Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest announces plans to officially open the new Big Elk Creek access
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: September 14, 2020

HELENA, MONT. (September 14, 2020) – “A brand new easement availing public access into a portion of the Crazy
Mountain Range is close at hand,” said White Sulphur Springs District Ranger, Carol Hatfield. The public and administrative
easement was approved by the Forest Service and McFarland White Ranch in May of this year. The Montana Land Board just
approved the use of existing State land for a parking lot, trail head, and trail during their August 2020 board meeting. The last
piece to complete the formal opening of the access area is the construction of the parking lot, trailhead, and trail. “The expected
opening as of now is late November, but as there always is with construction in Montana, a myriad of factors could accelerate
or delay our plans,” said Ranger Hatfield.
The parking lot and trail head will be approximately 1 acre, capable of accommodating trucks and/or trailers. The parking area
will be fenced out for livestock with 4-strand barb wire and graveled. The easement trail will run from the trailhead for
approximately 3 miles before reaching the Forest boundary. Users will be prohibited from leaving the easement trail until they
reach the Forest boundary. The Forest Service will manage the easement in accordance with the Helena-Lewis and Clark Forest
Castle and Crazy Mountains Travel Plan. It will be designated as the Big Elk Creek Trail No. 640, and it will be a non-motorized
use trail. Additionally, campfires and overnight use will be prohibited at the parking area, trailhead, and easement trail.
In 2004 the Forest Service began periodic collaborative negotiations for reciprocal access to this area with the McFarland White
Ranch and later with the Department of Natural Resources (DNRC). The Forest Service, DNRC, and the McFarland White
Ranch are excited to see years of effort coming to fruition that will benefit the McFarland White Ranch and the public. This
easement will provide public access into Lodgepole Creek, Big Elk Creek, and other areas as the rugged topography allows.
Forest officials expect frequent use of this easement from late October through November, coinciding with Montana’s general
big-game hunting season. Additionally, incidental use is expected from April – September from horseback and hiking
enthusiasts.
“I know there are many of the public who are eager to see their dreams of this easement come true, and we are doing our level
best to get this area open to the public as soon as possible” said Ranger Hatfield. Everyone is reminded that until this area is
officially opened, the public is still prohibited from traversing the private land to get to the Forest. If there are any questions,
please direct them to the Belt Creek – White Sulphur Springs Ranger District at (406) 547-3361. Please do not contact the
McFarland White Ranch for questions about this project.