Soldier Ridge loop closed; 15 miles coming at Red Grade
If there’s one thing that’s certain these days it’s this: there’s no better place to be than outdoors.
Thankfully, because of people like you, going from your front door to the outdoors in Sheridan County is easier than ever before!
And while that may seem like an overstatement, the efforts we’ve made together to connect more people to our Wyoming Wonderland through a growing network of community trails will mean even more to more people thanks to the addition of two new trails on the west edge of Sheridan and more miles quicker than we ever thought possible at Red Grade Trails.
Closing the loop
In September, the final touches were put on Kicking Horse Trail and The Link – two new trails that will connect Hidden Hoot Trail to Soldier Ridge Trail. By doing so, visitors will have an opportunity to enjoy a loop of 9.2 miles conveniently located on Sheridan’s west edge.
The Link was SCLT Trail Builder Ronnie Wagner’s first opportunity to break ground and he created a gem that’s perfect for new bike riders.
“It’s flowy and fun,” Ronnie said of The Link, adding that with plenty of steady grades “it can be ridden downhill both ways.”
Runners and walkers will enjoy it, too. As will anyone who wishes to experience a whole lot of solitude and plenty of nature.
“There’s tons of wildlife out there,” Ronnie relayed, saying that pronghorn, mule deer, and pheasants were regular coworkers on build days.
The same is true for Kicking Horse Trail, which extends from The Link to the midpoint of Soldier Ridge Trail. A burrowing owl, a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” in Wyoming, was spotted flying in and out of prairie dog dens along the trail. It’s one of 10 raptor species known to inhabit Sheridan Heights Ranch, which, along with Black Tooth Ranch, host the trail.
Both ranches worked with SCLT to enact voluntary conservation agreements. That ensures the open space and wildlife habitat remains intact while the working land remains working. The trails are an ideal corridor for people of all ages to experience and appreciate conservation in action.
Kicking Horse will be open to horses, which means equestrians now have nearly 6 miles of trail to ride close to town!
Next year brings a trailhead and more trails at Kendrick Golf Course. Once complete, there will be 16.4 miles in the Soldier Ridge Trail System!
Volunteers from First Interstate Bank paint “KH” on rock cairns that will mark Kicking Horse Trail as it connects to Soldier Ridge Trail. A prairie dog was not a fan of volunteers at a recent work day. Be sure to keep an eye out for burrowing owls while enjoying Kicking Horse Trail.
‘Game changers’ for Red Grade Trails
But that’s not it, there’s even more new opportunities for people coming soon. Grants from the Wyoming Business Council ($500,000), USFS ($100,000) and National Forest Foundation ($18,000) will be combined with more than $130,000 people like you helpfully raised to develop the entirety of Red Grade Trails planned in the Bighorn National Forest!
That’s right – the entirety! That’s 15 new trail miles and 3 parking areas. And most of it’s coming soon.
“Thanks to our community and the funds they helped us secure, the majority of what was originally envisioned as a decade-long project will be built in 2021!” said Executive Director Brad Bauer.
In fact, work’s already underway in the Poverty Flats area. And Ronnie’s pretty excited for what’s in store up the mountain. “These won’t be ‘just your normal trails.’ Hopefully, they’ll be something Wyoming hasn’t seen yet!”
What’s that mean? New ways to connect with nature open to all: hikers, mountain bikers, runners, walkers, equestrians, photographers, yoga practitioners, birders, wildlife watchers, flower fanciers, fungi finders, plant peepers and more. Some trails will be single use too, with some routes dedicated specifically to pedestrian, bike or horse use.
Working with schools, community groups and programs like Discovery Sessions and Unplug, trails also serve as ideal classrooms for history, ecology, recreation, art and more!
With more than 20,000 visits to SCLT’s community trails last year, these new trails will ensure there’s no better place to be than outdoors. And the best way to enjoy the outdoors is close to home in our beautiful Bighorns backyard.