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.
“Fundamentally, this is conservation serving our community goals. This community wants more trails and more access to outdoor recreation out the door. The trails we currently have near town are a core part of our unique quality of life, but they are increasingly crowded and predominantly on the north side of town. Our community is anticipating massive growth in the decades ahead and this is a chance for our open space infrastructure to keep pace with growth and maintain our quality of life and sense of place” said Grant Kier, former Five Valleys Executive Director.
The project got its start when Five Valleys began working with the Barmeyer family in 2014, to protect their land in Pattee Canyon. The Barmeyer easement was finalized 2016, and in 2018 the Barmeyer Trail, the first new trail on Mount Dean Stone, opened to the public.
Mount Dean Stone will serve as a recreational area for a part of Missoula without much open space access, and has the potential to become a cornerstone of Missoula’s south-side neighborhoods, much like Mount Jumbo and the Rattlesnake recreation areas are for residents in the northern end of Missoula. The project is bigger in scope than the acquisition of Mount Jumbo twenty years ago, and will help create a 180-degree arc of community open space around the City of Missoula.
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.
In addition to the opening of the Barmeyer Trail, 2018 also welcomed a new single-track trail at Inez Creek, on the Miller Creek side of the mountain. Located on a 2,500-acre parcel currently owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Inez Creek Trail, located approximately eight miles up Miller Creek Road, connects to an existing network between the Mount Dean Stone ridge and Miller Creek. Later that year, the trail was connected to a scenic overlook named Legacy Point.
In the fall of 2019, National Public Lands Day volunteers helped the Mount Dean Stone Committee partners to complete the first universal trail on Mount Dean Stone. This 1/4 mile loop, located along Miller Creek and adjacent to the Little Park Creek Trailhead, is now providing 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. Construction of the nicknamed "High, Wide, and Handsome Trail" commenced in 2020, and the Mount Dean Stone Preserve corridor and trail was transferred into City of Missoula ownership at the end of 2020. In June 2021, the 5-mile High Wide and Handsome Trail and Preserve opened to the public. The High, Wide, and Handsome 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.
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. This trail will connect with the High, Wide and Handsome Trail below the Mount Dean Stone summit and run along the ridge to the West Fork of Deer Creek in Pattee Canyon. Trail building commenced in the summer of 2021. Once complete, the trail will, for the first time, create a united trails network across the Mount Dean Stone landscape.
Currently, Five Valleys is engaged in acquiring the 2,500-acre TNC parcel that spans the mountain's southeastern flank. While Five Valleys raises the needed funding to acquire the TNC parcel, The Nature Conservancy is generously allowing public access to this rugged and scenic parcel. The price tag on the project is expected to be about $4-4.5M over three years. With the help of generous landowner and community donations, Five Valleys has made progress towards this goal, but there is still more work to do.
• Download the 2019 Public Access 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.
"There's so much value for the community in having 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 and community member.
The project nows provides the first designated public access from the valley floor to the Mount Dean Stone ridge.
In December, the Missoula City Council voted to acquire the 350-acre Corridor and its 5-mile trail.
A recently-awarded $75,000 grant will fund construction of a new 4.6-mile trail.