BLM, State Parks seek input on proposed South Pass trails
March 23, 2023
The Bureau of Land Management and Wyoming State Parks seek public input on a proposal to build roughly six new miles of trail adjacent to South Pass City State Historic Site.
The BLM’s Lander field office released a conceptual plan that proposes several loops of trail designed primarily for hikers and equestrians near the historic ghost town. The new trails spur off of existing two-track routes as well as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, which passes through South Pass City as it unfurls from Canada to Mexico.
The conceptual trails travel from between about 7,400 to 8,000 feet in elevation and pass historic sites like mine shafts and an overlook made notable by William Henry Jackson’s 1870 photograph.
“We’ve taken our first shot at what we thought would be a good trail system,” BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner Jared Oakleaf said at an open house last week in Lander. He stressed the plan is in its conceptual phase and public input is sought to help shape the ultimate outcome.
“It’s in its infancy,” he said.
The BLM will accept comments through May 31, and hopes to host a field site tour in June. Specialists will also conduct inventories of the landscape to determine what kinds of plant species or other resources exist. Next fall or early winter the BLM will develop an environmental assessment. That document too will go out for public review.
“We’re at the start of a very robust process,” Oakleaf said.
The Lander field office encompasses most of Fremont County as well as portions of Natrona, Carbon, Sweetwater and Hot Springs counties in central Wyoming. It’s a vast area home to everything from livestock grazing to mountain biking, cultural sites and emigrant trails.
The South Pass State Historic Site sits in the southern zone of the field office.
The office’s resource management plan, which was updated in 2014, emphasized the importance of partnerships with the state park that could result in more recreational and educational opportunities, Oakleaf said.
“And so that kind of gave us that umbrella direction of what opportunities we were looking to provide in that region,” Oakleaf told WyoFile. That, along with community feedback, led to the trail expansion plan. In designing the conceptual trails, staffers included spots with expansive or pretty views as well as historic landmarks, he said.
Because the Continental Divide Trail, which Congress created in 1978, is managed for “primitive” use, the proposed trails would be aimed at non-motorized foot and horse traffic — though other users like mountain bikers would also be permitted.
South Pass City State Historic Site is roughly 400 acres and encompasses creeks, aspen groves and gold-mining relics along with the historic townsite. The park added four miles of hiking trails in recent years, and Superintendent Joe Ellis said the hope is to give visitors even more to do to extend their visit.
At the earliest, construction of the new trails would begin in summer or fall of 2024, Oakleaf said. To submit comments or request information, email Oakleaf at [email protected] or Ellis at [email protected] with “South Pass trails” in the subject line.
WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.