Happy Trails

By Stacey Burton

“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home.”

Gary Snyder, American poet and essayist

We are so lucky to call this valley home. Surrounded by mountains and breathtaking scenes, it only makes sense for our beautiful valley to have a fantastic trail system to help us get outside and explore our home. Trails are a way to reconnect with a friend as we walk and talk. Trails offer us a way to get our legs and hearts pumping as we bike our way to the top of the mountain then bask in the rush of our downhill descent. Trails are to be discovered with a child as we become reacquainted with creatures and creations through a new lens.

Our county is continually working to connect neighborhoods, cities, and surrounding counties through trails. Thankfully many entities, including the Wasatch Trails Foundation, our county and city councils, Mountainland Association of Governments, and Wasatch Mountain State Park, along with others, are working together to make this massive undertaking a reality. When it comes to trail planning and building, it really does take a village. Right now, a new position is awaiting approval for a part-time regional trail planner to oversee all trail development in the county. With approval, this person will coordinate and help champion trail progression. With miles of existing trails and new trails being planned and organized, it is an exciting time for us as residents.

The countdown is on for the new trail addition at Pine Canyon Road in Wasatch Mountain State Park. Two new flow trails and one pump track are slated to have their grand opening on National Trails Day, the first Saturday in June. Scott House, a member of Wasatch Trails Foundation and major trails advocate, stated, “These trails are the first of their kind in the county and within a Utah state park. They are a good example of a non-profit [Wasatch Trails Foundation] working side-by-side with a state park [Wasatch Mountain State Park].” They have great accessibility and are an excellent resource for families wanting to enjoy a place to mountain bike together. For those who enjoy Trailside Park in Park City, this has a similar layout and feel.

Another highly anticipated project is a connector trail that will connect Heber to Vivian Park in the Provo Canyon. Currently, there are approximately three miles of trail that need to be built to connect Deer Creek to Vivian Park. It doesn’t sound like that complicated of an undertaking, but with a river to work around, steep canyon walls, the railroad, and funding challenges, it’s more difficult than one may presume. MAG and UDOT have partnered on this project. When it is completed, over 100 miles of non-motorized, multi-use trail will be connected, allowing users to go all the way from Midway to Provo, Utah Lake, American Fork, and other areas of the Wasatch front via trail. Planning and design work will continue through this year, with construction beginning in 2021.

There are several exciting trails on the county’s master plan. The proposed Lake to Lake trail will run from Jordanelle Reservoir to Deer Creek Reservoir. This trail will need federal, state, and local government support to become a reality. Wasatch Mountain State Park will continue to build more single-track trails. One of their next projects is the Maple Grove Trail, a three-mile connection from the WOW [Wasatch Over Wasatch] trail in Wasatch Mountain State Park that will permit users to make shorter loops and allow for better emergency access. Another trail on the agenda will take route along the railroad from Soldier Hollow to the Heber Valley Railroad Train Depot. Of course, the reality of each of these trails is dependent on funding and developers abiding by what they have agreed to.

Although trails are a big priority for our county and city representatives, there’s much that we as citizens can do to help. Mr. House reiterated the very applicable phrase, “Many hands make light work.” He shared several ways we can contribute: Serve on a trails and open space committee in your city. If you aren’t available to serve on a committee, try to participate in planning commission and council meetings by sharing your support for trails and letting your elected officials know how important they are to you. Get involved with Friends of Wasatch Mountain State Park or the WMSP Dirt Crew helping to maintain and develop facilities and trails. Donate time, money, or expertise to the Wasatch Trails Foundation, a non-profit organization where every dollar donated goes toward building and maintaining trails. House said, “Go out and help where you can. Every little bit helps.”

How can you enjoy the trails? Get out and use them. Discover new places. If you aren’t sure where to start, download the Trailforks or AllTrails App and discover mileage, trail conditions, and uses. Many of the trails are multi-use, meaning they can be enjoyed by hikers, bikers, anglers, and equestrians. Each trailhead will have the information you will need to know about length, appropriate use and the skill level recommended for each trail.

The future of our county trails is exciting. House said, “The needle is moving very much in the right direction. The wheels turn slow, but I’m very encouraged. Nothing happens fast, but if you take your time, you’ll come out with a really awesome product. So many cool trails are going to be built in the next 15 years. With our community on board, big trail projects will really come together.” There are good things on the horizon and lots of passionate people working to make new trails happen. Right now is the perfect time to get outside and enjoy our big backyard. Happy trails to you!

Recommendations to help kids get excited about exploring trails:

  • Start Small. Don’t try to go too far when you’re starting out and try not to be in a hurry.
  • Get a Pack. Have your kids carry a fanny pack or backpack with their own snacks and water. They love being in charge of their own stuff.
  • Track Your Progess. Kids love tracking distance and time. If you say you’re going for two miles, have a child track your progress with a watch or cell phone.
  • Take Binoculars. Children love looking for wildlife and checking out their surroundings.
  • Observe and Record. A notebook and pen are also simple, but great tools. Kids can record observations or draw plants or animals that they find.
  • Make it a Game. Create scavenger hunts, pretend to go on a quest, make-believe their gathering food or sneaking away from a pretend enemy.