Montana is well-known for being the place where picturesque landscapes run far and wide. From the rugged mountain terrain of the Rockies in the western regions of the state to the expansive eastern skies above the prairies, Montana is the ideal place to do any kind of outdoor exploring.
With that in mind, it is not surprising that Big Sky Country is the place where you will find some of the country’s best motorcycle rides. When you consider that much of the best scenery in Montana is somewhere between the mountainous backdrops and the plains, imagine how the winding roads that stretch across the landscape look from a motorcycle. Some of the best motorcycle rides in Montana are to be found in the national parks like Glacier National Park in the Northwest and Yellowstone in the Southwest, although there is much more on offer across the state as well.
Of course, the roads and terrain across Montana are quite spread out and the roadside amenities (including gas stations) tend to be somewhat on the sparse side, but with a spot of planning beforehand, anyone out for some two-wheeled adventure will have the time of their lives in this part of the U.S.
So although this list is by no means exhaustive, let’s take a closer look at some of the best motorcycle rides in Montana to give some idea of what to expect from the roads and scenery of Big Sky country.
Motorcycle Rides in Montana
- Beartooth Pass
- Flathead Lake Loop
- Hyalite Canyon
- Wilsall Loop
- Lolo Pass
- Glacier National Park Loop
- Kalispell Libby Loop
- Gallatin Canyon
- Yellowstone National Park
- Lewis & Clark Highway to Townsend
The Beartooth Pass, which is also known as the Beartooth Highway, has long been considered easily one of the best roads in the whole country in terms of being both scenic and thrilling. The pass is a 68-mile stretch of highway — US212 – which runs between Red Lodge, Montana, and Cooke City. This stretch of the road takes you close to the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone National Park and reaches almost 11,000 feet above sea level at some points.
As this is a high elevation point, it is known to have snow and thunderstorms, even in summer, which is probably why the pass is usually closed between October and May. The scenery along the road includes lakes and breath-taking mountain views, with a few switchbacks and steady, relaxing curves. After making sure to get a full tank of gas up at Red Lodge, you can get onto Highway 212. It won’t be long before you are climbing steadily up the side of the mountains and cruising through amazing alpine landscapes on this route.
When you are heading down the other side you’ll start to see lakes, mountains, and more impressive pristine forest regions. You’ll eventually reach the old mining town of Cooke City and an opportunity to fill the tank, before either heading back towards Red Lodge or going on into Yellowstone National Park.
This loop starting out from Kalispell will have you winding around Flathead Lake itself where you’ll encounter a few small towns and some jaw-dropping views along the route. The ride takes just over a couple of hours depending on riding speed and stops and is around 100 miles long.
If you set off from the western shore of the lake via the U.S. Highway 93 in a southern direction, you’ll find Polson somewhere a bit further along. From Polson, you can take a left onto state Route 35, which will then have you riding up two lanes on the east side of the lake. You’ll get some dramatic views of the lake’s shoreline and surrounding orchards from here, before eventually heading back in the direction of Kalispell.
Hyalite Canyon is a popular spot to stop off for a picnic and as some winding canyon roads lead into the area.
From Bozeman, heading south to Hyalite Canyon is a reasonably short ride. If you take 19th Avenue, the road will follow a sharp right bend, and just after that will take a left turn onto Hyalite Canyon Road. Following this winding canyon road will take you along a fantastic river scene along with some picturesque mountain backdrops. After about another half hour you’ll see Hyalite Reservoir, which is a great spot to stop off and enjoy a picnic.
You just need to be a little wary of gravel and sand in some areas on the ride, as well as wildlife. The Canyon is also closed to any vehicles between April 1st and May 15th to allow for snowmelt and road clearance.
4. Wilsall Loop
This motorcycle ride will allow you to see some amazing views of two impressive-looking mountain ranges from twisting roads. This is a quick loop that takes you out of Bozeman onto Highway 86, from where you can follow the road along the Bridger Mountain Range. This will take you past the famous Bridger Bowl Ski Area before a descent into a picturesque forested region. The road gets a bit tighter after Bridger Bowl and the rises and falls become a bit more pronounced.
The Crazy Mountain Range will come into sight not too far after this forest spot, and as the road sharply winds to the right you will meet with a junction for Highway 89. If you take a right here you can enjoy a nice and steady cruise all the way down to I-90, which allows you to get back on the interstate and head back westwards towards Bozeman.
5. Lolo Pass
Lolo Pass is a ‘must ride’ for any discerning two-wheel enthusiast worth their salt. You can find this particular stretch of motorcycle riding heaven between Kooskia, Idaho and Lolo in Montana.
What you’ll find with the Lolo Pass stretch is over 100 miles of winding road with plenty of curves, and of course some amazing scenery. The best way to approach is from Missoula, where you can get onto US-93 and head south in the direction of Lolo. Make sure you are good for gas and turn right onto US-12 to get into the swing of things. From there on in you can just enjoy the scenery and around 3 hours of riding.
How you navigate the Glacier National Park roads is up to you, but they are certainly some of the best riding routes in the state. You could set off either from West Glacier or a bit further east in Saint Mary. You can ride the loop that runs through the park that stretches around 150 miles along Highway 2 and Highway 89 and then back along the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
Glacier National Park for many is riding along Going-to-the-Sun Road, which makes the admission for motorcycle riders worthwhile, or if you run the whole loop though you can expect varied terrain by way of some fairly steep and challenging ascents up through the Rockies.
If you are anywhere in the Kalispell area and you fancy a somewhat longer ride, check out this route that starts just north of Kalispell on U.S. Highway 93, and takes you on a ride that covers a distance of close to 300 miles.
From US-93 you continue through Whitefish, then Eureka, and follow MT Hwy 37 to Koocanusa Bridge. After crossing the bridge continue for about 30 miles to Yaak, and from here you can ride along the Kootenai River through Troy and onto Kootenai Falls. After the falls, you continue toward Libby on U.S. Highway 2, before eventually looping back in the direction of Kalispell.
Gallatin Canyon is a winding stretch of constant twists and turns with mountain vistas. If you get onto US-191 from Bozeman and head in a southern direction towards Gallatin Gateway, then follow the signs for Big Sky and Yellowstone National Park, you get to the outer regions of the canyon after about 10 miles.
From this point on you can follow the river while enjoying some amazing scenery as you wind your way through the canyon. You can do this for around 20 miles before reaching the town of Big Sky. If you turn right onto MT-64 it will take you into town, and if you want a few more twists and turns you can follow this road up to the lower boundaries of Big Sky Resort. If you still wanted a few more extra miles on top of that you could get onto the 191 and follow it down to West Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park has some amazing roads and scenery although there are occasional blockages caused by wildlife like Bison and Elk. If you take it slow and consider exploring the roads of this park as more of a marathon than a sprint though, you’ll definitely get more from it.
You’ll certainly see more spectacular landscapes and amazing geological features in this park and along its roads, and you can head out the Northeast Entrance to ride on to the Beartooth Pass, or even head out the South Entrance to continue on to Grand Teton National Park.
If you like your motorcycle rides in Montana complete with incredible mountain views, this is another prime run for you. Heading out of Bozeman you’ll encounter more than a fair share of winding twists on this route which begins from jumping onto 86 towards Bridger Bowl & Wilsall.
You can enjoy a leisurely cruise alongside the Bridger Mountains that develops more twists and turns the further along you go. After about 35 miles, 86 intersects with US-89, where if you go left and continue north, the road eventually straightens out a bit. After about another 30 miles or so, if you take a left onto US-12, you will find yourself rolling through the winding roads of Helena National Forest before finally reaching Townsend.