Learning to Play Outside Again

By Amy Willis – September 7, 2021
Images Courtesy of Trail Roots

When was the last time you remember playing outside for the sole purpose of having fun? This is a question we’ve been asking ourselves at Trail Roots as we dig into defining our mission, values and vision. Our mission is to help people discover their best selves by unplugging, lacing up and exploring the wilderness with others.  

When you’re a kid, play comes as naturally as eating and sleeping. Everything is new, exciting and there’s a genuine sense of wonder. From the first time climbing a tree, to playing a game of hide-and-seek with your friends, being outside was a given. Before there were cell phones, iPads or the internet, kids in the neighborhood would gather after school and ride bikes until dinner time. Connecting was easier because everyone had the same common goal; to play. 

As we grow into adults and the mounting pressures of raising a family, paying bills and being successful arise, somewhere along the way we stop playing and stop doing what brings us joy. Here’s what founder Erik Stanley noted as his reason for starting Trail Roots back in 2014:


After running competitively for UT and graduating in 2008, I started seeking jobs in the communications industry, because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do, but couldn’t find a job due to the recession. I thought success meant having a good job, a nice house, and a healthy retirement plan waiting for me for some future version of myself. But what I’ve learned is that most people push off living their best lives and having fun for when they retire, and by doing this, they’re missing out on being fulfilled in the present. I felt disconnected from my faith, myself, and my community, and started thinking about what I actually wanted to do with my life. As a long-time runner, I realized being on the trails is where I felt the happiest and freest. The trail brings a sense of exploration and adventure, and as a kid, I remembered this as being a happy time in my life. I wanted to bring back that feeling to adults who may have forgotten how to play and who were looking for a community of like-minded people. This is where the idea for Trail Roots started.


Since then, it has been our mission to help adults get outside and learn how to play again. Spending time with other runners on the trails encourages connection and forges bonds that adults sometimes lack in their busy lives. We wanted to provide a space where people could take the time for themselves, move their bodies through the woods and enjoy the outdoors with others. 

By having a laid-back, noncompetitive atmosphere, people can come as they are and fit in with the group. Whether the runners have big or simple goals, the diverse group of outdoor enthusiasts welcomes new members with open arms. From hosting weekend trail running Runcations to putting on races to having our coveted Saturday trail run with post-run tacos, the community has grown in richness and depth. 

Recently, Erik took 20 members out to San Marcos to trail run, eat tacos and float the river. Day activities like these make it affordable and accessible for anyone to take a long morning off from their weekend schedule and fit in time for play. 

“It feels rewarding to see these connections unfold before my eyes and that I get to be a part of bringing people together,” Stanley says. “The team and I put a lot of effort into building a strong and inclusive community where everyone is seen, heard, and respected. I really can’t think of a better way to give back to the world by fostering moments of play for myself and our members.” 

For more information on joining Trail Roots, find us on the web at www.trailroots.com and come play with us!


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