15 road miles for teams behind schedule.
  • Trekking (On-foot Orienteering): Gorgeous Michigan forests with rolling terrain and views of marshes, lakes and valleys (particularly on the 14-hour race). Fairly thin vegetation in most places and several two tracks interspersed will help you move faster and relocate if you are having trouble finding a checkpoint. Detailed LIDAR maps for all sections. Thanks to Southern Michigan Orienteering Club for help with the LIDAR base map development.
    • 7-hour: 4-5 miles total, 2 sections. Mostly beginner level with a few intermediate in difficulty; all optional so if you can’t find one (or don’t get to one of the trek sections), you can move on to get back “on schedule” or finish the race early.
    • 14-hour: 8-12 miles total, 3 sections. Mostly intermediate level; a few somewhat more subtle placements to test your ability to process many types of information (contour shape, elevation, vegetation types, man-made features, distance, direction, water features, etc.). One trek section will be several miles of biking away but will act as a “short course” so your team can skip it to get back on schedule or finish the race early if your team is “only” ready for more like 10-11 hours of activity.
  • Paddling: Beautiful flat-water paddling. No paddling skills required. No portaging. Good navigation should help. It will not be a particularly long paddle; we want to give you lots of time for the amazing biking in particular!
    • 7-hour: 2-3 miles
    • 14-hour: 5-7 miles (may include a section of river paddling)
Dragon trail overlooking Hardy Pond

Most Dragon photos are courtesy Alex Stewart, Spectrum Trail Designs. All photos are from either the 7-hour or 14-hour course.


14 Hours
Check-in, canoe/kayak staging, route planning, : Friday, 4:00-8:00 pm
Mandatory race briefing (lodge, bring your maps & race instructions): Friday, 8:00-8:30 pm
Start: 6:30 am (waves)
Finish by: 8:30 pm (waves)
Dinner: buffet open 7:00-9:00 pm
Award ceremony and raffle: 9:00 pm (approx.)

7 Hours
Check-in, maps, route planning: Friday, 4:00-9:00 pm (note change from website) or Saturday, 6:45-8:45 am
Mandatory race briefing (lodge, bring your maps & race instructions): 9:00-9:25 am
Start: 9:30 am (waves)
Paddle Cut-off: 1:00 pm (must finish paddle by then per Newaygo County)
Finish by: 4:30 pm (waves)
Dinner: buffet open 4:00-5:30 pm
Award ceremony and raffle: 5:30 pm (approx.)

Camp Harvest, 6829 E 72nd St, Newaygo, MI 49337
Camp map

Lodging & Area Attractions
See our separate page that lists on-site and nearby lodging and fun things to do in the area.

Required Gear
See the Required Gear page for details. Required gear will be standard adventure racing gear (bike, hydration pack/containers, compass, emergency blanket and a few other small items). Scroll down on that page to see other suggested items, many which are smart to have, but not mandatory.

kayak similar to rental kayak optionCanoes & Kayaks – Bring Own or Rent
(all rentals sold out as of 5/12/23)
You may bring your own canoe(s), tandem kayak(s), or solo kayak(s), in any combination depending on your team size and stage it along with your paddles, PFDs at the start of the paddle before the race (near the race start). Your watercraft will be in a secure position at the venue after you finish your paddle.

If you will be renting watercraft, you can rent any combination of kayaks or canoes for your team. Life vests and canoe or kayak paddles included. If you are a 3-person team, you can rent a canoe with a person in the middle, a canoe and two kayaks, or three kayaks (no tandem kayaks available). They will be ready for you along with paddles and PDFs at the start of the paddle and you’ll leave all paddle gear there when you’re done. If you need to rent AFTER you have already signed up, go to the Purchase Event Items below the registration options and rent it separately there.

7-hour rental ONLY. Because the paddle section is an out-and-back and some teams will finish before others arrive (you can either paddle first or trek first), we can rent fewer watercraft than there are teams. We pass this savings on to you with rental fees at a 50% discount! We have not seen any wait times in past races using this arrangement but be aware there could be a wait of likely not more than 5 minutes (or there might not be the perfect combination of canoes and kayaks you desire at that moment) so if that’s unacceptable, consider borrowing or bringing your own.

compass clinic attendeesTransition/Aid Station Areas
You will need to carry all the gear and food you need but we’ll have plenty of fluids at the transition areas (TAs) where you switch between biking, trekking and paddling. Your bike will be your mode of transportation between sections. Volunteers will watch your bikes at the TAs while you are out paddling or trekking. There will be no need to stage your bike or canoe/kayak at a TA before the race.

Navigation/Race Preparation Clinic
Navigation 101/201 clinic, Saturday,  May 13, Seidman Park, Grand Rapids. RSVP here. Includes in-field practice. 1.5 hours. Free. If you can’t make it, check out the Navigation 101/201 clinic presentation and other sources on our Learn More page for tips.

Tech shirt, pint or buff comes with early or regular entry (late entrants get pint or buff; can swap for shirt if desired at the end of check-in). Men’s/adult crew or women’s v-neck, same shirt as our other races.
Women’s shirt specifications
Men’s shirt specifications

Shop and pre-pay online during registration and receive at packet pick-up or shop in person the day of the event. We may also have skull caps and tech shirts available at the race (but not online).

  • Hoodie – $35
  • Multi-functional headwear/buff (green or gray), $12
  • Stainless steel pint, $12
  • Sticker (classic oval or compass-cut), $2

Rules & Age Limits
Please read through our standard race rules and rules and etiquette specific to Michigan’s Dragon Trail. Special rules that apply for certain races will be listed in one of the race updates you’ll receive. Obey all traffic laws. This is an open course so you may encounter vehicles and pedestrians at any point. Racers must generally be at least 14 years old due to biking in traffic; a parent may discuss the possibility of an exception with race organizers. Racers under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and have a parent or guardian sign the waiver/consent form provided during online registration.

After the Race
We encourage you to hang out after the race. Your entry includes a post-race spaghetti and salad meal. We’ll have top finisher and fun awards, a raffle, and share stories of the day in a comfy lodge. Such a great way to wrap up an amazing day. Guests can pay for the meal under the Purchase Event Items on the registration site.

Giving Back

  • A portion of the proceeds from this race will go directly to Camp Harvest’s scholarship fund which will allow kids from families with limited finances to still attend camp!
  • We also provide at least $1,000 ever year to fund trail maintenance and building at The Dragon trail and other West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance trails, along with efforts to increase membership, primarily for advocacy clout and building new trails. Become an Ally and protect your trails at www.wmmba.org/membership.

Dragon trail in lush green forest

For Beginners: How an Adventure Race Works

Adventure racing is like no other sport! It involves a mix of brains and brawn, individual effort and teamwork, speed and endurance. For such amazing rewards, it requires a little effort to learn how it works and get better over time.

The goal of adventure racing is for you and your teammate(s) to find as many checkpoints as you can in the time period. All checkpoints will be pre-plotted on topographic maps. The race will be broken up so that you’ll do one activity for a while, then another, etc. so your body (and brain) will get nice breaks. Usually your bike is the consistent mode of transportation from one place to another throughout the race, from start to finish. You’ll stop at various “transition areas” to leave your bike with a volunteer to paddle and to trek/orienteer on foot before returning to your bike to continue on.

Checkpoints may be out of view, tucked behind trees or a hill, but generally are not intentionally hidden (except in public areas to minimize risk of theft). Check your map to see where the point is located and consult your race instructions sheet for the description which will help you determine its more exact location. Some points will require use of your compass, topographical map and an understanding of how to read that map. Others you can find from just looking at the map. Each checkpoint will have an orange and white flag with a punch attached to it.

The goal is to maximize the number of checkpoints on your passport within the time limit. A team that gets 25 checkpoints with seconds to spare will finish ahead of a team that gets 24 checkpoints with one hour to spare.


  • Check-in. We recommend arriving to check-in early if maps were not shared by email the evening before the race. That way you can get most or all of your route complete before the pre-race meeting.
  • Pre-race meeting. We’ll go over rules, safety issues, answer any questions.
  • Race instructions/clues. The race instructions lists key rules, describes the course and the activities, and provides hints about where checkpoints are located along with the numbers of each checkpoint corresponding to the map, passport and punch.
  • Passport. The passport is the piece of waterproof paper you’ll punch at each checkpoint to prove you found it. You must not lose it! You will not get credit for checkpoints if you lose it but you may come back and get a new passport and keep racing (or just keep racing for fun). You will turn the passport in as your scorecard when you finish racing. Do NOT waterproof your passport.
  • Checkpoint flag (aka “control”) and punch. You are looking for orange and white 3-sided orienteering flags (technically called control markers). The punch will have a number on it corresponding to your passport. Check it to confirm you got the right one. Each punch has a unique barb pattern to prove teams made it to that flag.
  • Maps. The map(s) are topographic, showing the shape of the land and terrain details. Sometimes the map is lower resolution USGS. Other times it will be high-detail LIDAR. They are pre-plotted with the checkpoints on them. While not every trail in the area will be on the map, the vast majority usually are. We try our best to make the map as accurate a reflection of reality as we can. You can waterproof your map with packing tape or contact paper and/or keep it in a waterproof map case or zip lock baggie.
  • Map reading will be critical. You should also know how to use a compass (baseplate or sighting – with a straight edge), although you may be able to manage without if you can navigate well with your map. Attend our free clinic (see details earlier on this page) or learn online here.
  • Order. Checkpoints are usually optional and often times can be found in any order within a section. Sometimes even the sections themselves can be done in any order. We will tell you before the race if that’s the case.
  • The goal. Maximize the number of checkpoints on your passport within the time limit. If you arrive after the time limit, you will either receive a severe checkpoint penalty or not be counted in the final standings, depending on whether the race is beginner level or not.

Questions? www.facebook.com/miadventurerace is a great place to ask questions and get answers so others can learn from your question. For questions specific to you, email Mark VanTongeren, race director.