Hiking is for Everyone – Nature will meet you where you are at!

I grew up in Ogden, Utah and did not understand or value the natural resources that we have here. It was hot and dry. I didn’t like being in the sun and was highly allergic to grass. I would have rather read or watched movies than go on a hike. It wasn’t until I moved to the Bay Area of California and worked the corporate life that I understood how important nature is. The stress from work was making me sick, so I needed to find a release, and I turned to nature.

As an out-of-shape beginner, I was too embarrassed to join any beginning hiking or outdoor groups. When I was huffing and puffing up the hills, I was mortified by my heavy breathing and wanted no one around to hear me. (I still get embarrassed by this today). So I hit the trails alone, starting with short hikes close to where I lived. I felt like I did not belong there. To help with the fraud feeling, I would go buy the proper hiking clothes and shoes from REI. If I dressed the part, maybe I would start to believe I belonged hiking and enjoying the outdoors.

Over time, I got stronger and could hike longer and more difficult trails. However, it took a very long time for me to accept that I belonged in the outdoors, that I was not a fraud in the forest. Part of the problem was that I never saw women in the outdoor industry that looked like me. Hell, I didn’t see a lot of women out in nature that looked like me. Most were super fit, a lot more daring, and definitely a lot faster than I was.

However, like with anything you do repeatedly over time, it started to feel more natural for me to be out on the trails. I’d still get scared walking down steep hills, but I stopped criticizing myself for taking it slow. From hiking, I learned that the outdoors doesn’t care or change for you if you are fast or slow, daring or cautious, it will meet you exactly where you are.

Look at the trees, there are trees of all types – tall and slender trees, short and stubby trees, old trees, young trees. On every hike, there would be so many different trees, and each one was magnificent. Walking with the trees, I would contemplate what it would be like if I was a tree. I’d be an integral part of the forest regardless of how I looked. Over time, this helped me to accept myself as I was.

When I moved back to Ogden, I was a new person and could now see how much I had been missing. I barely paid any attention to the mountains that rose up in front up of my house as a child. Now, I look out and I’m in awe of the beauty I’m surrounded by. It was time to look at my hometown with new eyes; the eyes of an outdoor adventurer.

When I got back to Ogden, I felt like I was starting over again both mentally and physically. I had been sick during my last years in California, which impacted my fitness and hiking ability. One of the reasons for me to return home was I needed a change that would allow my body de-stress and heal. So I was not a strong hiker when I returned home. Plus, with the differences in altitude and terrain, hiking in Ogden was very different from that in California. I was a beginner again. Thank goodness, Ogden is the perfect place for a beginner to start exploring the outdoors!

Ogden has all levels of trails to explore. The Ogden River Parkway and the Weber River Parkway are fantastic beginner trails. Mostly flat, paved trails that take you through lush river flora. Baby carriages, wheelchairs, walkers, runners, bikers, and skaters can all use these trails to explore the rivers.

Do you need any special gear to explore these parkways? No! Absolutely not. Lace up a comfy pair of shoes and walk as far as you want. Need to take a rest? There are lovely benches along the river for you to sit and watch the water rush by. Plus, if you’re like me, a stop a Slackwater Pizzeria is a great way to wrap up a walk along the Ogden Parkway.

There are also great beginner dirt trails around Ogden. The 9th Street trailhead is one of my favorites. From here, there are a couple of options – the canal road or the Bonneville Shoreline trail. The canal road is relatively flat. It’s wide and not very rocky, which makes it easy walking. The road heads north and gives great vistas of Ogden down below. If you are feeling more adventurous and want to add some hills, the Bonneville Shoreline Trail is a great option from this trailhead. It is a narrow single-track trail that heads up the mountain quickly, but levels out about a half mile up.

Another favorite beginner trail of mine is the Gibbs Loop starting at the 27th trailhead. This trail does have some hills, but the trail is wide and the dirt is packed. It heads south from the trailhead and wonders east above Mount Ogden Golf course. There are many tree-lined sections to give shade during the heat and wild flowers to brighten up the walk. I usually head to Strong’s Canyon and relax on the bench to enjoy the sound of the stream rushing down the canyon. The 27th trailhead does offer other more advanced trails as well. Hike uphill to the Bonneville Shoreline trail to access Waterfall Canyon, Taylor’s Canyon, and Malan’s Peak.

I also love the short trail at the Ogden Nature Center – North Reserve. This trail is located at 1176 N. Mountain Road. There are fantastic tree tunnels along this trail and a marshland to see birds and other wildlife. The path is packed and well maintained.

These are still my go to hikes as I get started hiking each season. I get the same benefits of being in nature on these trails as I do if I push hard on a more advanced hike. Plus, these trails help me grow stronger and get ready to move on to the more advanced hikes. These hikes don’t require any special equipment or clothing. I go out in whatever I’m wearing for the day, a comfy pair of sneakers, and I bring a water bottle.

Finally, one of my favorite resources for local Ogden hikes is the “Outings Guide: Ogden Area” from the Sierra Club. This book is available at Booked on 25th and lists all of the local Ogden hikes including important information such as mileage and elevation change.

It’s time for me to get back out on the trails. I’m glad I no longer feel like a fraud out there on the trails either. Nature is for all of us regardless of ability. It’s waiting for each of us to come explore and see what there is to learn from walking the trails. If you are ready to become an outdoor enthusiast and go on a nature adventure, Ogden is the perfect place to start. I hope to see you on the trails!

Christina Miller is a writer, poet, and photographer celebrating all things outdoors! This blog is also published at Indie Ogden.

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