Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks draw thousands of hikers to Montana, many of them traveling the Continental Divide Trail as it passes through both parks along the state’s western border. But what about the rest of the state? The grasslands of eastern Montana. The Missouri Breaks.
The Montana Trail 406 will connect all of them, says Race Bannon, president of the Montana Trail 406 Association. Rather than build new trails, the group will connect about 1,500 miles of existing trails that crisscross Montana from east to west. The trail will be for hikers, bikepackers, horseback riders, and paddlers. Bird watching, rivers and streams for fishing, and abundant wildflowers are expected to draw people to the trail.
Creating a true multi-use trail is difficult, Race says, because bicycles are not allowed in wilderness areas. As a result the group is focusing first on foot travel, with bike routes bypassing the wilderness areas to come later.
The trail includes 538 miles of the Continental Divide Trail, 400 miles of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, and 149 miles of the Upper Missouri National Wild and Scenic River from Fort Benton to the James Kipp Recreation Area.
Additionally, the group is hoping to work with Indigenous people in eastern Montana to be able to route the trail across their lands.
Race sees the new trail as an outlet for the surge in hikers since the COVID pandemic began. The trail will bring people to less-visited parts of the state, and help economies in small towns, he says. And that, he says, can only benefit Montana.
For more information, go to http://backpackingroutes.com/new-montana-trail-connects-1500-miles-existing-routes/ or https://www.facebook.com/montanatrail406/.