National Forest Foundation

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Partnership Creates Better Public Access to Beetop-Roundtop Trail


Through a partnership between the National Forest Foundation and the Northwest Youth Corps, with support from the Equinox Foundation at Inland Northwest Community Foundation, 10 youth and their crew leaders are working to construct two miles of new trail to create a long-awaited public access point to the very popular Beetop-Roundtop Trail near Sandpoint, Idaho.

The trail on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest (IPNF) has long been a point of contention, with users sometimes unwittingly, and sometimes intentionally, trespassing over about 500 feet of private lands to access (or exit) the trail, rather than driving to one of the existing public access trailheads - the closest of which was 13 miles up a winding dirt road, and the other which was another 16 more miles up the road. This has created conflict between the users, the private landowners, and put the Forest Service in the middle.

Complaints from both sides of the issue have been made annually to the Forest Service and city officials, and heated face-to-face encounters have occasionally erupted. The trail had been nationally recognized as a National Recreation Trail, a status given to trails that contribute to the health, conservation and recreation goals of the United States. Unfortunately, the trail lost this designation due to the conflicts between trail users and landowners.

In 2012, through the Hope-Sagle Land Exchange, 921 acres of prime moose, elk, and grizzly habitat was transferred from Stimson Lumber Company to the IPNF in an exchange agreement. This land is adjacent to the Beetop-Roundtop Trail and provided the much-needed opportunity to create public access at the trail’s south end.

The Northwest Youth Corps youth are a diverse group of teens who conduct conservation projects in different parts of the Pacific Northwest. The Corps provides a chance to learn job and leadership skills, exposes youth to conservation and public lands stewardship, and offers a paid work opportunity. It took the youth two weeks to complete 1.6 miles of the Beetop-Roundtop Trail project, using hand tools and lots of muscle. The youth camped out in wall tents and prepared their own meals during their two week stay on the IPNF. A different group of the Corps will complete the work next spring, which will result in public access that will ease conflicts and allow users in perpetuity to access the beautiful Cabinet Mountains.

This priority projects was one of the NFF’s Treasured Landscapes, Unforgettable Experiences projects at the IPNF campaign site in the Lightning Creek watershed. For more information, please contact Karen DiBari at kdibari@nationalforests.org.