Trail Running

An Endurance Sport for All Abilities

Trail running is exactly what it sounds like: running on hiking trails. This endurance sport usually provides more elevation change and challenging terrain than your typical workout — especially compared to street or track running.

Heber Valley resident Steve Frogley didn’t start out as a runner.

“I didn’t run cross country, I didn’t run high school or college track. I hated running,” he says. It wasn’t until his late 20s when he decided to add cardio to his workout routine that he realized he actually enjoyed running. After a marathon or two (or six), he was hooked.

Now, trail running is Frogley’s passion. “It’s exhilarating to run,” he says. “Especially if it’s at sunrise and you’re in the mountains.”

Frogley also loves trail running because the community is so easygoing. As he tells the story of completing his first 100-mile race, it’s laughingly apparent why he describes it as such. “You think there’s going to be a banner and crowds cheering, and it’s this exciting thing,” he explains. “But you literally walk between two cones and they say, ‘Dude, well done! You want a sandwich?’”

That’s what’s so great about trail running. “It’s a community. It’s not ‘prestigious.’ There are no awards — we all just help each other out,” Frogley explains.

In terms of a trail running community in the Heber Valley, Frogley is a member of the Facebook group Heber Valley Trail Runners, where runners can post and organize small running groups. “If you’re a local and you want to get into trail running, we’d love to add you to the group!”

If you’re new to trail running or thinking of giving it a try, you may be wondering, “What kind of gear do I need?” Frogley says that’s one of the questions he gets asked most often. “The joy and wonder of trail running is that it’s primal,” he says. “You just need water, nutrition, shoes and (hopefully) some clothes!”

When it comes to the right trail running shoes, it mostly comes down to personal preference. Running shoes range from a zero drop (meaning the heel height is level with the forefoot, or ball of the foot, height) to higher drops such as 12 mm (meaning there is a 12 mm height difference between the heel and the forefoot). Ultimately, it’s best to first find a shoe that fits well and to then gradually try out different heel-to-toe drops to determine what drop works best for you.

When it comes to trail running, you adapt to running on a trail just like you would train for a marathon — one step at a time.

For people who are hitting the trails for the first time, its best to take it slow and steady on easier trails. Beginners should choose trails that don’t have too much elevation gain and are easily accessible in case of an injury. Ultimately, they should avoid difficult terrain until they’re ready.

For a great beginner trail, try out Deer Creek Trail. Located on the west side of the Deer Creek Reservoir from the dam to below Soldier Hollow, the trail is 15 miles out-and-back with a slight elevation gain and is wide enough for group runs. “It’s gorgeous at sunrise,” Frogley says. “The sun comes right up over the Uintahs and you get to watch the reflection of it off the water.”

In the end, trail running is about enjoying yourself. “People will tell me, ‘Oh, I’m not a runner like you,’” Frogley says. “But a runner is a runner. It doesn’t matter.”

Strava  |  Alltrails

Check out these two great running apps. They’re perfect for finding local trails, tracking stats and connecting with other runners.

Gravity Coalition

If you’re looking for adventure gear or for a trail-running community to join, stop by Gravity Coalition, a new community-oriented outdoor experience company in Midway.

What stands 11,749’ high, has a heart, a saddle, an emerald, a shack, and some goats?

If you’ve been in Heber for even a short time, you’ll know the valley’s pride lies in the great mountain that sprawls to the west where the sun settles each night. Mount Timpanogos creates a portion of the eastern wall of the Wasatch Front. Often folks claim we, here in Heber, reside on the backside of the great Timpanogos. We’d like to beg their pardon. They happen to be discombobulated, not realizing that we have the front seat to Timp’s right side. Of all the peaks in the Wasatch Mountain Range, the majestic summit is second in height only to Mt. Nebo. Each breathtaking foot is covered in alpine flora, fauna, and crag, while crystal clean water from white peaks, burbles over as falls, and meanders to rivers and streams.

Through The Year

Spring is when the falls of Timp and their gushing runoff are at their prime. Mount Timpanogos Trailhead in Aspen Grove, accessed on State Route 92, is the entry point to three sets of breathtaking waterfall hikes. Timpanogos Falls is made up of an upper and lower set of falls. Visiting both is approximately a 2.5-mile round trip hike. Stewart Falls and Scout Falls are also great options for late spring hikes.

Summer is the best time to beat the heat and get to the heart of the mountain. Timpanogos Cave National Monument leads tours deep into the geologic Timpanogos Cave System. In the depths of the cavern is a large stalactite known as the “Great Heart” of Timpanogos. Legends tell of two hearts joined at death to become one that now lies deep in the mountain.

Summer is also a great time for ambitious hikers and trail runners to reach the peak. But don’t forget your jacket — even in the summer months, the windy summit stays nice and cool. The trek begins at either Aspen Grove or Timpooneke trail. It careens through Mount Timpanogos Wilderness Area, where you may choose to take it slower and camp overnight, remembering there are no fires permitted. Another fun choice is to depart early and squeeze the full excursion into one day. These hikes are where you’ll discover the emerald of Timp — Emerald Lake. Just as a horse’s saddle is sweeping in shape, Mount Timp’s saddle is a sweeping field of boulders where the trail to the peak converges with the ridgeline. Keep your eyes open for the mountain goats, moose, and other wildlife among the profusion of wildflower colors. Marking the summit is an old surveyor shack.

Fall brings a chill to the air, and our trees take center stage. As the bright blooms fade, the deep hues of autumn steal the show. Be sure to take a drive. Throw in a picnic and your camera to make a day of the fully-paved, 20 mile Alpine Scenic Loop. Head out before October passes and our snow closes portions of the loop for the winter.

Winter may offer the best views of Mount Timpanogos from a distance. Adventure junkies sometimes choose to summit Timp in the winter with an ice ax and crampons. If you enjoy snowmobiling or snow biking, Wasatch State Park grooms 72 miles of trail throughout the winter months. They are also home to the 2002 Olympic Site contracted by the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation. This venue allows for Nordic skiing, a tubing hill, and snowshoeing at the base of Timp. Those of you who don’t feel like competing with yetis or Sherpas may choose other ways to enjoy winters with Timpanogos. Relax while you wind leisurely around the base aboard a railcar of the Heber Valley Railroad. Are you an artist? Find a perch in town to paint to your heart’s delight. Or, simply take it easy and get cozy with a warm drink while enjoying the view from your favorite place.

Whatever the season Mount Timpanogos with its high summit, heart, saddle, emerald, shack, and goats, is definitely worth visiting — even if it’s only from your front porch as you watch the sun settle behind Timps peaks.

Hikes:

Timpanogos Falls
1.9 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Stewart Falls
3.4 miles |  moderate  |  dogs allowed  |  kid approved

Scout Falls
4.2 miles |  moderate  |  leashed dogs allowed

Aspen Grove Timp Summit
15.7 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs and horses allowed

Timpooneke Timp Summit
12.8 miles  |  difficult  |  dogs allowed  |  $6 fee, pay at yourpassnow.com

For kids:

The Junior Ranger Program
Available at Timpanogos Cave National Monument. Kids explore
the culture and natural history. There is an event every Saturday
at 10:00 am throughout the open season, May-early September.
Go to nps.gov/tica/learn/kidsyouth for more information.

Legend Of Timpanogos:

As with any good story, there are many variations to the Legend of Timpanogos. In fact, at least 12 recorded versions exist today. The legend is centered on the outline of a woman that can be seen in the peaks of the mountain, and the large stalactite called the “Great Heart” found inside the caves.

The legend is “Romeo and Juliet”-esque, featuring the Indian warrior Red Eagle and the beautiful Indian princess Utahna. While their exact roles and circumstances vary from version to version, the story goes that Utahna was chosen as a sacrifice to the gods to end the great drought. When she was about to jump off the cliffs, Red Eagle begged her not to end her life. Thinking Red Eagle was the great God of Timpanogos, Utahna went to the caves with him, and they fell in love.

One day, Red Eagle was injured by a wild animal — which proved he was human after all — so Utahna left to finish her sacrifice to the gods. After she jumped, Red Eagle found her and took her back to the caves, where it is believed their two hearts became one, forming the stalactite that is now called the Great Heart of Timpanogos. People say you can still see the outline of Utahna lying on top of the mountain.

(Courtesy of nationalparks.org)

For more information on Mount Timpanogos and Wasatch State Park visit https://stateparks.utah.gov/parks/wasatch-mountain