Another season of trail work is set to continue on the Pole Mountain Unit of the Medicine Bow National Forest this summer, this time with a focus on building a new trail instead of rehabilitating existing trails.
Wyoming Pathways announced earlier this year that it has received a $50,000 grant from the state’s Recreational Trails Program, which is administered by Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails, for this summer’s trail work.
The program distributes money to states that was collected from federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists. The money is used by states to build and maintain trails.
Wyoming Pathways, which will match the grant with $20,000 of its own funding, is a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes non-motorized travel in Wyoming communities. It has been leading trail work on Pole Mountain for the last five years.
Executive director Tim Young said Wyoming Pathways will be partnering with the Laramie Ranger District to begin construction this summer of a trail connecting Pole Mountain with the Pilot Hill parcel.
Since 2017, Wyoming Pathways has rerouted and rebuilt portions of Aspen Trail, Haunted Forest and Headquarters Trail in addition to basic maintenance on many of the other 30 miles of trails in the U.S. Forest Service system.
“We’ve made some headway,” Young said.
He anticipated this summer’s construction season to also include some fine-tuning of Aspen and Haunted Forest, which were last summer’s projects. The popular trails are heavily used and travel up steep hillsides, necessitating sustainable reroutes that allow water to drain without causing erosion.
However, the main focus of the coming construction season is the new connector trail, which will start at the northeast corner of the Pilot Hill parcel and eventually connect to the trail system in the Tie City area.
Young said the new trail’s exact route hasn’t been finalized by the Forest Service, and it could be up to eight miles long.
“It’s quite a distance when you actually add it up,” he said.
It will start at the boundary of the Pilot Hill parcel and head east toward Wyoming Highway 210, also called Happy Jack Road. Forest Road 703 also travels from Happy Jack Road to the Pilot Hill boundary, but the trail will take a separate route, Young said.
“We’ll help with the final layout and work with their specialists so it’s a good, fun trail that’s sustainable, that minimizes impacts on resources, and that makes that connection,” he said.
He’s hoping to get up to three miles built this summer.
“That’s what we’re estimating. It’s hard to say how far we’ll get,” he said.
The connector trail is a companion to the Laramie Ranger District’s upcoming Pole Mountain Gateways Project, which should get underway this year. The district is currently gathering public input in advance of officially initiating the project, which will be a large-scale overhaul of the non-motorized recreation on the unit.
Laramie District Ranger Frank Romero said during a public meeting in January that his management approach to the project includes a “shared stewardship” philosophy with neighboring public and private lands, including the Pilot Hill parcel and Curt Gowdy State Park.
“I’m not afraid of looking across the lines and talking with my other partners,” he said.
Young said he’s excited to imagine the future of non-motorized trails in the region, as the Schoolyard Trails will connect to the Pilot Hill parcel, which will connect to the Pole Mountain Unit.
“You’re going to have 100 miles of natural-surface trails of a variety of challenges, different types of experiences and access in different areas,” he said.