With more than a hundred mountain ranges, Montana seems custom-built for bikers. Mountain biking in this state is very popular, and for a good reason – the scenery is spectacular, and the trails are challenging. Which trails are best? Let’s see for ourselves.
Mount Helena Ridge Trail
This is an outstanding trail. It’s one of the few Silver Level trails in the world, and it’ll leave you breathless. You’re spoiled for choice with 75 miles of runs—and if you head out there in summer, you can use the free shuttle service to get you to whatever trailhead you want to try.
Stop by the town during the Shuttle Fest and enjoy some excellent food, beer, and company. But make sure to leave plenty of time to take in the sights. The ride to the single-track route is just five miles, so you can bike there if you like. Alternatively, take the shuttle and save your energy for the 7.9-mile course. Be prepared for some technical climbs, thanks to the limestone areas, and let loose on the fast downhills. If we had to sum this trail up in one word, it would be “exhilarating.”
The Bangtail Divide Trail
The Bangtail is a single-track trail that consists of 24 miles of smooth rides. The locals recommend it because it gives you the best views of the surrounding area; you can see most of the mountains in Montana from this trail.
But get an early start, because this a popular trail. It’s a fourteen-mile drive from town, so it’s not that far. Most people opt for the trail that stretches from Stone Creek to the northern Brackett Creek.
Prepare for a 7.5-mile climb—and while it’s not the most challenging, you’ll still need a bit of skill to come through it. And if you’ve got a little extra money, we’d recommend using a full squish bike for the most comfortable ride. This trail features some serious switchbacks and a lot of uneven terrain, so it’s never dull -- making an awesome ride on my Cannondale Jekyll 3. Wind down after all that work by enjoying a quick spin through some pastures and take in the sights.
The MacDonald Pass is another popular spot. It’s a classic trail and offers killer views—and if you’re a bomber by nature, this is for you. Pause and take in some impressive scenery…and then prepare yourself for some amazing downhill action. The trail follows the spine of the mountain for a while; it’s forested with some impressive rock areas. That’ll keep you busy for about an hour before you start heading downhill.
Here’s one to save for when you visit Yellowstone Park. Do brush up on the park’s bear safety rules; you could encounter a grizzly or two when the trail crosses over into Yellowstone. Travel with a buddy that you can out-cycle, because if you’ve got a grizzly on your tail, well…it’s best to be the fastest rider.
You’ve got a 28-mile trail here with a moderate level of technical difficulty. It’s a single-track trail with fifty or so switchbacks. The trail is not particularly difficult, but you’ll never be bored. Be prepared to put in some physical effort – you’ll be handling some steep climbs.
Once you get to the top, you’ll forget about your aching muscles. The views are breathtaking. Take a well-deserved break and prepare yourself for the descent. It’s nine miles to the bottom, so buckle up and get ready – it’s a bumpy, hell-raising ride.
Beaver Ponds Trail
One of Butte’s claims to fame is that it’s home to the oldest brothel in America. It’s now a museum, but if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of one of the former residents: It’s said to be haunted.
Enough of that—you want to know about the trails. Beaver Ponds is a single-track trail covering 6.25 miles, and you’ll get more thrills there than at any brothel. You’ll have the opportunity to speed down tight downhills and navigate some sandy terrain, and the steep climbs and rock gardens make it interesting for even the most experienced riders.
Round it off with the jaw-dropping views, and you have a winner for sure.
If you like open skies and rolling terrain, then this one is for you. The climbs are steep and technically challenging, but you’ll have time at the top to recover and take advantage of the post-worthy picture opportunities. Then it’s back to work again with some seriously fast descents.
The town of Whitefish is near one of the entrances to Glacier National Park, and as you can imagine, you won’t be short on beautiful scenery here. You’ll also have fun riding the ridges and berms. The track itself has been cleverly designed and tweaked to create 30 miles of some interesting single-track riding.
You’ve got a choice of routes to take, and plenty to keep you occupied. Be prepared, some of the climbs are brutal -- you might want to consider an eMTB like the Trek Powerfly 5.
Emerald Lake Trail
This is a relatively short trail at nine miles total. That said, it feels a lot longer, and it’s well worth taking time out for it. The trail is moderately technical at best, but you’ll have to put some effort into the climb. There are also some exciting switchbacks to keep you from getting bored.
The highlight of the trail, though, is the mountain lake at the top. It’s the perfect place to bliss out and relax after a long day’s biking.
In Montana, it’s hard to throw a rock without hitting a decent trail. This state has some of the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen and is well worth putting on your bucket list. It boasts some of the best trails in the country, many of which might test your skills.
Don’t miss the chance to bike in Yellowstone, and remember to keep an eye out for grizzlies. There’s nothing guaranteed to put some spring in your step like a grizzly chasing you down.
Overall, you’ll get tons of picture-perfect moments, the opportunity to catch some air, and experience some gnarly trails. What more could you possibly want?