“Montana” is pretty much synonymous with “mountain biking.”
There’s a lot to love: pure mountain air, rapid descents through stunning terrain, and trails galore. As a mountain biking destination, the state never fails to impress. It’s no surprise that Montana trails regularly make “must-ride” lists.
But with no shortage of gorgeous and exhilarating trails, narrowing down your biking bucket list can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve rounded up the top ten Montana trails, in no particular order, to get you out of your seat and onto the dirt. Read on to find your next biking adventure!
Bangtail Divide Trail
Best biked south to north, the classic Bangtail Divide Trail covers 24 miles of beautiful mountain scenery, with three-foot-wide switchbacks and plenty of jaw-dropping views. The intensive initial climb can be a challenge, but it rewards visitors with incredible views of some of the state’s most beautiful peaks.
Access: The most popular way to bike this trail is from Stone Creek to Brackett Creek in the north. To reach the trailhead from Bozeman, make your way up Bridger Canyon and take a right at Stone Creek Road. You’ll see the trailhead on your left in one mile.
A straightforward trail through the wilderness outside Helena, MacDonald Pass offers amazing views.
There are a few technical aspects to challenge more experienced riders, including rock gardens and water bars. A few miles in, however, the trail opens onto an expansive meadow, and then to an exhilarating descent you can take at relatively high speed.
Access: This is a good trail for a shuttle ride, but if you don’t want to take advantage of the free Helena Trail Rider shuttle service, you can make your own way to the trailhead. Take Hwy 12 west from Helena for seven miles and park near Rimini Road.
Mile Creek to Sheep Creek Trail
For some of the best mountain biking Montana has to offer, it’s hard to beat a backcountry adventure near Yellowstone.
As part of the Continental Divide Trail system, Mile to Sheep crosses through some stunning forests. The 14-mile out-and-back single-track trail includes a few steep climbs, but you have a nine-mile descent to look forward to on your way out, plus a series of fun, tight switchbacks.
Access: Traveling from Big Sky, drive to the intersection of Hwy 287 and Hwy 87. From there, you’ll head south to Mile Creek Road. Take a left and you’ll find the trailhead a mile down the road after crossing Mile Creek.
Beaver Ponds Trail
Visitors to Glacier National Park will find a sweet little single-track trail nestled into the rolling sagebrush meadows and beaver ponds.
The well-marked Beaver Ponds Trail includes plenty of steep climbs up over 350 feet of elevation, but it also rewards you with some rapid and fun descents. Nature lovers will enjoy fantastic mountain views, not to mention a chance to see beavers, deer, and other wildlife. Don’t forget the bear spray!
Access: From Butte, take Hwy 2 south. You’ll see a fountain and a pullout on your left, just before a switchback.
Grizzly Loop is a 10-mile lollipop loop near Big Sky, and if you time your trip well, you might find yourself rewarded with fields of wildflowers as you go. A few steep technical climbs will get you up the ridge before the trail begins to undulate back toward Porcupine Creek for a speedy and fun descent, one that encourages you to stop and take in the views.
Access: Taking Hwy 191 toward Big Sky, you’ll park at or near the Best Western Hotel. From there, you can cross the highway to find the trail heading south along the Gallatin River.
Some of the best mountain biking in Whitefish, Montana tends to be pretty remote, and Whitefish Trail is no different.
There are many route options to choose from in this growing network of trails, but one of the more popular sections is a 21-mile loop known as the Reid Divide, which is ridden from Tally Lake southwest of town. The brutal initial track climbs 3,000 feet, but the exertion pays off when you bust down the descending singletrack in a rewarding roller coaster ride.
Access: Take Hwy 93 outside of Whitefish, where you’ll find the trailhead two miles in.
Emerald Lake Trail
At just 8 miles, this is one of the shorter trails on the list, but it’s well worth the trip!
Located in Hyalite Peaks high country, Emerald Lake Trail is a scenic out-and-back adventure. It offers a bit of technical challenge, plus 2,000 feet of climbing. However, the undulating switchbacks toward the end are a great payoff—not to mention the gorgeous alpine lake at the finish.
Access: From Bozeman, take 19th Avenue toward the south and take a left on Hyalite Canyon Road, which ends at the trailhead.
Big Sky Resort
We can hardly talk about the best mountain biking in Montana without mentioning this biking getaway. Big Sky Resort offers a network of exclusive trails for riders of every experience level, from mellow, scenic rides to grueling all-day adventures. With recent expansions, there are over 40 miles of trails, including lift-accessible trails for those who want more adventure and fewer inclines!
Access: From Big Sky, follow Lone Mountain Trail for a little over 8 miles, where you’ll find the resort road on your left.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
This is one of the most recognizable and popular of the Montana mountain biking trails, especially among bike-packers.
The off-pavement trail travels 2,800 miles from Banff to Antelope Wells, with much of the route cruising through remote wilderness. And though most of us don’t have time to do the entire thing, you can certainly make your way through some of its spectacular terrains.
Access: With stretches through Whitefish, Helena, Butte, and smaller cities in the region to choose from, you’re better off picking the section that calls to you.
Rattlesnake Loop is a good choice from among the network of trails in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.
You’ll pass through several gulches in a 14.8-mile loop that climbs over 1,000 feet. This singletrack offers a bit of a technical challenge, but the roller-coaster descent through the trees is well worth the effort.
Access: From Missoula, take Van Buren Street North until it becomes Rattlesnake Drive. Take a left on Sawmill Gulch Road and continue until you see the area’s main trailhead on the right.
Your Next Montana Adventure
Whether you’re looking for a smaller loop or a larger network, you’ll find what you’re looking for among these Montana trails. It’s no wonder mountain bikers love to call this state home! Start planning your next adventure, or check out our list of other things to do throughout the state or closer to home in Kalispell.