The 13 Best Biking Trails in Montana

Vanessa Locampo
Last Updated: February 24th, 2023

With its wide open spaces and abundance of mountain ranges, Montana is a haven for biking enthusiasts. Whether you’d prefer a relaxing flat ride through the prairie or an adrenaline-spiking mountain bike trail that straddles the side of a cliff, there’s something in Montana for every kind of cyclist.

The best biking trails in Montana are found right across the state, with trails near major cities like Bozeman, Helena, and Missoula, as well as those nestled around smaller towns, such as Kalispell and Butte.

Many of Montana’s best biking trails are also ingrained in the state’s fascinating heritage, passing historically significant landmarks and connecting different communities. Keep reading for the best biking trails in Montana to ride until your heart’s content!

Best Biking Trails in Montana

  1. Old Yellowstone Trail
  2. Bangtail Divide
  3. Great Northern Historical Trail
  4. Beaver Ponds Trail
  5. Bozeman to Bridger Mountains Trail
  6. Helena Ridge
  7. Bitterroot Trail
  8. River’s Edge Trail
  9. The Rattlesnake Loop
  10. Gateway to Glacier Trail
  11. Whitefish Trail
  12. Riverfront Trail
  13. Beardance Trail

bangtail divide

1. Old Yellowstone Trail

Stretching for 7.5 miles, the Old Yellowstone Trail begins south of Garrison, the location of a historic range ranch to the east of Helena, per Rails to Trails. Along the way, cyclists will cross three bridges over the Clark Fork River and get splendid views of the Flint Creek Range.

The area around the Clark Fork River is particularly well-known for wildlife, so this is a good place to slow down and try to spot birds, beavers, and even elk, deer, and moose.

The trail is set on the old Milwaukee Road, which extended from the Pacific Ocean to the Midwestern states for the majority of the 20th century. There are plenty of benches and picnic tables scattered along the trail, along with vault toilets at the endpoints.

2. Bangtail Divide

If you’re looking for a long biking trail where you can spend the day under the Big Sky Country sun, look no further than the Bangtail Divide in Bozeman.

This operates as an out-and-back trail but can also be shuttled, and stretched for approximately 20 miles. With more than 4,000 feet of elevation gains, the trail can be challenging for inexperienced cyclists.

DIY Mountain Bike explains that novice riders may have to walk at certain points on the trail, and are likely to complete it in a minimum of six hours. Meanwhile, intermediate riders will be able to finish the trail in around 4.5 hours.

It’s worth noting that the trail is open in the winter months, though it becomes narrow. Though the trail is challenging, it boasts incredible views of the Crazy Mountains, Bridger Canyon, and Bridger Ridge.

3. Great Northern Historical Trail

great northern historical trail

The Great Northern Historical Trail will take you through miles of the remote, untouched landscape that Montana is famous for. Named for the Great Northern Railway of Northwestern Montana, this trail features 22 miles of conveniently paved track.

The trail begins at Kila, continuing past the Smith Lake Waterfowl Production Area until it crosses Ashley Creek.

It runs parallel to U.S. Highway 2, eventually reaching Kalispell and then Somers, which lies ahead of Flathead Lake. Along the journey, you will pass the Swan, Mission, Salish, and Whitefish Mountain Ranges.

If you do want to explore the trail in winter, it remains open for use and is a popular destination for snow sports, including Nordic skiing and snowshoeing.

4. Beaver Ponds Trail

beaver ponds trail

Want to traverse the Continental Divide? The Beaver Ponds Trail near the mining town of Butte stretches for 6.25 miles over the Divide and Homestake Pass, and back again.

This tends to be a trail for advanced riders only, as it features plenty of steep ascents and narrow twists. The terrain can also be challenging, as there are sections where the ground is sandy, and others where it’s rocky.

However, if you do attempt the Beaver Ponds Trail, you’ll be rewarded with sublime views of the Montana skyline. All Trails recommends visiting this trail between May and October, and while this tends to be the busiest time, the trail rarely gets crowded.

5. Bozeman to Bridger Mountains Trail

Part of the Great American Rail Trail, the Bozeman to Bridger Mountains Trail is a short 2.1-mile bike trail that you can easily incorporate into a trip to Bozeman. Set in the idyllic Gallatin Valley, the trail begins at the College M parking area and continues to the Story Mill Community Park.

The trail is freshly paved, making for a comfortable ride, and features a gradual ascent as it passes rural homes and the MT 86. Be sure to look out for spectacular views of the Gallatin Mountains along the way.

Story Mill Community Park itself is home to a nature sanctuary that straddles the East Gallatin River. Here, you’ll find children’s play areas, fishing ponds, and tranquil gardens.

6. Mt. Helena Ridge

As you may have guessed from the name, Mt. Helena Ridge is situated in Helena. The trail is well-known for its brilliant views of the Helena Valley below and is part of the larger South Hill Trail Network. In total, the trail offers between five and 11 miles of riding.

To access the trail, you can either ride up the steep rocky track to reach the ridge, or you can take a community shuttle that leaves from the Women’s Mural. Its operating hours are Wednesday to Sunday from May through September.

The shuttle is free, but you can donate to the Trail Rider program or tip the driver if you’re happy with the service.

7. Bitterroot Trail

Stretching across 51 miles, the Bitterroot Trail that runs between downtown Missoula and Angler’s Roost takes riders on a picturesque journey through the Bitterroot Valley.

Along the way, you’ll get views of the Bitterroot Mountains and the Sapphire Mountains. There are just 400 feet of elevation gain along the trail, so while long, the route isn’t overly challenging.

The trail provides the opportunity for several exciting pit stops, including near the small town of Lolo, where you’ll find Travelers’ Rest State Park—a campsite utilized by the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

You’ll also get the chance to stop at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge a few miles outside the small town of Stevensville.

8. River’s Edge Trail

Another great option if you’re looking for a longer trail, the River’s Edge Trail in Great Falls features an array of sights.

The trail weaves through parks in the city, with 20 miles of it being conveniently paved. But other stretches of the trail are considerably more rustic as they travel through the prairie near Rainbow Dam.

As the name suggests, the River’s Edge trail runs along the Missouri River. Some sections wrap around cliff edges and are only suitable for advanced mountain bikers, while other sections are great for intermediate riders.

9. The Rattlesnake Loop

rattlesnake loop trail

Don’t let the name put you off this fantastic network of trails, which span more than 50 miles through the 60,000-acre Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.

Situated just outside of Missoula, the loop itself features 14.8 miles of challenging trail that snakes between trees and over elevations of 1,000 feet.

The main drawing point of the Rattlesnake Loop, other than the thrilling ride, is the range of amazing views you’ll get from the trail. Look out for sweeping vistas of Sawmill Gulch, Spring Gulch, and Curry Gulch.

10. Gateway to Glacier Trail

gateway to glacier trail

Any outdoor activity in Montana brings the opportunity to spot some of the majestic wildlife the state is famous for. The Gateway to Glacier Trail is one of the best trails to ride if you’d like to view some native animals while you’re at it.

This asphalt trail runs for 12.6 miles from Hungry Horse to West Glacier in Flathead County. You’ll get pristine views of the mountains between Coram and West Glacier and will have the chance to see grizzly and brown bears on the side of the road.

For the best chance of spotting wildlife, ride in the early morning or in the evening.

11. Whitefish Trail

The Whitefish Trail is another biking trail in the close vicinity of Glacier National Park. It’s a single-track ride that stretches for around 30 miles and has a variety of route options, including the Swift Creek Trail and the Woods Lake Loop.

Visit Montana notes that the trail is located just outside downtown Whitefish and features stacked loops and scenic overlooks. Along with other cyclists, you will likely see hikers, walkers, runners, and horseback riders on the trail.

12. Riverfront Trail

riverfront trail

The Riverfront Trail is an exquisite way to see Missoula. The mostly flat trail features pavement and packed gravel as it weaves along the shores of the Clark Fork River.

Extending for 3.5 miles, the trail passes the Missoula Farmers’ Markets as well as the Carousel for Missoula before crossing the Orange Street Bridge.

You will also pass Clark Fork Natural Area and McCormick Park, both idyllic green spaces. As Trail Link explains, the Riverfront trail is part of a larger system of trails that bring together the east side of the valley, where the University of Montana campus is located, and the neighborhoods on the city’s western side.

13. Beardance Trail

beardance trail

Tucked away in the mountain town of Kalispell, the Beardance Trail features a steep descent that makes it one of the more challenging biking trails in Montana.

There are man-made and rock obstacles present on the trail to make it even more thrilling for the adventure-seeking bike enthusiast.

It’s also possible to shuttle this trail, which was voted the fifth-best mountain bike trail in Montana. You may also run into hikers and dog walkers along the way, but it tends to be the most popular with experienced mountain bikers.

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About The Author

Vanessa Locampo

Vanessa is an Australian-based freelance writer and editor with a BA in Creative Writing. She’s passionate about creating travel content that inspires her readers to take a leap of faith and power through their bucket lists. When she’s not writing (with her border collie asleep at her feet), she’s devouring books, exploring the world, or planning her next trip.

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