New trails and anticipated connections
The Big Sky Community Organization (BSCO) is making progress on their Master Trails plan developed in 2017. Early priorities include connections to Big Sky Resort and the Spruce Cone trail. Priority was determined by public surveys. Community members reported what they wanted to see in trail modifications, what they considered vital connections and what upgrades could wait.
Six trails with varying levels of updates are listed below.
MICHENER (MUD CREEK)
Scott Hammond and John Romney are the two managing partners on a subdivision off Michener Road. They hired Terraflow trails to build mountain biking-focused trails through the subdivision open for public use. The trails are under construction and are expected to be finished this week.
“As part of a residential neighborhood going in, it is a requirement of the Gallatin County Planning Department that projects like this include trails,” Hammond, president of Hammond Property Management, said. The planning department requires trails, he said, but it does not require the type of trails Terraflow is building. Any Joe can build a trail, he said, “but this is kind of like a Ferrari of a trail system.”
Hammond and Romney love the direction the community is going in terms of mountain biking. Additionally, they wanted to create a neighborhood with amenities similar to those found in highend club communities.
Much of the trail system is at an intermediate difficulty level, with portions that are fairly extreme. Overall, it is a flow trail—a mountain biking or biking specific system designed to enhance the downhill experience, Hammond explained. The plan is for a multi-purpose system and a leg will be added for more leisurely use.
The Michener trails are not BSCO trails, but conversations have begun to incorporate them into the system. “We’re really looking to bring trails into our network that provide important connections for the community, so kind of the greater good of the trail network is something we consider when working on trails,” Adam Johnson, parks and trails director with BSCO, said.
BSCO trails are held to standards the organization values such as providing trash cans and dog waste stations, accessibility, minimizing driving to reach trailheads, reducing congestion in parking lots and trail maintenance, among others. Absorbing the Michener trails into the system will involve reviewing covenants and county zoning, and ensuring legal paperwork is signed with the correct easement signatures.
“The intention is to eventually turn it over to them [BSCO] and let them have ownership in it and management in the trail itself,” Hammond, also a BSCO board member, said.
The Michener trails would offer a potential connection from Uplands to the school district via the bike path on Highway 191 and the Michener trails, a single-track connection identified in the Master Trails plan.
The trails have not been officially named. They are referred to as the Michener trails thus far since the Michener Creek is adjacent. Old Forest Service maps indicate the creek was originally called Mud Creek before Tom Michener, Michener Creek namesake, started a dude ranch in the area, Hammond explained. Mud Creek would add a bit of history and a solid mountain biking feel to the name.
Construction for another subdivision development, the Quarry, on the other side of Michener creek is anticipated to begin at the end of the summer. Trails for the public that connect to adjacent trails are expected.
Johnson described this trail as high priority. He is working with Spanish Peaks to provide public access. The goal is to build a bridge over the West Fork of the South Fork of the Gallatin River to connect Fish Camp to the Yellow Mules. This project is a year or two down the line, Johnson said. Funding for bridge building is low, easements are needed and a location for the bridge is to be determined.
MEADOW TO MOUNTAIN
“We are currently working on easements to go up the Poop Chute all the way up to the resort base area,” Johnson said. Spanish Peaks, Middle Fork properties and Big Sky Resort are involved in terms of land ownership. These easements were anticipated to be settled this summer, but with the resort closure and tight funding, finalization was moved to summer 2021. Only one mile of new trail will be added, as the rest will follow the Poop Chute.
This additional mile will turn off the Poop Chute near the bottom of the Thunderwolf lift and follow the creek to the dam at Lake Levinsky, going around the Low Dog residential development.
Equipment in the area is there to fix a slump on the trail formed by excess water, Johnson explained. This happens naturally as water builds up, becomes unstable and moves.
In the Master Trails plan, the Reflector trail would be the connector between Black Diamond and North Fork. Considered lower priority, there is no momentum currently on getting public use easements. Lone Mountain Ranch and four private landowners will be consulted as priority moves, and BSCO will decide if getting this public easement is viable. Trail use between recreational users and horse rides conducted by Lone Mountain Ranch would need to be balanced.
“We’re looking at it down the line in about two years,” Johnson said.
NORTH FORK TO TOWN CENTER
Similar to Reflector, this project is low priority. The goal is to provide a connection that does not use Forest Service roads and accesses North Fork without needing to ride up Highway 64. Initial conversations have just begun.
“We are currently building the Spruce Cone trail, which goes along the backside of the Firelights,” Johnson said, and expects it to be done next week. This trail runs behind the Firelights through the sagebrush area and will be filled with crushed gravel, similar to the texture of the Ousel Falls trail, and six feet wide to be ‘stroller friendly.’
A new kiosk is being install at Ousel Falls and another vault toilet added. A new trailhead kiosk at Hummocks will have updated information and maps.
Johnson expressed if locals or visitors want to support the trails, they are welcome to make a donation online. “If people want to donate while they’re on the trail, we do have donation boxes at our trailheads,” he said.
Trail days are paused temporarily as BSCO is trying to limit large group gatherings due to coronavirus concerns.
Johnson reminded trail users to be socially distant when possible—get off the trails when others are coming—and carry bear spray.
“Simple and easy. Be nice, say hi and carry your bear spray," he summarized.