Montana’s Best Mountain Biking Trails

Montana’s Best Mountain Biking Trails

Mountain biking is fast becoming a huge outdoor event in Montana. Little known areas that offer majestic views, solitude and wide range of challenges for the rider make this “Last Best Place” a natural for the sport. Currently, our community of Lincoln is developing a comprehensive trail plan that will offer a wide variety of skill levels the opportunity have the experience of a life time. Somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifteen miles of double and single track riding is scheduled to be opening soon.Montana has a myriad of areas wherein the biking enthusiast can get away for a great ride. The fact that our state is the fourth largest of any state in geography and we only have a little over 900,000 in population translates into great natural experiences for all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts. It would not surprise me that within the next few years, mountain biking in Montana will achieve the status of some of the best trail systems in the United States.

Top Ten Montana Trails as rated by

1 Emerald Lake
Located 17 miles southeast of Bozeman, about 4 miles south of Hyalite Reservoir in the Hyalite Peaks high country. Highlights: This is the singletrack stairway to heaven. It has roots, rocks, and water bars but always offers a rideable line. Intermediate riders will
enjoy looping through the many switchbacks, all relatively easy to ride, up and down. Plus you get a babbling creek, wildlife, spectacular alpine scenery, and a “gem” of a lake.Tread: Outrageous singletrack.

2 Grassy Mountain Loop
Located 12 miles northeast of Bozeman along the crest of the Bangtails in Bridger Canyon. Highlights: Fine singletrack in the unspoiled end of the Bangtails; spectacular views east to the Crazy Mountains and west to the Bridgers. Tread: 4.1 miles on open logging road; 1.3miles on doubletrack; 4 miles on singletrack; 3.9 miles on paved road.

3 Brackett Creek Loop Located

30 miles north of Bozeman on the east flank of the Bridger Range. Highlights: Wildflowers, wildlife, and a wild downhill ride. Fairy Lake makes a good (though sometimes crowded) rest stop. Tread: 5 miles on singletrack; 7.6 miles on logging road; 2.8 miles on gravel highway.

4 Blue Mountain Lookout
The system of trails at the Blue Mountain National Recreation Area is one of the first to dry out after the winter and provides a wide variety of options for beginners as well as expert mountain bikers. This ride involves a long, non-technical climb to yet another peak that is hard by Missoula standards. The recreation area is home to many species of animals and a nice variety of plant life— although exotic weeds have taken over sections of the landscape. Cars are allowed on most of the road portion of this ride, and during the summer it gets mighty dusty. Still, Blue Mountain provides a good place to build stamina and get familiar with handling techniques. As of this writing, the sweet singletrack of Deadman Ridge, which I’ve included as a route for descent, had not gained the popularity of similar trails found in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, perhaps due to the relative challenges of tackling the steep and technical terrain it offers. Ultimately, only truly hardy riders will want to try to climb Blue Mountain via the ridge, but intermediates and experts alike will enjoy the challenge of the thrilling Deadman downhill. Tread: 14 miles on gravel and primitive roads and 8.2 miles of singletrack.

5 Sheep Mountain
This is the definitive Missoula ride, traveling the ridgelines high above two valleys to the highest peaks in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and then dropping down through mixed terrain of conifer forests and beargrass to the main stem of the Rattlesnake Trail System just north of Franklin Bridge. Because of the remote country the path traverses, the length of the trail, and the overall difficulty of this ride, only the strongest riders will want to tackle the course I describe here in one day. A logging road through Plum Creek Timber Company land on the Highway 200 corridor at Gold Creek provides additional access—check with any of the local bike shops or riding organizations for details—but for those looking to bag a peak from the valley floor, there is no better way to go than the way I’ve laid things out here. Along the way, keep your eyes open for mountain lions, black and possibly grizzly bears, elk, deer, and more. Tread: Singletrack, doubletrack, and jeep and gravel roads.

6 Sourdough Creek Road – Leverich Loop
Located 7 miles south of Bozeman in the foothills of the Gallatin Range. Highlights: Good views of Bozeman and Gallatin Valley; fun singletrack with ample adrenaline rush opportunities. Tread: 1 mile on pavement; 7.8 miles on gravel roads open to traffic; 6.1 miles on closed doubletrack; 3.5 miles on singletrack.

7 Flat Top Mountain
Located 35 miles southwest of Bozeman, about 7 miles south of Big Sky in the Madison Range. Highlights: Mama-where’s-my-Kodachrome vistas in all directions; spectacular
views form alpine meadows of the Spanish Peaks, Lone Mountain, Cedar Mountain, the Sphinx, the Taylor-Hilgards, the Gallatins, and east to the Absarokas. All this and the trail is a tire-tickler too. Tread: All ATV-width doubletrack.8 Sourdough Creek – Loop Located 7 miles south of Bozeman in the foothills of the Gallatin Range. Highlights: Gradual climb into scenic, shady forest; Mystic Lake, challenging but fun singletrack; and a long, fast descent on a gravel road. Tread: 14.7 miles on smooth, gated doubletrack; 2.9 miles on superb singletrack.

9 Cave Gulch Loop
Located 25 Miles northeast of Helena on the east side of Canyon Ferry Lake. The Cave Gulch ATV trail offers bikers the most outrageous downhill run in the area: 4.4 miles of banked turns, whoop-de-doos, and gut-bottoming dips on fairly smooth tread. In places alder and maple form a tunnel over the trail, and the scenery–a bitblurry at speed–is spectacular. From start to finish, this loop is always entertaining. The ride up Magpie Gulch makes an easy, pastoral warm-up, and the ridge section of Trail 243 (after 0.5 mile of steep! uphill) offers a hint of what waits in Cave Gulch. Wrap it all up with a burger and beverage at O’Malley’s for a great day in the hills. This trail is maintained by a local ATV trail users group, which has worked diligently to preserve access to and from Cave Gulch across several private parcels.

10 Brooklyn Bridge Loop
Located 8 miles south of Helena on the divide between Jefferson and Lewis and Clark counties. A marathon ride with a remote feel and the gamut of singletrack conditions– arduous climbs, sweet downhills, boulder gardens, logs to bunny hop, bog crossings, sidehills, and route-finding riddles. A fair chance of seeing deer, elk, black bear, and other wildlife. Portions of this ride traverse private holdings, some of which may be posted against trespass. Please heed all posted property boundaries. Also, the USDA Forest Service may regard some long-abandoned roads as part of a proposed “vegetation manipulation” project. Future access is uncertain.
Bonus Trail – Rogers Pass to Flesher Pass Located 45 miles north of Helena, between Montana Highway 200 and County Road 279 (Lincoln Road). Spectacular, rugged alpine scenery; 360-degree vistas of surrounding mountains, including the Rocky Mountain Front; wild, remote, and challenging terrain. This trail is 13.5 miles of wonderful terrain coursing over the Continental Divide of western Montana.

Thanks for reading and please consider us when looking for your new Montana ranch or
recreational property.

Comments ( 2 )

  • Laurie Darrow

    Nice website! Woo Hoo! Just checking in!

  • Laurie Darrow

    You have provided a great review of your areas roads, for access to Western Montana’s great outdoors! As a Montanan, I believe I’ll take you up on a few of these trail rides. Thank you for all this information.

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