#3: Montana’s Mountain Biking Paradise
Riding trails suitable for all skill levels is just the start. This route also highlights some of central Montana’s most vibrant towns and outdoor activities for every interest
With 64 mountain ranges, the Continental Divide Trail slicing through the state, and historic trails plying mountain passes, Montana has trails pretty much everywhere, from mellow beginner- and family-friendly rides to experts-only singletrack. Don’t ride? Don’t worry! This trip has tons of other fun options, from fly-fishing and whitewater rafting to hot springs soaking.
Road Trip #3Total distance: 511 miles; total days: 5-8
Forty-five miles south of Bozeman, Big Sky Resort has more than 40 miles of lift-accessed trails, many of which flow down-mountain from the top of the Explorer Lift, like the brand-new intermediate flow trail. Rent an e-bike for an extra boost. To hone downhill skills, sign up for a group or private downhill lesson. Closer to the town of Big Sky are ample Forest Service roads like the eight-mile Beehive Ridge to North Fork Loop, accessible from the North Fork Trailhead.
MADE IN MONTANASklar Bikes Who better to build a bike that can handle Montana’s varied terrain than Bozeman native Adam Sklar? From nimble single-speeds to beefy mountain bikes, Sklar’s frame artistry and ingenuity will get you wherever you want to go.
EAT & STAY: In the summer months, the Carabiner deck has a full bar, tasty appetizers like bison sliders, and the best views of 11,166-foot Lone Peak. When the temperature drops, head inside to the fireplace in the lounge. Steps from the Explorer Lift, the historic Huntley Lodge has an outdoor pool and rooms that sleep up to six, and—bonus—allows dogs.
White Sulphur Springs to Great Falls
Best known for its hot springs and fly-fishing along the coveted Smith River, White Sulphur Springs is nestled between the Little and Big Belt Mountains. Stop for a soak at the 105-degree mineral pools at the Spa Hot Springs Motel and Clinic, right on Main Street. Then check in with Smith River Flyfishing Expeditions for a half-, full-, or multi-day trip on the river. On to riding: Start with Bender Creek, just east of Monarch. It requires a five-mile drive to the trailhead on a good gravel road, but the nine-mile round-trip with a three-mile descent is worth it. In Great Falls, the south and north banks of the Missouri River have 18- and 24-mile pump-track-style flow trails. For more info and to rent bikes, head over to the Knicker Biker bike shop.
EAT & STAY: In Great Falls, Sip ‘n Dip Lounge has mermaids swimming behind the bar. Housed in an 1890 building, Hotel Arvon has 22 luxurious guest rooms.
As they say in the state capital, “There’s a singletrack at the end of every street and a brewery at the end of every trail.” It’s true. Helena is home to 75 miles of singletrack open to hikers, riders, and runners, with a free shuttle that picks people up downtown Wednesday through Sunday, May through October. The most popular ride is a six-mile bomb down Mount Helena Ridge Trail. Rent a bike at Great Divide Cyclery.
EAT & STAY: Fire Tower Coffee House and Roasters makes a mean cup of joe. The Last Chance Lodge, southwest of Helena, is surrounded by some of the best trails in the state.
Ask a local to name his or her favorite mountain biking trail and you may be listening for a while—there are at least 350 miles of trails in these parts, including many miles along the Continental Divide. A fun way to access it is the Maud S trailhead, just off I-90 south of town, which offers an impressively strenuous, rocky four-mile loop. Linked Adventures offers shuttle services, excellent trail advice, and rental bike delivery to hotels.
EAT & STAY: Park & Main Café has made-to-order everything, like eggs Benedict. Homestake Lodge, ten miles south of town, is nestled in a valley off the Continental Divide, with incredible access to mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding.