The state of Montana boasts over 100 mountain ranges, so it might come as no surprise that it’s one of the nation’s most popular mountain biking destinations. Incredible alpine lakes, epic downhill trails, and adrenaline-spiking singletrack make it a must for riders everywhere. We’ve put together a list of some of the best trails the state has to offer.
Mount Helena Ridge
The Mt Helena Ridge Trail is indisputably the premiere classic mountain biking trail in Montana. This old-school adventure is within easy driving distance of the state’s capital, Helena, recently named one of only 11 Silver Level Riding Centers in the entire world. The 7.9-mile singletrack route follows the mountain’s ridgeline and offers expansive views of the ridges and valleys surrounding the city. There’s plenty of uphill climb to get your legs pumping, along with roller-coaster descents that’ll leave you screaming. The limestone rocks provide plenty of technical challenges along the way, so it’s not exactly for beginners.
The beauty of the MacDonald Pass is that it offers one of the quickest and longest descents in the state. The 2,000-foot drop is 20 minutes of fast, flowy fun. Beware, though, because the Pass isn’t afraid to throw obstacles in your way. There are plenty of rocky outcrops littered along the path, so stay on your toes or you’ll end up with them in the air. MacDonald Pass also weaves through some of the most stunning scenery in and around Helena, including an old-growth forest of Douglas Fir on the way uphill. The granite rock gardens are dense in this region, so don’t expect the Pass to be an easy attempt.
The Bangtail Divide
The Bangtail Divide is a labor of love for many of the trail riders in the region. The 24-mile stretch of mostly-smooth singletrack will wear out your legs fast, with nearly 8 miles of uphill before picking up speed on the descents. The beginning of the trail is littered with switchbacks to help get your blood pumping, but once you level out, the trail opens up to some truly breathtaking meadows surrounding Bozeman. Parts of the trail are multi-use, so be prepared to cross some horses and foot traffic along the way. It’s one of the best trails in the state for classic XC riding.
Line Creek Plateau
The Line Creek Plateau boasts one of the steepest downhills in the country. The 18-mile trail begins on the top of the plateau, but there’s not really much of a trail at all. You’ll follow the ridgeline of the plateau through bumpy alpine tundra before it begins to drop off. There, you’ll face a 3,500-foot drop over the course of four miles. It’s a lightning-fast descent that is sure to take your breath away—literally. Don’t be embarrassed if you find yourself stopping for a break midway down. It’s a great opportunity to take in the views of Beartooth Pass.
Big Sky Resort
Big Sky Resort is often touted as the greatest place to mountain bike in the country. Aside from an array of fun restaurants, bars, zip lines, and climbing opportunities, the resort also features roughly 60 miles of mountain biking trails to explore. Big Sky has one of the densest collections of technical downhill trails on Earth, along with with the world-famous Mountains to Meadow cross-country, down-slope trail. The resort has a little something for everyone, with two beginner-friendly downhill trails, five intermediate, three advanced, and an impressive variety of extreme trails. Each of these contains rocky, root-laden obstacles alongside steep switchbacks and gorgeous views. If you’re looking for a family vacation spot that’s mountain biker friendly, this is it.