At the close of 2019, Five Valleys was happy to announce that they had finalized three land deals that will provide a trail corridor around the top of Mount Dean Stone. This achievement marks the culmination of years of listening, negotiations and patience, and stands as a major milestone for the greater Mount Dean Stone project.
The 350-acre corridor consists of seven properties, including one approved for a 10-lot residential subdivision directly above the South Hills Spur. Landowners Sarah and Tim Topp, M. Sheila Callaghan and Max Murphy of Ravalli County Broadcasters LLC, and Vertical Bridge, LLC, all worked with Five Valleys to conserve these three properties and move them into Five Valleys ownership at the end of 2019. Five Valleys is immensely grateful to these families and businesses for their generosity, vision and partnership.
The corridor will feature a 5-mile trail that is currently nicknamed the “High, Wide and Handsome Trail.” The route will extend the Barmeyer and Sousa Trails on the South Hills Spur, up to and around the Mount Dean Stone summit.
“It completes the corridor from the South Hills Spur to the top of Mount Dean Stone. These three land deals will allow us, as a community, to have a trail go around the top of the mountain connecting to the backside," says Whitney Schwab, Five Valleys’ Executive Director.
Providing a shady respite in a warming world, the “High, Wide, and Handsome Trail” will wind through a forest of western larch, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine to a scenic, subalpine meadow near the top. On a clear day, visitors will be able see up the Blackfoot to the Scapegoat Wilderness, as well as enjoy views of the Missoula Valley, Pattee Canyon, and the Bitterroot.
The “High, Wide, and Handsome Trail” will be built at a moderate 8% grade to provide recreational experiences for users with a wide range of abilities, and will be suitable for both pedestrians and bicycles. In coordination with the City of Missoula’s Conservation Lands program, Five Valleys is working to ensure that the trail will meet recreational needs while minimizing impacts on other conservation values, reducing long-term maintenance costs, and aligning with trail infrastructure and management on the South Hills Spur. In order to promote long-term forest health and reduce the risk of wildfire, Five Valleys completed a timber thinning project on the corridor last fall.
Where it loops around the Mount Dean Stone summit, the “High, Wide, and Handsome Trail” will connect to the proposed 4.6-mile House of Sky Trail. Five Valleys was awarded a $75,000 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Recreational Trails Program grant this spring to build the House of Sky Trail. Read more about the House of Sky Trail.
Once complete, the House of Sky Trail and the “High, Wide and Handsome Trail” will, for the first time, create a united trails network across the Mount Dean Stone landscape. The trails will connect open space areas on the northern side of the mountain with a 2,500-acre parcel on the south side of Mount Dean Stone managed by The Nature Conservancy.
Five Valley is seeking to transfer the corridor and the completed “High, Wide and Handsome Trail” to the City of Missoula later this year. Five Valleys is requesting Missoula Open Space Bond funds to help complete the transfer, and will donate the cost of the trail design and construction. Working in partnership, Five Valleys and the City of Missoula led the effort to conserve the Barmeyer and South Hills Spur properties with the help of funds from the 2006 Missoula Open Space Bond. Five Valleys transferred those open space areas into City of Missoula management in 2016.
For now, the corridor and the “High, Wide and Handsome Trail” route is closed to the public while we prepare the site for public use. Please help us create the best possible experience for the public by respecting this area closure. Five Valleys, working with the City and the other Mount Dean Stone Committee members, hopes to invite the public to enjoy the completed trail in 2021.
The Mount Dean Stone Committee project partners and business supporters:
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Photo of the view from the newly-acquired Mount Dean Stone trail corridor by Five Valleys staff