Why Trails?


These days all manner of national outdoor magazines, marketing campaigns and even car adds regularly feature Utah’s spectacular geography splashed across their pages. Usually there are smiling hikers, a lone runner, or a grinning trio of mountain bikers traversing a trail through the frame. These images show our home landscapes and access to trail- based outdoor recreational activities that together have helped fuel an economic boom in our state. Certainly, the combination draws tourists to hot spots like Moab and Park City, but increasingly it is drawing skilled workers who want to integrate outdoor recreational activities into their daily lives.

Trails Utah is committed to connecting everyday people to Utah’s spectacular landscapes right in their own backyards. We work to create partnerships between land managers and community leaders that can get needed trails built for the benefit of both human communities and the wild lands that we love.

Trails for the Heart & Soul

Trails that provide access to natural, open spaces are now one of the most popular recreational amenities for Utah communities and it is not because everyone is suddenly developing a love for Lycra and committing to an extreme sport training regimen. Trails that traverse nearby undeveloped open lands allow for time outside and an opportunity to get exercise, breathe, unwind, and connect to the natural world and landscapes that inspire us.

As a growing number of studies from around the world have shown, spending time in nature actually helps us recalibrate our brains enhancing our ability to focus, problem solve, think creatively, and cope with adversity. Even very brief stints in the outdoors, away from our computers and social media, can help to manage anxiety, depression and angst that are almost epidemic in our society today.
Getting out on a trail, taking in sweeping views, smelling a mix of grass and sage, observing the wild creatures that live in that natural setting all work to invigorate the spirit and settle the mind. Trails facilitate time outside that makes us happier, more productive people.

Health Benefits of Trails

The physical health benfits of getting out for a walk, hike, or a bike ride, even if it is for only 30 minutes a day, is astonishing and include much more than better cardiovascular and muscle fitness. Increased metabolism for weight loss, improved digestion, and better sleep quality are some of the other benefits that provide significant positive impacts for long-term health.

It is now estimated that almost 25% of elementary children in Utah are overweight and half of those are obese. These numbers, from the Utah Public Health Data Resource, are even worse for adults with a startling 60% of adult Utahns now classified as overweight and 30% as obese. Chronic illnesses such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and killers like cancer are associated with obesity and are directly linked to sedentary lifestyles. These conditions are an enormous burden to our health care systems and cost our society millions in lost productivity.

Trails, one of the lowest-cost recreational amenities for communities, can easily help provide the 2 to 5 hours a week of moderate physical exercise that can make a key difference in the health of Utah residents. Our overall physical, psychological, and emotional wellness is benefited by trails that work to improve the overall quality of life for Utahns and make Utah communities great places to live.


Through history people have moved out over the landscape creating trails for a variety of reasons. Traversing through terrain to gather food, hunt, trap, explore, and later settle the land created routes that humans have used for hundreds if not thousands of years. As the land was settled, miners built cart paths and roads to get to the mines and haul ore, ranchers traversed mesas, valleys and high plateaus moving their cattle, and sheep drovers often pushed their animals down through creek drainages to keep them together.

Hikers and bikers still use many of these trails to explore and get out into the country and sometimes create their own trails. Many trails have evolved to follow the easiest, most direct path and often follow ravines, creek beds, and streams. These types of trails are notorious for becoming stream channels themselves, collecting and moving water down steep grades creating deep erosional scars.

Trails Utah works closely with land managers to assess existing historical and user-created trails and identify needed improvements or reroutes to make them more sustainable, safer, and more enjoyable to use.

We help assess suitability for various types of use and can help design trails that resist erosion and protect our precious watersheds. Through trails we can also put people into areas that are appropriate and keep them out of more sensitive places that are best left undisturbed for watersheds or wildlife habitat.


Beyond providing great individual health and wellness benefits and protecting our hillsides and streams, trails also play a number of important roles for our communities. Accessibility from neighborhoods with connections to work places, schools, parks or churches, means that trails can provide a safe, enjoyable alternative mode of transportation away from roads and vehicles.

A local park with a playing field, a bike pump track, and a trailhead gives opportunities for play time that appeal to all ages and abilities from grandparents to kids. Trails also serve to connect people to each other and strengthen communities.

Trails work to knit people together and make for lived in and celebrated community spaces.

Today trails act a lot like front porches did in the past, allowing space for casual encounters with neighbors when they are at ease and can genuinely engage. A chance meeting with neighbors out on a trail when everyone is relaxed and you are on neutral, native ground is a great time to connect on a level that is meaningful on both a personal and community level. Trails work to knit people together and make for lived in and celebrated community spaces.


As is evidenced throughout Utah, great trails draw business and new economic opportunities for communities. Studies show that the presence of trails and managed access to public lands boost spending at local businesses, including restaurants, hotels, outfitters, and retail establishments. The presence of trail systems and the outdoor recreation opportunities they provide influence businesses location and relocation decisions. Companies choose communities with a high level of amenities to attract and retain skilled employees and trails, being one of the most popular recreational amenities, is a strong indicator of economic health of a community.

Not surprisingly, the presence of trails in a neighborhood or community works to bolster real estate prices. Trails can also revitalize depressed areas, help clean up blighted neighborhoods, provide transportation options that cut fuel expenses for families. Nearly a quarter of all car trips are a mile or less and half of those trips are less than three miles. Trails are also a great investment for communities as they are low cost to build and maintain and are a very low cost or no-cost to users. All of these benefits equate to increased tax revenues and represent an enormous economic return on money invested in trail development.


Finally, trails have a very special place in the heart and history of Utahns. Those who settled both mountain and desert valleys of the state came into the country on trails, well-worn paths etched in the earth that tell stories of hardship but also of perseverance, strength, and ingenuity. Like rivers, trails have worked to move people into and through our landscapes for millennia. In some places those trails have disappeared beneath asphalt roadways but in many others they still exist, even if they are just whispers between canyon walls, wagon ruts through a valley, or a way over a mountain pass. Spending an afternoon, an entire day, or maybe several days traversing through one of Utah’s sprawling landscapes helps to reinforce our connection to our histories and to the land itself. 

The thoughtful and sustainable improvement or establishment of trails on the landscape can work to secure those connections and enrich the lives of Utahns both native and new.

For these reasons, Trails Utah is wholly committed to improving and developing trails for our communities. Trails do not require a lot of expensive equipment to enjoy or a ticket you have to buy, but they do need your financial support.

The public land management agencies tasked with caring for our open spaces and the increasing demands placed on them simply do not have the resources to address current trail maintenance and development needs. Trails Utah has partnered with a number of these agencies, including the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Salt Lake City Watershed, and Utah State Parks to assist them in providing for trails recreation and protecting our shared resources. Through the work that we do to coordinate and fund trail planning and construction we are aiding our land managers, creating healthy lifestyle opportunities for Utah residents, and making Utah’s communities better places to live and do business. We hope you can support us in our mission.