High trails project on the wraps

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Trails crew

The local Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) crew takes a break from working on the Northwest Passage Trail, to the west of the city of Dillon. The trail is part of a 10.35-mile overall trail system is a project of the Beaverhead Trails Coalition which includes the “B” and “M” trails. Pictured, are from left, Jackson Spooner, Will Clarke, Logan Hall, Murphy McGowan, Tanner Macal and Kyle Rawson. Courtesy photo

A five-year effort to create and expand trails just outside of Dillon is near completion, adding over 10 miles of rugged paths for hikers and bikers.

Beaverhead Trails Coalition members and volunteers recently finalized the 2.5-mile Northwest Passage Trail in the High Trails system, BTC Executive Director Celine Beaucamp-Stout said. The Northwest Passage stretch of trail runs through the northwest corner of a 1,104-acre $612,734 private land purchase, accomplished in phases starting in 2015. Much of the funding for the land purchase came through the Montana Fish Wildlife Conservation Trust, Tim Speyer, the Steele Reese Foundation, Patagonia, and the BTC’s “Sponsor an Acre” program.

For locals, the most recognizable trail in the High Trails system is the rugged paths leading to the “B” and the “M” which overlook the city of Dillon. All of the BTC trails are popular with outdoor enthusiasts, according to a survey of their use. Fortytwo percent of the survey’s 212 respondents said they used the trails system or visited a BTC trail or park multiple times per week.

Beaucamp-Stout highlighted much of the work done for this most recent stretch of trails can be attributed to volunteers and the assistance from the local Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) crews. Trails are aligned with the help of U.S. Forest Service recreation specialists, following width, slope and water management guidelines. Often the trails are expanded from existing cow paths, and are built by hand.

Volunteers from the BTC, the forest service, DNRC, Bureau of Land Management, Montana National Guard Youth Chal lenge, Beaverhead County High School, the University of Montana Western and local churches assisted with construction of the trails.

There is still one section of trails to create out of the overall land purchase; that section continues to be leased for grazing by a local rancher. Construction of trails will likely need to wait on the expiration of the lease, Beaucamp-Stout said.

The trail system will be turned over to Beaverhead County for long-term maintenance once the work is complete.

The BTC has a number of other projects it is pursuing, with a goal of connecting all its trails in and around the city. The current in-town work is focused on finishing the Noble Avenue connector trail.

For maps of the trail system, visit https://www.beaverheadtrails.org/high-trails .