Monday, July 27, 2020

9 Awesome Bike Trails to try in Utah Valley

9 Awesome Bike Trails to try in Utah Valley

Biking trails are not scarce in Utah valley, and with so many available, it can be hard to decide which one to try. Above all, you want to find trails that are fun but also right for your skill level. Whether you are looking for something at the beginner's level, or you are hoping to find something that challenges you, Utah Valley bike trails have you covered.

Wardsworth Creek Trail Sign

Wardsworth Creek Trail

Running just over 6 miles, the Wardsworth Creek Trail is trafficked by both hikers and mountain bikers. It is largely considered a beautiful area and not too busy, well worth a visit if you are an intermediate biker. The trail lies in Hobble Creek Canyon, roughly follows the creek, and ends at a pond where you can take a break before you head back.

While the trail is considered moderately difficult, it is generally pretty flat. The difficulties lie in the many creek crossings required, which seem to get more challenging as you progress on the trail. Regardless, if you are up for a bit of a challenge and don’t mind getting your feet wet, this trail is a great option.

Jordan River Parkway Trail

Jordan River Parkway Trail

If you are looking for a longer ride that isn’t too challenging, the Jordan River Parkway Trail stretches across about 40 miles within a well-kept park. Great for kids and beginning cyclists looking to increase their stamina, you will have the opportunity to ride this trail in all seasons due to it being mostly paved.

Additionally, you can start on the asphalt path and veer onto one of the many trailheads that litter the main trail to break up your ride and see something new. Along the main path, you will have access to a variety of parks, nature viewing, and a good amount of picnic areas to stop at if you need a rest.

Father and kids biking on mountain trail

Slate Canyon Loop Trail

This 8.5-mile loop starts in Slate Canyon but touches on Slide Canyon as it makes its way around. There is a beautiful view partway into the trail that is worth the steep and challenging beginning. Once you have made it up the initial steepness, the trail levels out and allows you to catch your breath and enjoy the scenery.

The views seem to stop once you are looping back around past the Bonneville Shoreline so some people recommend ending your ride there. Regardless, if you are there for the ride (and not the view) making the whole loop is doable for the intermediate or advanced rider.

Muddy forest trail

Provo Canyon Race Loop

At a short 1.7 miles, the Provo Canyon Race Loop can either be what its name implies—a race—or it can be a solo trek in a pleasant landscape. Grassy fields, beautiful oak trees, and the distant Cascade Mountain all accent your ride. The trail can be found outside of Canyon View Park or from the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Be warned, while it is a short loop, it is not recommended for beginning riders. Challenging ups and downs, sharp turns, and steep pitches make it best for an intermediate or expert rider.

Man riding bike over creek

Murdock Canal Trail

A long but easy trail, the Murdock Canal Trail located by Orem, Utah won’t disappoint when it comes to scenery. It boasts 18.2 miles of a point-to-point trail and is paved, making it accessible to beginners or those looking for a simple ride. You might also appreciate the public restrooms scattered along your way.

Stretching across seven Utah Valley Communities, you will experience changing scenery and occasionally a good amount of people. While it can be heavily trafficked in some areas, the views are beautiful and it is widely considered worth the ride.

Biker walking bike up hillside

Sundance Trail

If you are looking for a slightly less populated trail that offers more of a challenge, Sundance Trail is about 9 miles of river crossings, steep ups and downs, and loose rock. Despite the difficulties of the trail, many rave about its stunning views.

This trail is not for the faint of heart (dogs are allowed, but many people who have brought theirs on the trail caution against it due to the trail conditions) but if you aren’t afraid of a rough-and-tumble, difficult bike trail, you might find the Sundance Trail to be right up your alley.

Blackhawk Loop Trail

Located by Fairview Utah, the Blackhawk Trail runs 8.5 miles with an almost 2,000-foot elevation gain. If you are hoping to touch on as many terrains and landscapes as possible, this trail is for you.

Popular amongst mountain bikers due to its moderate level of difficulty and slow elevation gain, you'll also appreciate its gorgeous scenery and heavily shaded trails. This trail is also good for those looking for a ride that won’t be disrupted by too much foot traffic.

Bonneville Shoreline Trail

The Bonneville Shoreline Trail spans a large distance, generally following Lake Bonneville’s shoreline. You will experience the canyons of the Wasatch Mountains and you may run into some less developed trail areas but if you aren't worried about hitting a couple of rough patches you will probably enjoy your ride on this path.

Despite some undeveloped bits of trail, it is considered an easy hike appropriate for all skill levels. Occasionally it gets muddy, so if you don’t want to get dirty you might want to avoid the Bonneville Shoreline Trail.

Big Springs Trail

Big Springs Trail is a challenging 11.4-mile ride. It is a popular but difficult trail and offers experienced riders a pretty incredible view at the top. The climb makes most of the trip; after you see the 360-degree views and take a break, you will only have around a mile left until you're back in your car.

The steep climb, the potential for running into snow, and the big elevation gain (4,179 feet) make this not for beginners. If you are up for the challenge, you will be rewarded with wildflowers at the right time of year, and a gorgeous view when you reach the top.

It is easy to find a bike trail in Utah valley that will work for you. Since the level of difficulty varies so widely, do your research before heading out, but if you choose one from this list you will definitely not be disappointed. No matter what your skill level is, Utah valley views will always be worth the ride. 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Hiking 101: Essential Tips for Beginners

Hiking 101: Essential Tips for Beginners

Beginning hikers are often raring to go. It is exciting to start your hiking journey and you want to get right out onto the trails. However, it is important to do some prep work before you head out so you are fully prepared not only for the physical challenges you will face but also for the unknowns of the wilderness. Make use of these tips, and you will have a much better experience and will be more likely to continue hiking for years to come.

People Hiking a Mountain Trail

Be Physically Prepared

When you are a beginning hiker, you must make sure you are physically ready for the hiking you want to undertake. Hiking is more taxing than a walk around your neighborhood because you will have to deal with uneven terrain, ups and downs of hiking trails, and potential changes in altitude. 

Preparing your body for the challenges ahead will make the hike feel less challenging and will reduce the potential for unnecessary injury. 

One way to prepare is to increase your stamina and strength in a controlled environment such as a gym. This will not only help your muscles adapt more quickly to a new exercise but can also help increase your lung capacity so you do not feel so out of breath on the trail. 

Additionally, making sure that you know the best ways to handle walking on trails to protect your knees and joints can save you a lot of pain in the long run. Walking with a flat foot versus toe to heel can help you walk uphill safely, and leaning back will help you walk downhill safely. 

Hiking Gear laid out on table

Get the Right Gear

Finding the right balance between too many and too few supplies can be a challenge for a beginning hiker. The hiking gear aisle of your local sporting good shop is brimming with fun hiking “essentials” and you might be tempted to go ahead and get everything. 

While it is important to be prepared, you can safely minimize your hiking gear to just the essentials, keeping your pack light and allowing you to focus on the hike itself. 

Gear you should bring includes a backpack (any will do at first), water, high protein and fiber foods, a first aid kit, things that will help you navigate, and a light. 

Water is top-of-the-list important, but you will be grateful you packed some good energy-boosting snacks when you are in the middle of your hike. Navigation tools can include maps, compasses, and GPS systems. A flashlight is great because you never know when you might miscalculate how long it will take you to get back to your car, and end up picking your way down a dark trail.

You also might want to look for a trekking pole to bring. Having more than one point of contact with the ground at all times will give you more stability, and they can also be helpful for your joints. 

People looking out of tent door

Wear the Right Clothing

While you might be tempted to throw on your yoga pants for your hike, wearing the right clothing is more important than you might think. 

Depending on the time of year and the weather in your area, you will probably want to layer up. You will never regret having an extra layer if it gets cold, starts to rain, or if you end up hiking into the evening when you weren’t expecting to. 

Hiking clothes should be moisture-wicking, meaning they do not absorb your sweat but rather draw it to the outside of the item of clothing so it does not sit on your skin. If you sweat in a shirt that is not moisture-wicking such as one made of cotton, the shirt will cease to be insulating. 

Getting the right shoes is especially important to lower your risk of injury on the trails and allowing you to get the most out of every hike. Wearing supportive shoes that were made specifically with hiking in mind, ideally, a pair with some motion control support and great tread for gripping loose and unpredictable terrain will make a big difference in keeping you safe and comfortable as you start your new hobby.

dirt trail in the mountains

Pick the Right Trail 

Trails come in all different levels of difficulty and luckily for new hikers, there are many resources available to figure out which ones match your abilities. Some apps like AllTrails have reviews from people who hiked the trails that will give you a better idea of what is in store for you. 

Local hiking groups are often found on Facebook and they will provide essential information about current challenges faced on your local hiking trails. Seasoned hikers will sometimes run into fallen trees or washed out paths and will let everyone know. When you are just starting, you should avoid unnecessary or dangerous challenges. 

Even if a hike is considered easy, it might be too long for you when you are just starting. Keep the distance of the trail in mind, as well as what time of day you will be starting. Some hiking trails will take you up in elevation which can be a challenge when you haven’t hiked much before.

Pack, Shoes, and Hats

Troubleshooting on Your Hike

You can’t prepare for everything, but having a good base knowledge of how to deal with unfortunate circumstances can be a big help. 

To avoid getting lost, make sure that you bring a physical map. There is no guarantee that your cell phone will maintain service if you get lost or need assistance. Expensive GPS trackers are available that can help other people find you if you get injured. 

When you are out in an unpopulated area there is a good chance you could run into some wildlife. While most animals will avoid you, it is good to know what wildlife is common to the area, any recent sightings, and what to do to minimize your risk if you encounter something. Generally speaking, you should always stay calm and not run if you cross paths with large animals. 

Couple hiking along lakeside

Preparing yourself for all of the different aspects of hiking is important as a hiker of any experience level. As a beginning hiker, you will never regret being over-prepared when you are on a trail and run into an unexpected challenge. Do everything you can to keep yourself safe and ready for the unknown, and before you know it you will be a seasoned hiker with many miles under your belt.

Monday, July 13, 2020

9 Things you can do Outside With Your Family This Summer – While Social Distancing

9 Things you can do outside with your family this summer - while social distancing

Many people are feeling pretty cooped up right now. Many of the usual summer activities are either unavailable or unsafe and while you want to get out of the house, you also want to do it in a way that is socially responsible—especially where your kids are involved.

While you may want to avoid visiting water parks or summer camps right now, you can still go outside and have summer fun with your family. Here are 9 things you can do that include lots of sunshine and fresh air.

Little girl looking at treasure map

Do a Neighborhood or Backyard “Scavenger Hunt”

This one requires a little bit of pre-planning, but it can be a great way to engage your kids on a walk, or even just get them out in the yard. The best thing about it is that after you put the activity together, you don’t have to do many extra things. It is a low-key activity that only requires a little bit of preparation.  

Think of some things that you might see on a neighborhood walk. Some examples are a dog, a purple flower, a certain neighbor, or a specific color of car or house. You can make it more detailed for older children and simpler (using images) for younger children. It makes walks a little bit more exciting for everyone involved as you compete to see who will see all of the items first.

A dad, a son, and their dog on a walk

Take a Nature Walk

A simple way to have a fun family day outside is to go on a nature walk. If your local parks or hiking trails are open, you can take a socially-distanced walk and explore nature near your home. Bugs, fish, lizards, and birds are everywhere, and you can also talk about different plants and trees you see. You don’t have to be an expert—if your child asks a question you don’t know the answer to, help them look it up when you get home! If you get excited about what you see, chances are your children will too.

Children drawing the United States Flag with Chalk

Sidewalk Chalk

Sidewalk chalk is not new, but it has been a childhood staple for many years for a reason. Simple, colorful, and fun, drawing with chalk on your cement patio, driveway, or front sidewalk is a great way to spend a couple of hours with your kids. Drawing pictures is a lot of fun, but you can also write nice messages for the postal worker or your neighbors, play games of hopscotch or tic-tac-toe, or even do body outlines—have you kid lie down in a pose, and trace them. For some reason, kids love seeing their outline.

Little girl taking a selfie

Take Pictures

If you have an artistically inclined child, encouraging them to try nature photography can be an engaging way to spend some time outside. You can even get a couple of cheap disposable cameras and learn how to take pictures that don’t offer immediate gratification.

If your child is old enough and is interested in photography, you can do a fun project like making a pinhole camera out of a cardboard box. You’ll need a few supplies, but it can be a nice way to encourage your child to explore their hobby and continue to take pictures outside.  

salad dinner on outside table

Take Inside Activities Outside

Sometimes you just need to get out of the house and breathe. A nice way to do that as a family is to move your activities into the backyard. You can do arts and crafts on the patio, or play board games at an outdoor table.

Another fun indoor activity to do outdoors is having lunch or dinner. Make it a picnic and set up a blanket to sit on so you can enjoy your meal in a brand new way. Sometimes shaking things up just a little bit will make you feel less stir crazy. If the blanket seems too messy, set up a table and chairs outside, or use a patio table for a little change in scenery while you eat.  

family camping together

Camp in the Backyard

A lot of families are missing their summer camping trips this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to completely go without it. Set up some camping activities in the backyard and spend the whole day outside. Set up your tent or make one out of blankets, and go on a neighborhood “hike,” have hotdogs for dinner and s'mores for dessert. If you have trees in the yard, hammocks are a good investment to get your kids excited to go outside a little more. They're quick to set up and lots of fun.

You can make it all even more exciting by spending the night in the backyard. Telling campfire stories, singing songs, and falling asleep to the sound of crickets will give you and your family a break from the monotony and make memories for years to come.

old baseball in the grass

Get Active

Both children and adults can probably benefit from working out some extra energy right now. Get your sillies out by jumping on your bikes or grabbing a soccer ball and getting outside.

If you don’t have sports equipment you can still get active. Older kids might appreciate going on an easy jog or run with you in the mornings before it gets too hot, and for younger kids playing tag or red-light / green-light is a simple way to release some pent up energy and bond while you do it.

Make it a Habit

If you are met with resistance when trying to get your family outside, make it a daily activity. You can start small, throwing the ball for the dog for 10 minutes or going for a walk around the block. Gently engage them with some of the activities mentioned above. As time goes on, everyone will get used to their daily outside time, and even begin to appreciate it.

The best thing about spending time with your family outdoors is that it doesn't have to be complicated. Right now, a lot of people aren't feeling up to putting lots of planning and effort into their activities, and that is okay! Structured outside time can be helpful if your children need some convincing that outside can be fun, but spending time as a family is always a positive and fun activity, whether you are backyard camping, playing catch, or relaxing on the grass.