Ursa Trail 40km/+2700m/-2700m Technical Characteristics
The route spans over a length of 40 km of which:
- 27 km on trail (67.5%)
- 6km on dirt road (15%)
- 4.5km on cobbled road (11.25%)
- 2.5km on asphalt (6.25%)
- The climb ratio stands at 67.5.
- The positive difference in altitude reaches 2700m and is equal to the cumulative negative altitude difference since the race has a common start and finish point.
- The maximum altitude of the race is 1887m at exactly 12.2km into the race.
- The minimum altitude is 920m, at 22.3km.
- The mean altitude is 1360m. The longest continuous climb is 790m, from 8.2km to 12.2km. The longest continuous descent is 700m, from 18.8km to 22.3km.
- Course record (men): D. Theodorakakos 3:46:35 in 2015
- Course record (women): Rannelle McCoy 5:12:49 in 2015
The race starts at the main square of Metsovo, at an altitude of 1150m.
We follow the main road between the town hall and the St. Paraskevi church which is the cathedral of Metsovo. At 250 meters we reach the intersection, follow the right direction and after 150 meters we reach the south entrance of St. George's Park. We turn right onto a downhill road and after 50 meters take another slight right turn. For 250m we follow a path without any inclination that leads us in front of the Tsanaka museum with the characteristic copper roof. For 100m we follow a slightly sloping path and 150m of cement road. We encounter the asphalt road, follow it for 20 meters slightly downhill and leave the asphalt, having covered the first kilometer of the race.
We turn slightly left and enter the downhill path with turns that lead us in the All Saints Church. We cross the courtyard with the church on our left-hand side and after 150 meters we reach the neighbourhood of Agios Dimitrios (Saint Demitrius/James) with the homonymous church. The first settlement of Metsovo was founded here and gradually expanded upwards starting today from the 1000m and rising up to 1270m altitude. We follow the asphalt road for 50 meters on its left side, go down for another 50 meters in cement road and on completion of the first 1500m of the race, we arrive at the point of separation of the two races:
- For The race of 20 km. We continue straight ahead on the concrete road and after 300m reach a plateau with a wooden pavilion at exactly the 23rd km of the longer race, turn right on the uphill path and then follow the common trail of the two races until the finish line.
- For The race of 40 km. At the separation point, we turn left, follow for 300 meters the downhill cement road, reach a stone chapel and continue straight on the road. After 200 meters we find the junction and follow the right branch on cement road for 50 meters. On our right-hand side, lies the Monastery of Dormission of the Holy Mother, built in the 17th-18th century. The monastery served hikers who followed the path of Epirus to Thessaly.
At the end of the cement road on the 2nd km (970m altitude), we reach the bridge over Metsovitikos river, a tributary of Arachthos. We cross the bridge, turn left and we enter a steep path. After 100 meters we pass a wooden bridge, then about 200 meters further we have the river on our right and cross the road. For 500m we follow a steep uphill path, we come across and follow the dirt road to the left direction for 350m. We leave the dirt road, turn right and continue moving uphill through meadows, having on our right the characteristic "Kiatra al Veneti' (Stone of Venetis) and further up the " Grand Forest" luxury hotel. At about the 4.5 km mark we meet again with the dirt road inside a coniferous forest, follow it for one kilometre with the slope becoming smoother. We descend for 100 meters and at the 6th km take a left turn again to follow a downhill path that leads us to the Egnatia Highway and passing over the Zigos tunnel we reach the first station of the race, 8.2km into the race at 1100m altitude.
After refuelling, we leave the modern Egnatia behind us and follow a mules' track which, according to tradition, was part of the ancient Via Egnatia. From here, an intense uphill route begins that passes through pine forests and beautiful glades with green meadows and rock formations. After the "Papanikola" spot and after we pass nearby a characteristic rocky ledge we reach the Anilio skiing resort chalet.
The ancient passage of Zigos with the Zigos inn is nearby, right on the road which connected Epirus and Thessaly. Arriving at the chalet we are now at the second station at 11 km, at an altitude of 1.660m.
We follow the dirt road for 250 meters and pass to the opposite side, on a steep grassy slope. For 500 meters the slope is too intense, but as we go up the hill becomes a little smoother and, after passing near the terminus of the cable car, and two short but intense bursts of incline we reach the highest point of the race at 1.875m and 12.2 km. From here we have a spectacular view: on our left northeast mount Olympus; to the East Triggia, ahead and south the Lakmos mt., Tzoumerka, the Kakarditsa; behind and north mountains Smolikas, Grammos and Mavrovouni with the dragon lakes of Flegga and Valia Calda. On our right and west the mountain range of Tymfi with its dominant peak of Gamila. Following this direction (right), we leave the top and after 20m of sharp downhill for 100 meters we enter into a beech forest for 100 meters. After about 200 meters, we follow a technically difficult downhill slope, continue the next 300 meters in a wide ridge downhill and then turn left for 150 meters to enter a rocky path that leads us to a beech forest in 200m. We go out into the meadow and pass next to a spring of cold, drinking water. We continue to descend as the slope gradually loses its steepness and is followed by some beelines in glades. We meet a dirt road, follow it for 200 meters and at the junction go to the right branch. We pass by a small stream that crosses the road and follow a slightly uphill dirt road for 500 meters. We arrive at "Largi" and the third station of the race, 15 km into the race, at 1500m altitude. Following a western downhill route, the path alternates between tractor road and footpath for about 1500m in coniferous forest. By the end of the tractor road we have reached as far as the 18th km and continue right. This is where the most technical uphill part of the route begins, through fir and pine trees. In the middle of the uphill, we climb through a rocky passage, step on large natural stone stairs and towards the end with the help of hands, because of the steep slope, we reach the summit "Fygon" or "Beech" (in vlach dialect "Fatzetou"), 18.7km and 1620m altitude, with spectacular views: on our feet lies Anilio village and the highest bridge of Egnatia highway and on the opposite side Metsovo with Arachthos river in the lower background and the lowest point of the route.
After we have reached the top, an intense downhill in beech woods goes on for about 1300 meters till we come to a large glade at "Stool" (Skamni in Greek) and then follow the path decorated with characteristic stone marks, having on our right-hand side a pinewood. After 600 meters we enter the forest, continue for another 600 meters and as the forest ends, we cross the asphalt road vertically and right away we see the first houses of the village appear before our eyes. We follow the signs and running inside the village we reach the fourth refreshment station at 22 km, 1000 m altitude, in the courtyard of St. Paraskevi (16th century church with a magnificent temple). We exit the yard on the north side and after 50 meters we find the path that links Anilio with Metsovo. We follow the right direction and at 350 meters we reach the lowest point on the route at 920m.
We cross the bridge over Arachthos and after 150m of asphalt we arrive at St. Nicholas with the homonymous monastery (14th century). On the right there is a small wooden door, and from there a continuous climb from 920m to 1470m in 4 km begins. For 200m we run next to vineyards and come across a natural spring with two drinking water fountains. At 100 meters we reach the monastery of Saint Nikolaos. We continue for another 500 meters and reach the spot where the two races meet, completing 23 km distance and 1800 meters positive difference in altitude for the longer race/Ursa Trail and the first 1700m for the shorter/on the Tracks of the Bear, and then follow a common path for the remaining kilometres.
Within 100m distance there are the first houses of Metsovo and we follow the left direction on the asphalt uphill road in the village. At 600 meters we arrive at "Gkrizios" intersection, turn right and after 30m left to follow an intense uphill tarmac track for 200m. For 20m the terrain becomes straight and slightly downhill, only to immediately enter an uphill street and 200 meters later reach the church of the Holy Apostles on our left. On the right there is a stone fountain with drinking water. After 100 meters we turn slightly left and stepping on wide concrete stairs we enter the grounds of the Tossizza Foundation furniture company. On our exit we come across asphalt and follow it on its left for 200m and at the crossroads we pass across in front of the monument of the Hellenic Army. From here on, a strongly uphill path sets upon that leads us from 24.5km, 1250m altitude, to 26.3km, 1470m altitude in location "Karakoli" through pine woods, bushes and beech. The descend passes right by the end of the skiing cable car (one of the very first constructed in Greece) and after 700 meters we arrive at "Politsiora" and the 5th station, 27km at 1415m altitude. From this point, a smooth climb starts going through meadows, glades and a beech forest up to the location "Kaligomeno Aloni" at 29.5km, 1580m altitude. For another 2 km we follow the ridge through a forest of beech and glades with easy changes in slope. Over the next half kilometer we follow an easy descent in beech woods and arrive at "Vale di liosani", the 6th refreshment station, on the 33rd km at an altitude of 1400m. The path continues entering the cross-country skiing track in the form of a forest road with wooden bridges amidst a beech forest with variations in slope. Leaving the forest, we cross a small wooden bridge at the 35th km, 1420m altitude and crossing the asphalt we run across and go up the downhill skiing track of the "Prophet Elias" resort for 100 meters. We descend for 100 meters and turn right again to enter a beech forest and after one kilometer of easy route in the forest that alternates between glades and meadows, we reach the seventh station, at 37km and 1380m altitude. After the station, we follow the dirt road for 100 meters and turn right to go up to 1460m altitude. Then begins the last downhill portion of the race and, following the downhill skiing track of the "Karakoli" resort, we arrive at the 38th km (1300m altitude). We cross the asphalt and follo the trail for 200 meters. Right after that, we pass in front of the "Information Centre of Northern Pindos park." We cross the street and pass next to the local Indoor Sports Centre. We are now in the village of Metsovo and in the last kilometre of the race. We follow the asphalt for 150 meters and enter a downhill track. We pass just next to one of the oldest fountains of Metsovo and after 500m, having on our right-hand side the restaurant "Galaxias," we circle the main square and finish the race near the wooden statue of the bear.