Top Ten Places to See on the Great Plains Trail

The time has come to begin to lay down some specifics about the Great Plains Trail.  In recent days, there has been an uptick in curiosity about this proposed trail.  I am delighted to find out that there are more people out there who “get it,” and are genuinely excited about the prospect of a National Scenic Trail in the Great Plains region.

I am currently working on a map of a potential route for the trail.  There are, of course, endless possibilities and options for where the trail could eventually go.  My goals in this are to keep to available public land where possible, and to endeavor to find the most interesting and scenic places that have one or more of the following attributes: abundant wildlife, topographical variety, geological intrigue, historical significance, or proximity to water.

What follows are some general highlights of some places where I see the trail going.  This is so far a big scale idea, and smaller details will emerge as progress allows.  For now, you can grab an atlas and enjoy what I am calling the “Top Ten” places to see along the Great Plains Trail (the order is not in typical “top ten” style, but instead lists highlights going from north to south):

  1. The northern terminus of the Great Plains Trail (GPT) is on the U.S./Canada border adjacent to the western section of Canada’s Grasslands National Park.
  2. The GPT will pass through the 3,000,000+ acre American Prairie Reserve as well as the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana.
  3. The GPT will take advantage of the forests, lakes, creeks and views provided by The Black Hills of South Dakota.
  4. Western Nebraska is next, dotted with pine forests, buttes, and badlands as well as the famous Scotts Bluff National Monument.
  5. The GPT bisects the visually dramatic Pawnee National Grassland in eastern Colorado.
  6. The GPT swings into western Kansas to view the surprising canyons of the Arikaree Breaks.
  7. Comanche National Grassland in southeastern Colorado contains abundant wildlife, an impressive canyon system, and ancient dinosaur tracks.
  8. The GPT will follow the Santa Fe National Historic Trail through parts of Kiowa National Grassland in northern New Mexico.
  9. The GPT will drift far enough west to catch glimpses of 10,000+ foot peaks in eastern New Mexico.
  10. The southern terminus for the GPT is high atop the summit of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Teaxas, in Guadalupe Mountains National Park.

I welcome any comments, questions or suggestions you may have about the finer points of this larger vision.  In upcoming blogs, I will continue to spell out additional ideas about where the trail will pass, what the trail will look like, and how all of this will be accomplished.


About greatplainstrail

Building the Great Plains Trail.
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9 Responses to Top Ten Places to See on the Great Plains Trail

  1. trailsnet says:

    The last time I drove through eastern Montana, I noticed there’s an abandoned rail line between Billings & Great Falls. It’s on some beautiful land and often seems to be following one river or another. It even has the old bridges still intact.
    I’m wondering if there would be some RTC funding available for segments of the trail that follow old train tracks?

    • That’s certainly possible. It’s definitely worth looking into. The only thing going against it is the tendency of rails to run east/west (to Chicago, Denver, L.A., Seattle, etc.) as the GPT is trying to head north/south, but I love rail/trails and would jump at the chance to make that connection with the GPT.

      Another possibility currently on the table is to find rarely used dirt roads in some areas. It’s far from ideal, but there are roads out there that probably see fewer than 10 cars a week. It would be a way to dodge property rights issues, and to fairly quickly “complete” the trail. Once it’s established, perhaps we can slowly acquire the funds/lands to create real trails.

  2. trailsnet says:

    I think you’ve got the right idea; first get a temporary trail in place, then gradually add sections as land is acquired.
    I’m not sure what this railroad was used for, but it appears to run north/south. It may very well have converted to private lands by now, but it would sure be worth investigating. I like your dirt roads idea, but abandoned rail lines would be even better whenever possible.

  3. TjDzik says:

    New book NOT THAT FLAT has chapters on the Arikaree Breaks, Monument Rocks, Scotts Bluff, Killdeer Mts, and other fascinating Great Plains landscapes.

  4. bubbasuess says:

    Is there going to be any sort of marker at the northern terminus the way there is on the PCT? I get that there might not be one in the south, since it is A. in a national park, up on a mountain, and B. in a wilderness area. Just curious.

    • Eventually I would hope so. Still some things to finalize as far as where the northern terminus will be. There is some debate going on as to whether it should be in Montana or North Dakota.

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