The Great Western Trail - a network of multiuse mountain routes stretching from Canada to Mexico - was in the news recently as officials representing a myriad of governing agencies and groups met to further discuss the future of the trail.
The trail will allow various uses by hikers, bikers, those riding horses and those driving off-road vehicles. Five states are expected to be involved, starting with Arizona from the south and going into Utah. From there, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are lobbying to host the northern segments.To please all, officials are considering branching several trails through each of the three states en route to Canada.
Some 20 national forests are expected to be involved as the trails wind through the five states. In Utah, other lands fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management, several national parks, the state and private individuals.
Utah County residents will enjoy easy access to the Great Western Trail, with routes planned for some 70 miles through the county running north to south through the Uinta National Forest behind Mount Timpanogos and Mount Nebo.
In fact, some cities - Springville is an example - are seeking direct links from their communities to the trail. Such a move would not only allow local residents access to the trail but also those on the trail to stop off in the cities.
Mindful of the potential draw and potential traffic on the Great Western Trail, some resorts such as Snowbird and Sundance are actively courting organizers to have the trail either go through or very near to their properties.
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Did you know that you can enjoy the Great Western Trail right now - at least in part? The Ridge Trail above Sundance and just off the Alpine Scenic Highway will be incorporated into the Great Western Trail scheme.
The Ridge Trail heads north and northeast along the Bonneville Rim, hugging the Utah-Wasatch county line before crossing into Wasatch National Forest and exiting near the Alta and Brighton ski areas.
The trail currently only lacks the necessary signing, although long brown fiberglass posts, sporting the Great Western logo, one day will mark the trail. The fiberglass bends to withstand the weight of snowdrifts as well as abuse by recreational vehicles.
From the trail's existing point on the Alpine Loop between the Timpooneke campground and the turnoff to Cascade Springs, projections have a yet-to-be constructed portion of the trail to run somewhat parallel to the highway past Aspen Grove and Sundance down to Provo Canyon and Provo River, probably making a westward jaunt toward South Fork.
Uinta National Forest officials just received the go-ahead to start clearing a trail path along the South Fork to the likes of Windy Pass and Bald Knoll, working a comfortable distance around the Girl Scouts' Trefoil Ranch.
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MORE TRAIL NOTES: Remember, the Great Western Trail has started from the grassroots level - the ideas of outdoorsmen and recreationalists - not politicians and bureaucrats. Lyle Gomm, Uinta National Forest's chief of recreation and lands, says federal funding would weaken the volunteer-type heart that beats within the project. "If you fund it, you'll kill it," he says. . . .
-- Two hikers - one from New York and the other from England - are forging the Great Western Trail this summer, mapping the area and logging prospective routes. The pair started June 9 from Clarks Fork, Idaho, and are expected to reach Mexico sometime in November. Uinta National Forest officials expect them to spend a few days in the Provo area sometime in mid-August. . . .
-- Coming to a television soon near you - a PBS documentary about the Great Western Trail, with footage filmed almost exclusively in Utah. In fact, much was shot along the Ridge Trail in the Uinta National Forest, with some 50 local volunteers joining the filming crew to portray hikers, bikers and vehicle drivers. The show is scheduled to be broadcast next month over more than 300 public television stations.