Five Valleys Land Trust is happy to announce its recent donation of a 4-acre parcel of the Route of the Olympian trail, near Saltese, to the US Forest Service.
Located in the rugged and scenic Lower Clark Fork watershed, the property is a critical link in the Route of the Olympian trail system, which repurposes old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Northern Pacific Railroad grade lines into recreational trails. The eight-mile section travels a particularly scenic stretch of the St. Regis River, from Haugan west to Taft, where the Route of the Olympian connects to the Route of the Hiawatha bicycle rail-trail. The rail-trail routes are named for the famed Olympian Hiawatha passenger trains that carried sightseers through the Rocky Mountains between 1947 and 1961.
Since 2007, Five Valleys has worked with the Lolo National Forest to acquire key parcels along the planned rail-trail route. Five Valleys acquired the Route of the Olympian-Saltese property in 2013, to secure the land and assist in clearing title to the property, through a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Recreational Trails program grant. The property completes a nearly continuous 45 mile section of the trail between St. Regis, Montana and Pearson, Idaho, and will be managed by Lolo National Forest for public recreational use. The Route of the Olympian and the Hiawatha Trail are both part of the Rails To Trails program, a national program that includes approximately 15,000 miles of trail across the country.
Completion of the Route of the Olympian trail will connect local communities and provide a space for trail users of all ages to walk, bike and recreate together. It also holds potential to develop into a long-distance multi-use trail linking several Pacific Northwest states.
“This trail is quickly becoming an icon of recreation in western Montana, benefiting local community members who love to recreate outdoors and those invested in economic development by attracting visitors from near and far,” said Grant Kier, Five Valleys' Executive Director. “We are thrilled to assist western Montana communities and our public agency partners to complete projects that provide so many benefits."
Already, the Route of the Hiawatha trail has become very popular, bringing tens of thousands visitors into the western edge of Mineral County during the short summer season. The vision for the Route of the Olympian’s parallel motorized and non-motorized trail system is to bring two streams of visitors further into the county to stimulate small tourism-based businesses, and revitalize the local economy. Five Valleys is pleased that we could help make this section of trail, through some of western Montana's most stunning scenery, a little more complete.