A plan championed by the Park County Outdoor Recreation Collaborative for an official trail system at the Outlaw Trails area north of Cody was approved Friday by the Bureau of Land Management. The …
A plan championed by the Park County Outdoor Recreation Collaborative for an official trail system at the Outlaw Trails area north of Cody was approved Friday by the Bureau of Land Management. The plan allows existing trails to be repaired and new trails to be sustainably designed for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and off-road motorized vehicles.
Collaborative steering committee member John Gallagher said the trail system will become a “world-class” facility, offering amazing recreational opportunities to local residents, as well as drawing recreation tourists to the area to experience the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem trail system.
“We already get a lot of people coming down from Red Lodge and Billings. And during the offseason we get a lot of Bozeman people coming through,” he said.
The plan has been in the works for more than four years, first initiated by local bicycling advocate group the Park County Pedalers, then combined with hikers, horse riders, biking and motorized vehicle user groups; all part of the fairly new recreation collaborative, which formed in 2022 under the leadership of Rebekah Burns, who is executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership.
A small working group representing the varied recreational user groups was formed to identify trails that could remain non-motorized for safety and experience, and motorized trails that would provide a different experience and improve access.
“I’m grateful to the community and all those who came together to help us form a plan for Outlaw Trails,” said BLM Cody Field Manager Cade Powell. “We hope this plan will lead to a quality experience for various types of recreation including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and single-track motorized use.”
The agency designated a mix of existing and new trails for motorized and non-motorized use based on community, tribal and agency input during a public comment period last summer.
As outdoor recreation in the area has increased, members of the Outlaw Trails subcommittee for the collaborative — led by Gallagher — asked for a mix of existing and new trail systems to be designated to address sustainability, user conflicts and safety issues.
“I guess the real work starts now,” Gallagher said after the announcement. “Outlaw is a stunning place with really great trails.”
Since none of the existing trails were designed, there are numerous issues that need to be addressed, but the group had to wait for the official designation to make fixes and plan new trails. They are eager to get digging and hope to transform the area, he said.
“We’ll hire a contractor to do a lot of the work and we’ll do a bunch of volunteer work out there too. It’ll take a couple of years to get it built out,” he said.
Gallagher, who along with Park County Pedalers board members and volunteers, spent multiple years seeking approval, finding funding and eventually helping to build the Beck Lake Bike Park, said the group will offer a trail building school and plans to call on volunteers from the community to help with trail building and maintenance. Much of the work will be done by contractors specializing in trail building and, due to scheduling issues, may take a year or more to complete.
Gallagher, who is director of information services for the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, had worked on the Outlaw Trails project prior to becoming a steering committee member with PCORC. The collaborative, which includes representation by the BLM, BOR and other state and federal agencies, helped bring all the groups together to elevate the plans. The BLM worked with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) through a management agreement to establish a trailhead and facilities after the National Environmental Policy Act approval for the trailhead was completed by the BOR. The trailhead will include a large parking lot, information kiosk, visitor registration, picnic tables, shade shelter and vault toilets.
Work on the parking lot has already started and the vault toilets are expected to be installed before the end of the year.