The University of Montana has announced that one of the most popular hiking trails in Montana – the M Trail – is getting a makeover.

The M Trail, which starts at the base of Mount Sentinel on the eastern edge of campus, serves up to 1,000 hikers daily on sunny weekends. In order to keep the trail in good working order, some major improvements are necessary to control erosion and improve access for users. And it won't be happening overnight.

The M Trail Project is a two-year plan to repair the trail. It has experienced significant erosion over the past few years. Steps at the trailhead and beneath the M also need to be replaced. It will be necessary to install a retaining wall directly under the M. And the entire trail needs to be renovated and steps at each of the 11 switchbacks along the ¾-quarter-mile trail need to be redone in order to assure the trail is accessible and user-friendly to people of all ages who climb the steep, zigzag path to the M.

UM is actively raising money for the project, having secured grants from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Recreational Trails Program and REI, as well as a generous donation from Run Wild Missoula.

The university is asking not only for donations but for volunteers to help with the renovation:

>>>Friday, June 12, 9 to11 a.m., hearty hikers are needed to carry timbers from the trailhead to the fifth switchback. Some timbers can be carried by one strong person, and some will take two people.

>>>Monday and Tuesday, June 15-16, 9 a.m. to noon both days, three to four strong volunteers are needed to help remove existing stairs at the main trailhead. Tools will be provided, but bring gloves and wear boots.

>>>Then in late June and into autumn, small groups of friends or family members will be needed for fence projects. Email steven.gaskill@umontana.edu to assist with any of these volunteer efforts.

If you'd like to find out more and make a contribution, you can visit the M Trail information page.