Three private landowners have generously donated trail easements to support a proposed future connection of the Whitefish Trail between the WT Big Mountain Trailhead and the Flathead National Forest in Hellroaring Basin. We would like to sincerely thank Elk Highlands Homeowners Association and Montana Land Reliance, Whitefish Mountain Resort, and Michael and Michelle Episcope for supporting this important public recreation connection across their private property. The donated trail easements will ensure 2+ miles of the Whitefish Trail with two small segments remaining to finalize the connection. Whitefish City Council voted unanimously on February 3rd to hold the donated easements for high quality, public recreation.
In Montana, sections of public land are often ‘land locked’ by private land that prevent public access to recreation opportunities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, berry-picking, birding, etc. Luckily Montana’s Recreational Use Statute protects landowners from liability when no monetary fees are exchanged. The Whitefish Trail, F. H. Stoltze Land & Lumber Company’s Open Lands Policy, and Montana’s Block Management Hunting Program are prime examples of how this liability protection provides invaluable public benefit.
These new Whitefish Trail easements will also provide a critical connection to future community trails recently approved in the USFS’s Taylor Hellroaring Project. Users will access the trail from a new trailhead at the Holbrook Overlook on Big Mountain Road. The new trail will provide expanding views of Whitefish Lake, Beaver Lakes, and the Swift Creek Valley (pictured above) on the way to a scenic footbridge across Hellroaring Creek. We are excited to develop yet another important recreation amenity on the Whitefish Trail. Two additional easements are necessary to finalize the connection, and pending successful fundraising and the Taylor Hellroaring Project’s timber management, we hope to break ground as early as 2021.