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Contact: David Elkowitz, 432-477-1108
Lone Mountain Trail in Big Bend National Park: Soon, a new way to experience the Chihuahuan Desert up close
Welcome to the Lone Mountain Trail project information page!
Big Bend National Park has begun initial construction of a new multi-use trail around Lone Mountain, near the Panther Junction Visitor Center and park headquarters. The trail, intended for both hiking and biking, will provide a family-oriented recreational opportunity for park visitors in a location where none was available before. The project also will include a long-requested picnic area near the trailhead.
The 5-mile first phase of the Lone Mountain Trail will consist of 2.5 miles of newly constructed trail around the mountain, and the conversion and rehabilitation of 2.5 miles of an existing dirt road in the area. (A future second phase would add 5 miles of new trail.) When completed, the first-phase trail will be available for hiking. Bicycling will not be allowed, however, until Big Bend and the National Park Service (NPS) complete a separate, required review and public comment process, which is described below.
The park undertook this project after several years of planning, an environmental review of its potential effects and a formal period for public review and comment. The location and route were carefully chosen to avoid any park archeological resources. It also is being built entirely outside of Big Bend's proposed wilderness acreage. The park will use this information page to provide occasional updates on the trail's progress, as well as to clarify and answer questions and concerns that may arise about the trail's purpose, including its future shared use by mountain bicycles.
First, some background: In March 2011, Big Bend National Park and the Intermountain Region of the NPS issued an Environmental Assessment (EA) of the proposed "multi-use trail at Panther Junction." After 30 days of public comment and months of Park Service review and analysis, NPS and the park signed a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI) in February 2012. This formal decision document allowed the park to proceed with its preferred alternative: To build the new multi-use trail northwest of the Panther Junction visitor center and headquarters.
The trail is intended to be both a hiking and mountain bicycling path for visitors of all ages and levels to explore the Chihuahuan Desert and its unique resources. It is not designed for high-speed mountain biking or racing. With a parking area and picnic site, the trail will present newly arrived visitors at Panther Junction an ideal opportunity to stretch their legs and experience Big Bend after driving many hours to reach the park.
The trail's alignment has been carefully designed to limit effects on Big Bend's desert resources while enhancing visitor enjoyment of the park. Trail users will circle the base of Lone Mountain, with vistas of other mountain ranges and many opportunities to watch birds and wildlife and examine native plants and desert geology. The trail also will afford memorable evening views of sunsets over the western desert lowlands.
In April 2012, the park trail crew and volunteer organizations began preliminary brush clearing for the trail route. That work is scheduled to pause in late spring with the onset of very high summer temperatures, then resume in the fall. There is no estimated date for completion, although the trail could be available for hiking by late 2012 or early 2013.
It is important to note, however, that mountain biking cannot and will not be permitted on this trail, once built, until special Park Service regulations are completed to permit bicycle use on a national park trail. According to the EA, the NPS must follow a formal federal rulemaking process for this trail. That procedure has numerous stages, including early public involvement, review by Congress and the Office of Management and Budget, Federal Register publication of the proposed rule, and a formal public comment period at least 30 days long, among other steps.
All the official project documents, including the EA and FONSI, are available for public viewing at the NPS's Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website, at: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/documentsList.cfm?projectID=14611Thank you for your interest in Big Bend National Park. Check back here for occasional updates on the Lone Mountain Trail project. If you have further questions, please contact David Elkowitz, the park's public information officer, at 432-477-1107, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.