Missoula's next open space legacy, Mount Dean Stone, seeks to connect open space and trails across a 4,200 acre complex, from Missoula's Pattee Canyon across the ridge of Mount Dean Stone and down into Miller Creek. The goal of the Mount Dean Stone project is to solidify our community's connection to our landscape, improve forest health and reduce the risk of wildfire on the edge of town, safeguard the next generation's access to the lands we depend upon for our rich quality of life, and protect wildlife habitat.
The Mount Dean Stone project is a multi-partner, multi-year effort. The massive project would not be possible without the collaboration of over 20 partnering organizations and businesses, that have united to form the Mount Dean Stone Committee. Led by Five Valleys, the Committee helping to guide the project, which aims to serve as the future model of conservation to sustainably maintain public access for humans on the landscape.
In addition to supporting trail planning and building efforts, the Mount Dean Stone Committee is engaged in landscape-wide wildlife, wildlife habitat, and forestry surveys in order to protect natural resources and decrease the threat of wildfire alongside increased public use. Using this data, the Committee is crafting recreation and natural resource management plans for the Mount Dean Stone project area.
"There's so much value for the community in these public spaces. I think about what Missoula would have been like without Mount Jumbo, Mount Sentinel and the North Hills. I would love if in ten years people are saying, 'What would Missoula have been like without Mount Dean Stone?' It's an ambitious project, but it's worth it." - Mike Foote, Five Valleys Board member.
The project got its start when Five Valleys began working with the Barmeyer family in 2014 to protect 130 acres of their land in Pattee Canyon. The Barmeyer project resulted in two conservation easements which were finalized in 2016. The Barmeyer family generously transferred one of the easement parcels to the City of Missoula for use as a public trail corridor. Trail building commenced in 2017. In the summer of 2018 the Barmeyer Trail, the first new trail on Mount Dean Stone, opened to the public.
That same year, in 2018, the project partners also completed a new single-track trail at Inez Creek, on the Miller Creek side of the mountain. Located on a 2,500-acre parcel that had been owned and stewarded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Inez Creek Trail, located approximately eight miles up Upper Miller Creek Road, connects to an existing network between the ridge and Miller Creek. Later that year, the trail was connected to a scenic overlook named Legacy Point.
In Fall 2019, National Public Lands Day volunteers helped complete the first universal trail on Mount Dean Stone. Built in collaboration with Mount Dean Stone Committee partner Summit Independent Living, this 1/4 mile loop trail located along Miller Creek and adjacent to the Little Park Creek Trailhead, now provides recreational opportunities to a greater number of community members.
At the close of 2019 Five Valleys acquired the final parcels that created 350-acre trail corridor on the northside of the mountain, above the Barmeyer conservation easment properties and South Hills Spur. Construction of the nicknamed "High, Wide, and Handsome Trail" commenced in 2020 utilizing the trail building expertise of Mountain Bike Missoula (MTBM). The corridor and trail were transferred into City of Missoula ownership at the end of 2020, and were renamed the Mount Dean Stone Preserve and Mount Dean Stone Preserve Trail.
In June 2021, the 5-mile Mount Dean Stone Preserve Trail opened to the public. The trail extends the Barmeyer and Sousa Trails, leading up the mountain and encircling the summit, and connecting to the TNC parcel across the Mount Dean Stone ridge. Learn more about the Mount Dean Stone Preserve.
In early 2020, Five Valleys was awarded a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Recreational Trails Program grant to build the 4.6-mile House of Sky Trail. In partnership with MTBM, the Mount Dean Stone Committee, and dozens of community volunteers, the House of Sky Trail was constructed over 2021. The trail had its grand opening in June of 2022. The House of Sky Trail, which runs along the ridgeline from below the Mount Dean Stone summit to the West Fork of Deer Creek in Pattee Canyon, connects trails and five trailheads across the mountain. House of Sky can be accessed via the new Skyline Ridge Trailhead in the West Fork of Deer Creek, or via connections through the Inez Creek and Little Park Creek Trails on the south side of the mountain, or the Barmeyer and Sousa trails on the north side of the mountain through the Mount Dean Stone Preserve.
Towards the beginning of the project, in 2016, Five Valleys secured a purchase agreement with TNC to acquire TNC's 2,500-acre parcel on the southside of the mountain, above Miller Creek. As the effort to secure and provide public access up the northside of the mountain progressed, TNC generously allowed public access and development of the Inez Creek and Little Park Creek Trails to continue.
In 2022, Five Valleys applied to the US Forest Service's Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program and was awarded $600,000 to help purchase the TNC property. This grant was further supported by a $100,000 grant from the Montana Fish and Wildlife Conservation Trust, as well as a generous donation from TNC and support from Five Valleys' community donors.
In June 2023, Five Valleys, TNC, the US Forest Service, and many other partners celebrated the finalization of Five Valleys' purchase of the TNC parcel and the creation of the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest.
The public is invited to enjoy the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest as Five Valleys works to enhance the community’s connection to public lands, improve forest health, reduce the risk of wildfire on the edge of town, safeguard the next generation’s access to the lands we depend on for our rich quality of life, and protect wildlife habitat from development.
• Download the Mount Dean Stone Public Access Map and the City of Missoula's Mount Dean Stone Preserve Trail Map and start exploring the Mount Dean Stone landscape. Keep in mind that this is an ongoing project--please respect trail closures and private property boundaries, and practice good trail etiquette and stewardship.
• Help guide future trails and stewardship by reporting natural resource and community usage and providing feedback to Five Valleys Land Trust.
• Subscribe to Five Valleys' e-news updates to get information about events and project developments.
To support wildlife, the upper parts of the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest will go under winter recreation closure.
Five Valleys is thrilled to announce our recent acquisition 2,470 acres on Mount Dean Stone and the creation of the Mount Dean Stone Community Forest.
Read about our Hands on the Land volunteering program, our successful Montana Forever campaign, latest about the Rock Creek Confluence and Mount Dean Stone, and so much more in our Summer 2023 newsletter.