Hikers will have a new trail section this spring on Badger Mountain.
It should be easier on the knees for those who dread the 65 steps up the mountainside they must negotiate at the start and end of the Canyon Trail at Trailhead Park in Richland.
Trailmaster Jim Langdon said there are a few things he’d do differently if he were planning the popular hiking trail system today.
One is the steep, uneven steps made of rocks on the mountainside.
“People have been complaining about the steps,” he said. “It’s a steep way to start out.”
A new, 1,400-foot-long section of Sagebrush Trail off of Canyon Trail will allow hikers to skip the stairs. They can head toward the south, going around the side of the mountain at a 10-percent grade.
Hikers can continue on Sagebrush Trail or loop back to the popular Canyon Trail to head to the summit.
The new section also adds some extra trail for those looking for a longer hike and an option for mountain bikers who are not supposed to ride up the step area.
The new trail section is an all-volunteer effort of The Friends of Badger Mountain in cooperation with the Richland Parks Department.
The city provided a $5,000 grant toward the $10,000 cost of the project.
Langdon is organizing teams of at least three volunteers for two four-hour shifts a day Tuesdays through Sundays.
One volunteer in each shift will operate a rented mini-trackhoe excavator that’s digging the trail across the side of the mountain. He’s willing to give instructions on operating it.
Langdon’s hoping to have the new trail section finished by March 30 in time for the Badger Mountain Challenge. Runners can start 50- and 100-mile races on the mountain the first day of the event or participate in a 50-kilometer (31 miles) or more popular 15K (9.3 mile) race the next day.
About 200,000 people hike Badger Mountain each year, far more than Langdon expected when the trail opened in 2005. He’s led work to widen the Canyon Trail twice.
The Canyon Trail is the most popular of five, gaining 800 feet to the summit from Trailhead Park near White Bluffs Street and Queensgate Drive.
Hikers on the mountain’s trails may see coyotes, rabbits, small rodents, lizards and snakes, and hear Western meadowlark. Lupine, balsam root and phlox bloom briefly in the spring, bringing spots of color to the sage-covered slopes.
But the real treat is the view from the top.
On a clear day, hikers are rewarded with an array of rivers and mountains — Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount Rainier, the Blue Mountains and, down below, the Columbia, Yakima and Snake rivers.
To volunteer to help with the new trail section, email Langdon at email@example.com.