Path Through Paradise

Yellowstone Heritage Trail

Planning a new trail.

In 1981, the last train chugged to a stop on the Burlington Northern rail line running from Livingston to Gardiner. Now, over 40 years later, Park County is working to turn the derelict tracks into a dirt path running the entirety of the Paradise Valley—a project they’re calling the Yellowstone Heritage Trail. This spring, the county and a partner organization, The Trust For Public Land (TPL), took the first step by securing rights to purchase a 23-acre parcel outside of Emigrant. The acquisition will allow TPL to build three miles of trail on a stretch of old railbed bordering the Yellowstone River.

According to project manager Lucas Cain, the exact cost of the endeavor is yet to be determined, but he ultimately expects it to be in the ballpark of $1.5 to $2 million. Most of the funds are coming from private philanthropy, and assuming TPL meets its fundraising goals, Cain anticipates work on the trail will begin in spring of 2025, with completion that fall or the following spring.

The proposed trail is part of a larger, nationwide Rails-to-Trails initiative, which aspires to connect already-existing trails with old rail lines to span the entire 3,700 miles between Washington D.C. and Washington state. “The wheels are moving forward,” says Parks County Grants Coordinator Kristen Galbraith. Once the first stage is completed, the county and TPL will slowly seek to expand the trail in cooperation with other public and private landowners in the valley. For the public, it’s a trail we can all get behind—imagine riding your road bike from Livingston to the Park, or safely bike-shuttling back to the put-in after a summer float. If nothing else, the Heritage Trail will be a refreshing place to walk off a hangover after a long night at the Old Saloon.