New Trails in Big Sky

How do you build a trail? Simple, you might say, find a route, grab your horse, pack a shovel and chainsaw, put in a day’s work, and there you have it. I knew it was more complicated than that, as my education has taught me numerous economic and ecological variables that must be considered and accounted for when building a trail. After observing the Big Sky Community Corporation staff put an immense amount of hours, blood, sweat and tears into the arrangement of the newest trails for the public’s enjoyment, I was utterly surprised and humbled by the reality of how much work adding 5 miles of trails requires. The condensed explanation of what it really takes to make a trail I’m about to give you may instill a new appreciation for the available recreational opportunities and the unbelievably passionate, driven individuals behind the creation of Big Sky’s parks and trails.

Trail Building 101: Keep in mind each step represents processes that can take months to complete!

  1. Acquire appropriate funding.
  2. Obtain easements for perpetual, public use—can be tricky!
  3. Determine if easement alignment is ideal for a trail to be built. If not, start over!
  4. Mark the trail route.
  5. Send out a Request For Proposals.
  6. Choose contractor(s) for trail, trailhead, facilities, and amenities.
  7. Conduct environmental permitting and administration.
  8. Become General Contractor on all components of trails project.
  9. Build trail and other planned features.
  10. Survey, monitor, and maintain trail.
  11. Record official relocated easement (if needed).

The result of this process is a perpetual means of outdoor recreation, with immeasurable benefits to the mind, body, and spirit of anyone who participates. This summer’s results can be seen on the hills south of Town Center, as many people have noticed, in the form of the nearly-complete Uplands and Hummocks Trails. The Uplands Trail makes you work for the amazing views of Lone Peak and surrounding valley on a path through aspen groves and meadows full of wildflowers, with a rewarding mile of downhill terrain that should make any mountain biker drool. Hummocks Trail, named after the hilly terrain created by geological glaciation processes termed ‘hummocks,’ meanders through meadows and forested areas, looping around ‘hidden’ ponds brimming with wildlife. Both trails are accessed from a single trailhead located on Aspen Leaf Drive about 0.7 miles east from Town Center, and will be officially completed and ready for public use in early August. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a first-hand view of how these trails are shaping up and take my word for it that trail users should be very, very excited.

As you may have noticed, acquiring funding is a large, critical, and unsurpassable part of the trail building process, especially considering that Big Sky Community Corporation is 100% donation and grant funded. Last year’s Parks & Trails Gala provided the financial means to build the Uplands and Hummocks Trails, as well as new facilities in the Community Park, improved signs, and landscape and design work, making apparent the importance of this event to Big Sky’s parks and trails. This year’s Parks & Trails Gala is taking place Saturday, July 19 at 6:00 p.m. at the Community Park, with tickets available at bsccmt.org. Don’t miss your chance to support parks and trails in your community!

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