Trust For Public Land Secures First Opportunity to Acquire Land for Initial Stretch of Yellowstone Heritage Trail

23 Acres to Serve as Anchor and First Step Towards the Future Yellowstone Heritage Trail Project Connecting Yellowstone National Park to Livingston, and Critical in the Development of the Transcontinental Great American Rail-Trail

Bozeman, MT – Trust for Public Land announced today that the first 23 acres for the proposed Yellowstone Heritage Trail project in Emigrant, Montana, is one major step closer to being permanently protected and restored. With support from local Paradise Valley community leaders and Park County, Trust for Public Land secured an exclusive agreement through the end of the year to fundraise and purchase the property. The deal includes 23 acres of abandoned rail line that will now serve as open space providing three miles of public and highly accessible trails along the historic Yellowstone River and offering sweeping views of Paradise Valley and Absaroka Mountain Range.

“This new trail will not only connect visitors and residents from the center of Emigrant to adjacent public lands and fishing access sites along the Yellowstone River but serve as a community space and a destination route for families and all kinds of recreationalists to share and enjoy,” said Lucas Cain, TPL. “TPL is proud to help lead in this community efforts to provide increased recreational access in the Paradise Valley, for not only visitors to Yellowstone National Park, but most importantly the residents of Emigrant and Park County.”

The proposed 23 acres of open space along the river in Emigrant, Montana will serve as a key anchor for the Yellowstone Heritage Trail project that will connect to Arch Park in Gardiner, the northern entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The Yellowstone Heritage Trail will eventually serve as 49 miles of trail from Gardiner to Livingston and will uplift the local economy and neighboring communities.

The trail is a segment of the developing Great American Rail-Trail®, a signature project of the nation’s largest trails advocacy organization, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), which will connect across 3,700 miles between Washington, D.C., and Washington state.  In Montana alone, the Great American Rail-Trail is projected to increase visitor spending by $16M, create 200 jobs, and generate $7M in income.

“The Great American Rail-Trail is an idea that is inspiring new forms of collaboration and opportunity across its 3,700 miles—from new tourism strategies, to collaborative efforts to fund, build and maintain the trails that host this route,” said Kevin Belle, RTC’s project manager for the Great American Rail-Trail. “In Montana, this vision has motivated significant federal funding applications and opportunities for national, regional and local partners to come together to find ways to advance long-term trail development projects—like what’s happening here in Emigrant. This project is bringing new investment and economic opportunity to Montanans.” 

Currently, RTC is leading efforts with Park County for an overarching feasibility study and the Yellowstone Rails to Trails project’s alignment with the Great American Rail-Trail. RTC hosted a series of open houses on March 15 to share details about the study and gather community feedback. Additional feedback can be shared HERE.

Founded during the Gold Rush in Paradise Valley, Emigrant is rich in history and natural splendor. But these assets have largely remained untapped because of the town’s lack of public trails and the increasing risk of being lost to real estate development. The conversion of the town’s rusting 19th century rail line into a walking and biking trail will anchor this growing community with social and recreational opportunities, natural climate solutions, and economic opportunities, all while honoring the cultural and historic landmarks of Paradise Valley.