After 20 Years, Trail System For 19,000 Acre Belvoir Ranch Near Cheyenne A Go

After 20 years of trying to provide public access to the 19,000-acre Belvoir Ranch west of Cheyenne, a $486,000 grant is providing the funds for the city to start building out a 6.1 mile public trail system.

MH
Mark Heinz

January 24, 20244 min read

The Belvoir Ranch west of Cheyenne offers some of the most spectacular views in southeast Wyoming.
The Belvoir Ranch west of Cheyenne offers some of the most spectacular views in southeast Wyoming. (Charles Bloom, City of Cheyenne)

After more than 20 years of waiting and dreaming, a public trail system into the spectacular Belvoir Ranch property west of Cheyenne is going to happen.

“It’s been like some kind of Shangri-La or El Dorado — someplace we were always trying to get to,” Cheyenne City Councilman Pete Laybourn told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“We bought it (the Belvoir Ranch) originally for a landfill and some water development. But ever since then, there’s been a great interest on the city’s part and on the public’s part to have access to it for recreational use,” he said.

A $486,000 grant the city just received from the Wyoming Office of Recreation will finally provide money to build the first phase of a public trail system into the Belvoir Ranch.

Construction on 6.1 miles of nonmotorized trail is set to start in May, and it’s hoped that it can be fully open to the public in 2025.

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Long Time Coming

The city bought the Belvoir Ranch in 2003, then the adjacent Big Hole property in 2005 — a total of roughly 18,800 acres.

Some of the property is still used as a working ranch. Wind turbines were built on a leased section toward the east end of the property. The city is also considering leasing some ground for solar panels.

While the plans were always grand, there was no money to build out a public trail system, hampering the vision for turning a large section of the property into a premier outdoor recreation area.

The grant is a game-changer in that regard, Laybourn said.

“I’m one of those people that’s really thrilled about this, because it’s been so long coming. And the city has limited resources to manage pieces of property that are 20 miles away,” he said.

The grant application was filed back in November 2022, city grants manager Renee Smith told Cowboy State Daily.

It took so long to get an answer because the application had to go through “a rigorous process” at both the state and federal levels, she said.

“It was kind of a brutal wait,” Smith said. “We’re really excited. I think everybody in Cheyenne knows how long this has been on the wish list.”

Link To Colorado Rec Area

Further recreational development could include a link to a public trail network across the Colorado state line in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area, owned by the city of Fort Collins.

That could make it one of the most extensive outdoor recreation areas in the region, Laybourn said.

“When I was a kid, it was all undeveloped. And now development is creeping up on it,” he said. “So, it’s important to keep these open public spaces preserved.”

Union Pacific railroad tracks run parallel to state line there, so Belvoir-Big Hole recreation area to Soapstone will require getting across them. The city of Cheyenne is in negotiations with the railroad to build an underpass linking the trail systems, Laybourn said.

Should Be Popular

The city’s trail plan appears user-friendly, outdoor recreation enthusiast Amber Travsky of Laramie told Cowboy State Daily.

The Belvoir Ranch trails should include more beginner and intermediate-level routes than other networks in the area, she said.

“On the mountain bike trails at Happy Jack, where you start, there’s nowhere to go but up,” whereas the Belvoir Ranch trails should be more level, she said.

“It won’t be just mountain biking either, it looks like they’re including hiking and equestrian trails, and I like that, because I like the multi-use approach,” Travsky said.

In 1999, Travsky published the book “Mountain Biking Wyoming.” In those days, even finding trails to ride was a challenge.

“The thought of mountain bike trail complexes wasn’t even in our framework of reference back then,” she said.

The Belvoir Ranch trail system will compliment existing nearby networks, such as those in Curt Gowdy State Park, Travsky said, adding she also was excited to hear about the possible connection with the Soapstone area.

“There’s always been talk of connecting some stuff across the region. That’s always been a dream,” she said.

Of course, the principle of “if you build it, they will come” will be in play, Travsky said. She expects the Belvoir Ranch trails to have a huge fan base.

“The plus, or the minus, is that we’re so close to Colorado,” she said. “It’s a double-edged sword. I’m sure this will be hugely popular, no doubt. But anything that gets people outside, especially under their own power, is a good thing.”

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Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter