Trail Corridor Takes Another Scenic Step

By Beacon Staff

There’s a new option for Kalispell-area horseback riders, mountain bikers and hikers looking to get outside without having to travel too far. A coalition of local groups recently completed work on a new trail extending up from the corner of Herron Park that climbs atop a ridge, with sweeping views of Foys Lake, Lone Pine State Park, Smith Valley, and much of the Flathead.

The “Overlook Trail,” as it has been dubbed by its builders, offers its users a rigorous, scenic, and relatively brief way to exercise and take in the vistas west of Kalispell. The distance from Herron Park’s parking lot to the outlook is about 1.8 miles, making for a 3.6 mile round-trip outing.

“With the forecasted growth of our valley, and the proximity of these trails to so many valley residents and energy prices going through the roof, it’ll become an even more valuable place to go to get away in a short period of time,” said Matt Brake, a member of the Foys to Blacktail Trails committee. “I can’t afford to drive to Glacier Park very often, but when I need to go exercise or take my dog for a walk, that’s where I go.”

The Overlook Trail travels up to the high point of a 320-acre parcel adjoining Herron Park that the Foys to Blacktail Trails project is trying to raise $2.5 million to purchase. The Conservation Fund is holding the land until September 2009.

After figuring out the route of the new trail, Brake, along with Foys to Blacktail volunteers and a “Youth Engaged in Service” crew of teenagers from the Montana Conservation Corp, set to work July 7 clearing trees and rocks, and grading the wide trail to the overlook. The youth crew was funded by a grant from the Plum Creek Timber Company and Parsons Kubota Bobcat provided a mini-excavator for clearing trail. It was a conscious decision, Brake said, to keep the trail wide, with an uphill but manageable grade. The dirt on the new trail is loose in some sections, and the group plans to add gravel to those areas when the trail packs down.

But on a recent weekday evening, several people were already taking advantage of the new Overlook Trail, which is well-marked by blue signs that read “FTBT.” The trail itself begins about 30 yards past the Foys to Blacktail Project kiosk marking the boundary of Herron Park, climbing up to the right. From there, the route climbs steadily for about a mile up to the overlook itself, where the views provide one of the most gratifying rewards of a good hike: to see familiar places from a new and different angle.

The Foys to Blacktail Project’s long-term goal is to establish a trail corridor from Herron Park to Blacktail Mountain across private and public lands. Brake hopes if the public realizes what an asset the new trail is, people will be motivated to see how valuable a trail extending all the way to Blacktail could eventually be.

“What we’re doing with the Overlook Trail is trying to highlight this property and encourage folks to dream about an interconnected network of trails on 480 acres that’s in the backyard of Kalispell,” Brake said.