Grand Teton National Park Foundation

On the Beaten Path: Berry Fire Trail Restoration Update

Monday, September 30th, 2019

This summer, Grand Teton National Park Foundation supported the trail crew in restoring trails and trail structures destroyed by the 2016 Berry Fire, the largest wildfire in Grand Teton's history. A total of four crews, including the 22-person Youth Conservation Program, made extensive headway in Webb, Owl, and Berry Canyons, as well as along the Glade Creek Trail. The remoteness of this region of the park makes it difficult to access and the trails do not always receive cyclic maintenance, so crews were happy to include important work as brushing, tree-clearing, and maintaining water drainage structures in addition to focused projects.

YCP rehabilitated over a mile of trail destroyed by the Berry Creek Fire.

One major project this summer was repairing the Owl-Berry cut-off trail, which was devastated by the 2016 fire. Many sections of the trail had disappeared in the ash and, in the following year, became completely indistinguishable by fresh vegetation growth. Confused hikers created multiple braided, unsustainable trail segments when they became lost attempting to connect the south and north sides of the cutoff. The trail crew reconnected the north and south sides and restored the trail to its historic location. Grand Teton's Youth Conservation Program also focused their efforts primarily in the Owl Canyon area re-establishing vanishing trail tread. In just a few days, they completed over a mile of new trail, cleared more than 40 trees with axes and cross-cut saws, and maintained drainage structures on over eight miles of trail.

The Owl-Berry cutoff trail has been rerouted back to its original location.

Another focus was replacing the footbridge over Glade Creek, which is in the far northern reaches of Grand Teton National Park. One of the largest structures lost in the fire, this bridge is critical for hikers to cross Glade Creek in spring and early summer when it is at peak run-off. The new log footbridge spans sixty-feet and was constructed entirely from native materials harvested from the surrounding burned area.

The newly constructed foot bridge over Glade Creek will provide safe crossing for trail users to access this remote region of Grand Teton.

When the Youth Conservation Program participants finished their season and headed back to school, their National Park Service leaders returned to the north country for one final push of trail restoration for 2019. The crew of five spent most of their week in an area known as Sweat Hill in Webb Canyon, which has been a problem area for many years and has only become worse following the fire. The crew identified problem areas of this steep and rocky trail and created more walk-able, sustainable tread surfaces.

The Foundation is pleased to see another successful trail project completed, providing an improved visitor experience in the remote backcountry of Grand Teton National Park. Thank you to the hard-working members of the trail crew, Youth Conservation Program, and all of the program's generous supporters. We look forward to the next project!

The improved trail up Sweat Hill is more sustainable and user-friendly.