The City of Missoula, Five Valleys and the Mount Dean Stone Committee partners are excited to announce that the nicknamed High, Wide and Handsome Trail on Mount Dean Stone is now open to the public!
This milestone is the culmination of years of listening to community needs and working with private landowners, neighbors, the City of Missoula, and the Mount Dean Stone Committee to help create Missoula's newest trail corridor and open space vista.
Over the course of 2020, Five Valleys, partner MTB Missoula, and 150 socially-distant volunteers built the 5-mile “High, Wide, and Handsome Trail,” which extends the Barmeyer and Sousa Trails up to and around the Mount Dean Stone summit. The trail runs through 350-acre Mount Dean Stone Preserve corridor, which Five Valleys stitched together through multiple land deals with Mount Dean Stone landowners over the last five years. In a unique partnership, Five Valleys worked with the Line family, whose ranch on Mount Dean Stone is already protected with a Five Valleys conservation easement, to complete a land exchange in the Preserve. The exchange was mutually beneficial: it allowed for a better route for the trail, and enabled the Line family to access a new water source and more grazing land for their cattle.
The Preserve was acquired by the City of Missoula in December 2020 thanks to Missoula Open Space Bond funds and a $1.6 million contribution made by Five Valleys and our partners. Final trail work was completed in June 2021. With the trail's opening, safe, legal, public access from the valley floor up to the Mount Dean Stone ridge is open for use for the first time.
Designed at a moderate 8% grade with sustainable trail building techniques that should reduce the need for maintenance, the new trail provides for both pedestrians and bikers with wide range of abilities. And the view: the route winds through a diverse forest of Douglas Fir, Western Larch, and Ponderosa Pine before ending in a scenic, subalpine meadow that looks out over the Missoula Valley, northern Bitterroot Valley, Pattee Canyon, and beyond.
The Preserve also helps the Missoula community adapt to a changing climate by eliminating development in a high wildfire risk area and providing for greater forest management. Recent wildlife and natural resources surveys will help inform decisions around future trails and access, including a possible seasonal closure for elk habitat. Community members can download maps and learn more about the Mount Dean Stone Preserve by visiting EngageMissoula.com.
The next phase of the Mount Dean Stone project involves the construction of the 4.6-mile House of Sky Trail, which is currently underway. House of Sky will connect with the Mount Dean Stone Preserve Trail below the Mount Dean Stone summit. It will run along the ridge to the West Fork of Deer Creek in Pattee Canyon.
The House of Sky Trail project was funded by a 2020 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks RTP grant and community donations. Five Valleys and the Mount Dean Stone Committee partners hope to invite volunteers to help with trail work this fall, and to welcome the public to the new trail in 2022.
Once complete, the House of Sky Trail will, for the first time, create a united trails network across the Mount Dean Stone landscape by connecting trailheads 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.
These accomplishments would not have been possible without the generosity and vision of many families and landowners, the City of Missoula, the Mount Dean Stone Committee partners, and our incredible community that made the project possible.
The Mount Dean Stone Committee project partners and business supporters:
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Photo of the new Mount Dean Stone Preserve Trail by Five Valleys staff