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Vision of Trail Across MT Coming Closer to Reality

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The Montana 406 trail would stretch 1,500 miles across the state. (Bob Wick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
The Montana 406 trail would stretch 1,500 miles across the state. (Bob Wick/U.S. Bureau of Land Management)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
March 15, 2021

HELENA, Mont. -- A path linking trails across Montana is gaining momentum this year.

The Montana 406 Trail would start in Glacier National Park, swoop down into the state's southwest corner and back up before bending east near Great Falls to North Dakota.

Marty Bannon, president and founder of the Montana Trail 406 Association, said the 440-mile section along the Continental Divide Trail between Glacier and Yellowstone National Park is important.

"But I also, living in Montana, realized that there's this whole eastern part of the state that has island mountain ranges and beautiful prairie, untouched, and also the Missouri River," Bannon explained.

The Montana Senate Natural Resources Committee is holding a hearing today on House Joint Resolution 15, which would recognize the benefits of a cross-state trail.

The trail would be about 1,500 miles in length and, Bannon pointed out, hike-able in the three months when trails are clear of snow.

While some might cover it all in one trip, Bannon envisions folks hiking it in sections.

Bannon added half the experience of hiking long trails is going to small towns along the way. Hikers usually head into these towns to get more supplies, staying for a meal and some beers, perhaps.

He contended the 406, as Bannon refers to it for short, would bring more tourists to eastern Montana.

"This is going to let them experience a little bit more of what Montana is all about, not just the national parks" Bannon argued. "And also let the recreation dollars be spread across these small communities without having a big impact on them besides bringing some hikers and bikers into their communities."

Bannon noted no new trail would be created for this project. It would link the trails that already exist.

He hopes to finish up surveying the trek over the next few months.

"We're right at that stage of going from an idea to reality," Bannon remarked. "That's where we're at. This summer is going to be from idea to reality."

Bannon is exploring other state trails such as those in Arizona and Colorado for design ideas.

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