New rec trail planned for Sinks Canyon

Mar 28, 2013 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Cyclists, equestrians, hikers, skiers and snowshoers will have more space to play in Fremont County. The Shoshone National Forest will start building a non-motorized trail up the south face of Sinks Canyon, and the Bureau of Land Management's Lander Field Office proposed designating more than 5,600 acres in the Johnny Behind the Rocks area for non-motorized use.

"We're trying to create more opportunities for (non-motorized users) to recreate," Shoshone National Forest recreation technician Matthew Walter said. "(It will be) a nice non-motorized way to get on top of the canyon."

The new Sinks Canyon trail will rise about 1,300 feet from Bruce's parking lot to the Fossil Hill trailhead area. The trail starts and stops near the top and bottom of the switchbacks, but follows a much different route between the two.

On top of the canyon, the new trail will connect with an existing network of paths, so recreators can continue their fun.

"In the future, we'll be looking to add to it ... to get along the Loop Road and get to some of the higher spots," Walter said.

The planned trail starts at about 7,300 feet heading west along and up the southern side of Sinks Canyon. At roughly 7,800 feet, it turns south and then east to climb a shoulder of Fossil Hill, before it swings around the promontory itself to finish at 8,400 feet.

Walter said the route follows a historic stock trail, but was adjusted to find suitable grades for recreators. People had created informal trails in the same area, and Walter hopes providing a designated trail will cut down on their use.

He said the grade is generally 8 percent, but is 12 to 16 percent for some short sections.

Each percent of a grade means the slope rises another foot for every 100 feet.

Walters said the path would be designed to accommodate mountain biking, horseback riding, skiing and snowshoeing. It will be 24 inches wide and have a surface of natural dirt and rocks.

Trail crews will also clear trees and other obstacles to give enough space for horses.

Users will also be able to see around turns so they do not surprise each other, Walter said, and the bends will be wide so cyclists can make the turns.

Walter said Lander Cycling Club has been involved in planning the trail, and the Forest Service will need the community's help in the future to build it.

The local Shoshone National Forest office will host events to teach volunteers how to build trails, and will enlist them later for help.

Walter said the trail should be usable by fall but will not be finished for another year.

Johnny Behind the Rocks

The BLM's proposed resource management plan would set aside almost 5,600 for non-motorized recreation. The area, called Johnny Behind the Rocks, is about 20 miles southwest of Lander on U.S. Highway 287.

Local cyclists have worked with the BLM over the last two years to build multiple-use trails in that area. The proposed plan leaves more than 2.4 million acres accessible to motorized vehicles.

Under the current management, the area is open to motorized use on existing roads and trails. The proposed plan would keep Blue Ridge and Johnny Springs roads open but close Cedar Ridge Road.

BLM planning and environmental coordinator Kristin Yannone said the non-motorized area would be open for users like hikers, cyclists and horse riders. The proposed plan does not specify uses for the area or what facilities to develop.

Yannone said that decision comes from an implementation process, which is under way with the help of residents. The Lander Field Office is working with residents to plan uses and facilities for the area, and BLM staff are preparing an environmental assessment.

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