It’s taken seven years and a long list of trail enthusiasts and supporters, but the last segment of the Limekiln Hiking Trail in the Judith Mountains northeast of Lewistown was recently completed.
The trail can now take hikers on a seven-mile loop through some great scenery on public and private lands around Limekiln Canyon.
The BLM’s Lewistown Field Office began planning the hiking and horseback trail in 2000. Since then, many organizations and individual volunteers have worked to bring the trail to completion.
The Limekiln Trail would not be a reality today if Earlene Duvall had not allowed the BLM to purchase an easement across her private property along the South Fork of Burnette Creek in Limekiln Canyon. The parking lot, trailhead, informational signing and the portion of the trail that provides access for those with disabilities are all located on this easement.
With this easement serving as a starting point, BLM engineers began staking the trail location along contours, beside the South Fork of Burnette Creek, up to the Lewistown Overlook and then along the ridge around the canyon.
The task of finding a way to complete the construction work was under the purview of Rod Sanders, a BLM recreation planner in Lewistown. With minimal budgets at hand, Rod began promoting the trail construction work as National Public Lands Day and National Trails Day events, and the response from Lewistown has grown over the last several years.
“With hiking trails playing a larger and larger role in community development, we’ve had great support from the local area when we’ve asked for help,” Sanders offered. Outdoor enthusiasts such as Jim Hanson, Dave Mari, Hans Stokken, and many other individuals and organizations have contributed their time and effort to help with the trail work.
“The Montana Conservation Corp - Great Falls Chapter (MCC) has also been instrumental in constructing this trail; without such a great organization, the project wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. The MCC invested hundreds of hours of hard work with shovels, axes and other hand tools on this trail,” Sanders added.
The Judith Basin Backcountry Horsemen have also been great contributors. Their members have packed weed spray into remote portions of the trail to help control noxious weeds, cleaned and maintained the trail and helped locate potential new trails in the area. “We will certainly pursue more trail opportunities with them in the future,” Sanders said.
This past summer the military also pitched in to help with trail maintenance. Six personnel from the Air Force’s 819th Airborne (also known as the Red Horse Mechanized Squadron) from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, cleared massive amounts of timber blow-down that littered the trail since severe storms blew through the area last winter and spring.
Numerous local BLMers also rolled up their sleeves to work on the tail. Staffers and managers from the Lewistown Field Office helped build, clean and maintain various segments of the trail during several National Trails Day events. They installed water bars, picked up litter, and sprayed noxious weeds on the trail and in the canyon bottom.
However, the trail wasn’t finished until 20 seasonal firefighters from the Central Montana Fire Zone recently finished the last half mile of trail to complete the loop route. As Mother Nature would have it, this area hasn’t had many fires and these firefighters were eager to do some public service work. Their hard work to compete this loop trail is certainly appreciated.
“All in all there were many people and organizations with diverse interests and goals who pitched in to support this worthwhile effort. The Limekiln Hiking Trail will be a valuable recreational asset that benefits area residents and visitors for years to come,” according to Sanders.
For more information abut the Limekiln Trial, please contact Rod Sanders at (406) 538-1905 or stop by the Lewistown BLM office at 920 NE Main Street.