The most desirable communities found in the United States have one thing in common — trails.
Heber City is no different. As the third fastest growing city in the United States for its size, the area offers an amazing 150 miles of trails to hikers, bikers, horseback riders, bird watchers and anyone who wants to enjoy the outdoors.
As people continue to move into the valley, the number of trails will increase as well. “As our population grows, there will be more trails; the trails will be more diversified and get more use,” said Wasatch County Planning Director, Doug Smith.
Heber hasn’t always been the outdoor recreation mecca it is now. Just seven years ago, the valley was much different. “Heber had everything an outdoor enthusiast could want — lakes, rivers, mountains, golf courses, resorts, and clean air — but it was lacking a decent trail system,” said Don Taylor, a member of the Wasatch Trails Alliance. Taylor built some of the first trails himself so he would have somewhere to ride.
Zachary Wood, manager of the local bike shop Slim & Knobby’s, is a huge advocate of trails. “Trails transform communities,” Wood said. “Trails make the community have a whole different feeling — more vibrant — and develop a sense of community,” Wood added.
According to AmericanTrails.org, trails add a myriad of benefits to a community.
Trails support an active lifestyle, improving the health of community members. Physical activity helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer, and depression. An increase in physical activity can save millions in health care spending. Physical activity also reduces stress and improves mental health. “With trails, more people get out and use the them — people who wouldn’t normally get out,” explained Wood.
Tourists will come to communities to use trails. “Trails are a huge economic driver for tourism,” said Taylor.
Tourism creates jobs and puts money into local economies. Many trail users buy goods and eat at local restaurants. Some communities have found that people living near trails take shorter vacations, closer to home.
Trails increase property values. A home near a trail can offer a pleasing view, quieter streets, recreational opportunities and a chance to get in touch with nature. Studies find that properties located near trails generally sell for five to thirty-two percent more than those farther away.
Smith echoes these claims. “Trails add value. Trails provide opportunities to have exercise where you don’t have to compete with cars.”
Communities are strengthened by adding new trails. Many of the trails in Wasatch County have been built by local volunteers. “People feel ownership when they help build something,” Taylor explained. “There are many more ears and eyes of people who want to keep the trails nice,” continued Taylor, which results in a decrease of vandalism and partying near the trails.
CONSERVING AND RESPECTING THE ENVIRONMENT
Trails often provide access to remote wilderness areas and stunning views. They provide meaningful outdoor experiences for many users, satisfying the need for wanderlust. Trails often cross lands which are environmentally sensitive in many ways. By leading users along well-worn paths, trails keep users away from more sensitive features that might not be able to withstand traffic.
In the future, Heber Valley will include even more trails. Since 2001, all new projects or developments in the valley are required to have a public trail component following the trend that exists in many other growing communities. Not only will the new communities include trails connecting neighborhoods, but trails continue to be built all over the valley. “The hope is to have a trail that’s accessible — hopefully right out your door,” Smith said.
Wood often directs customers to the trailhead near the local Utah Valley University campus. “It’s well marked, there’s plenty of parking,” he explained. For the more adventurous, there is the Coyote Canyon Loop which takes you into Kamas and Woodland. Dutch Hollow is another local favorite. Taylor is particularly proud of “The Barrel” found in Dutch Hollow. It was one of the first trails he built after moving to Heber. Now Dutch Hollow offers more than 40 miles of trails.
Heber Valley is known for its beautiful views, blue skies and picturesque mountains. What better way to take in all the beauty, then to get out and experience it for yourself?