By Jill Wilkins, Utah Trail Runner

There isn’t much better than the sights and sounds of the mountains. From rugged peaks, to the rushing of rivers, the gentle sound of wind rustling through aspen leaves, to the peace you get sitting next to an alpine lake.

What is even better is that these places and experiences are literally in our backyard. It’s almost like stepping into another world, leaving the stresses of life behind to lose ourselves in nature. Whether you want a nice leisurely hike, a challenging summit, a raging waterfall, or a good long jaunt in nature, Utah’s trails have them. Many are just minutes from the city.

I have lived in Utah all my life and been trail running for years, and I still have not visited all of our trails. What is even better is even a trail you have visited many times will always look different during different seasons or times of the day. I could honestly never get tired of getting out in the mountains.

My favorite mantra is “Who needs a gym?” Not that there is anything wrong with the gym. But really, the physical and mental benefits of getting out for a run or a hike on the trails far outweighs the benefits of being stuck inside. Being able to immerse myself in nature gets me out of the daily grind and stresses of everyday life. Running on dirt is also much better for your body than pavement. Dirt, mud, and grass are so much gentler on your joints and bones. Navigating rocks, roots, and other trail obstacles strengthens your stability muscles, tendons, ankles, etc.

Speaking of mud, being out in the trails really brings out your inner child. Splashing through mud and water, jumping over logs, dashing along tree lined paths can’t help but put a big smile on your face. The feeling of accomplishment of your own two feet taking you to somewhere epic or challenging is always worth it.

We have so many beautiful and stunning places to visit. I love to climb new mountains, or “peak bag.” It’s always a great adventure and exciting day when I can climb to the top of a new mountain I haven’t climbed before. We have so many peaks, I wonder if I will ever get them all.

If peaks aren’t your thing, there are so many overlooks, alpine lakes, waterfalls, and loops to explore. One of my favorite activities that I take my kids along is to hike to the top of Hidden Peak to eat at Utah’s highest restaurant and then ride the tram down for free. How fun is that?

I truly love Utah and I love our mountains. I feel so blessed that I have so many adventures and amazing destinations I can go on and to.

Jill Wilkins is a Utah trail runner, peak bagger, ultra runner, and outdoor enthusiast. Read more of her work and see her in action on Instagram @jillrwilkins.