Mountain Biking and Bicycling in Montana – Exploring Scenic Trails

Noel Massey



A few guys on mountain biking in Montana

I went mountain biking in Montana several times and I’m more than happy to go back whenever there’s a chance. There’s a lot of beautiful scenery to see (not to mention the excitement of trying new trails, that I’m sure all of you, my fellow cyclists, are aware of).

Once there, you’ll find the trails are clearly marked, complete with indications of the difficulty level (blue or green) which is very helpful for beginners. The area has clear signs so you’ll have no trouble finding the trail you need. It’s clear that a lot of effort has been put into making this a great spot for biking.

If you’ve been thinking about coming here, I prepared some tips for you, based on my personal experience.

For all of our faithful readers, we prepared A FREE 3-DAY BIKING TRIP PLAN if you want to go on a bike tour in Montana: 2-Day Biking Trip Plan in Montana

Montana’s unique biking landscape

Montana is a true paradise for all of you mountain bikers. I enjoyed every time I went on a biking adventure. The state’s natural diversity guarantees a special and rewarding experience, no matter your skill level. Its large grasslands, steep mountains, calm lakes, and untamed forests make every path an exciting adventure with nature.

Montana’s climate varies across the state, offering a distinct range of cycling conditions. From dry summer heat in eastern Montana to cool, alpine climates in the west, there’s always a trail that suits your preferences. Rain or shine, you’ll have an unforgettable ride, that’s for sure.

Trail Variety

Montana offers a vast network of trails, appealing to all types of riders. For adrenaline seekers, there are rocky terrains that offer thrilling descents, jumps, and technical sections. Alternatively, there are smoother, more leisurely trails for those who prefer to absorb the scenery at a more relaxed pace.

The state’s various trails can be categorized into three main types:

  • Cross Country (XC) trails offer long routes through diverse terrain, typically characterized by a mix of climbs and descents.
  • Downhill (DH) trails, reserved for those seeking high-speed thrills, are packed with steep descents, jumps, and technical sections.
  • Trail rides, which offer a balance of XC and DH, often present a mix of technical features.

Top biking trails

Whitefish trail

Whitefish Trail is a singletrack mountain bike trail in Whitefish, Montana. The trail is approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) long. It is rated as an intermediate-level trail. The trail features flowing switchbacks, fast descents, and a scenic rock cliff overlook.

The trail connects to a loop about 3 miles in diameter. There are three system trails associated with Whitefish Trail: Lupfer Trailhead Loop, Skyles Lake Parking Lot, and Swift Creek Trail.

I really liked this trail because it wasn’t exhausting, on the contrary, it was quite enjoyable. The second time around I even brought my niece and nephew (who were 9 and 11 years old at the time) and they finished the trail as well. We took a couple of breaks to enjoy the lake views, it was lovely.

P.S. Keep in mind that this is a bear country, so stay alert!

Bangtail divide trail

Bangtail Divide is located in Bozeman, Montana. The trail is 24 miles (38.6 km) long and rated as intermediate. It is recommended to ride the trail from South to North.

The ride can take between 4.5 to 6 hours depending on rider pace and skill level. Parts of the trail are multi-use, with possible encounters with dirt bikes, horses, and hikers. The trailhead can be accessed via Bridger Canyon Road in Bozeman.

The loop includes significant elevation changes, with a total gain and loss of over 4,500 feet.

If you choose this trail, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It’s truly something worth seeing.

The trail is not recommended for beginners or young riders without sufficient experience.

Safety and environmental Considerations

Biking Safety

Biking Safety

Weather can change rapidly in this mountainous terrain, so it’s important to stay prepared. Here are some tips:

  • Always wear a helmet, gloves, and suitable footwear.
  • Carry a basic first-aid kit and a tool kit for minor bike repairs.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast. Avoid biking during lightning storms or high wind conditions.

Environmental awareness

Preserving Montana’s natural beauty is a responsibility shared by all visitors. When cycling, adhere to the “Leave No Trace” principles. These include:

  • Stay on designated trails to prevent erosion and damage to vegetation.
  • Do not disturb wildlife or livestock.
  • Carry out all litter, including biodegradable materials like fruit peels or cores.

Local bike shops and repair centers

Bike Shops

Whitefish Bike Retreat

I loved that the retreat offers different places to stay – you can camp or choose a lodge with single beds in shared rooms or private rooms. It’s open all year for everyone who loves adventure! You’ll find several untouched lakes nearby for swimming, paddle boarding, or fishing.

It’s a perfect escape for both families and individuals, close to Glacier National Park, Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish and Flathead Lakes, and the Canadian Border. My nephews loved it! The atmosphere was so cozy and warm.

You can rent bikes and paddleboards. There’s also a small camp store for refreshments like cold drinks, ice cream, and snacks. The Retreat also organizes group rides, creating a lively cycling community in the area.

Round House Ski and Sports Center

This is an all-season shop offering bike sales, rentals, and comprehensive repair services. Their staff were so friendly and they also helped me find the right gear and local spots to explore. This means a lot when you’re visiting some place for the first time.

Montana’s hidden gems for cyclists

Helena’s South Hills Trail System

Tucked away in Montana’s capital city, Helena’s South Hills Trail System encompasses over 80 miles of trails, where you can cycle through lush forests, verdant meadows, and rocky ridges, all while soaking in panoramic views of Helena. Its diverse network of trails caters to mountain bikers of all levels, so I’m sure you’ll find a trail you’ll enjoy.

The first time I went, I was with my boyfriend so we decided to try the Mount Helena Ridge Trail which is more challenging. When bicycling with my nephews, we tried the Rodney Ridge Trail which is more family-friendly.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Often overlooked by many, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is a hidden treasure in the Montana biking scene. Stretching over 2,700 miles from Canada to Mexico, this trail is part of the longest off-pavement bike route in the world.

The Montana segment of the trail, covering roughly 800 miles, takes you through some of the state’s most dramatic landscapes. From the wind-swept plains of the north to the rugged peaks of the south, the trail offers you a rare glimpse into Montana’s untamed beauty.

Do note that this trail demands a higher level of fitness and preparedness due to its length and remote location.

Where can you take a break?

Bike Camp

Mountain biking is a physically demanding activity. To keep your energy levels high, it’s important to refuel your body. Here are a couple of popular spots where cyclists can replenish their energy:

Casey’s, Whitefish

You have to try the elk chili! Omg, it was so good! This was our first choice because the staff from the Round House Ski and Sports Center recommended it, and we didn’t regret it for a second. The prices were reasonable, too.

Known for its pub-style meals and locally brewed beers, Casey’s is a popular stop for bikers exploring the nearby Whitefish Trail.

Accommodations for Cyclists

Finding a comfortable place to rest after a day of cycling is essential. Here are a couple of cyclist-friendly accommodations:

  • Bike Camp, Twin Bridges: Located near the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, Bike Camp offers cyclists a place to camp, shower, and cook.
  • The Firebrand Hotel, Whitefish: Definitely a more luxurious option. The hotel offers comfortable rooms and secure bike storage.


What type of wildlife might I encounter while biking in Montana?

You might encounter a range of wildlife including deer, elk, and possibly bears, especially in more remote or wooded areas.

Is there a best time of year to go mountain biking in Montana?

The best time for mountain biking in Montana is generally from late spring to early fall when the weather is warmer and the trails are clear of snow. However, some areas offer winter biking on groomed trails.

Do I need a permit to bike on the trails in Montana?

Most trails do not require a permit for biking. However, it’s important to check specific trail regulations or land management policies, as some areas might have different rules or require a pass for parking.

What should I bring for a day of mountain biking in Montana?

Bring a helmet, gloves, suitable footwear, water, snacks, a basic repair kit, and a first-aid kit. Also, consider packing weather-appropriate clothing and a map or GPS device.

All in all…

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie seeking the thrill of a downhill race or a nature lover wanting to cycle through tranquil trails, Montana offers a true adventure. With its blend of challenging terrains and breathtaking landscapes, the Big Sky Country is truly something you have to experience.