Anyone that thinks about Montana automatically thinks MOUNTAINS!!.. We took to the road and headed for the “Big Sky Country” looking for some trails that will possibly put Montana on the USA Mtb Map.
Our first stop was Missoula, and our first trail was a network of trails in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.
Trail Stats & Information
Nearby City: Missoula
Length: You decide (Trail Network)
Trail Type: Loops, Out & Backs
Skill Level: Aerobically: strenuous; Technically: easy to moderate
Duration: How much can you give?
Trailhead Elev: 1,500 feet
Top Elev: 5,100 feet
Once the most popular trail in Missoula, the arduous climb from the Rattlesnake Main trailhead to the wilderness boundary still draws quite a few visitors. But because of bike technology and a proliferation of trails throughout the area, some use has been mitigated. Still, this ride, while supremely bumpy, captures much of what’s great about Missoula riding; it carries riders along a meandering old ranch road from low mountain meadows to the pine forests protected forever from human development (and invading cyclists) by dint of its wilderness designation. Rattlesnake Creek still has a lively fishery, which can be fished above Beeskove Creek. Franklin Bridge is entirely accessible for novice riders. Tread: Gravel road, jeep track, and occasional doubletrack.
2 years ago I spent some time in Helena on the Trails, and it was a horrible experience.. not so much the riding, but the extreme lack of updated maps and guidebooks, and most trails were no longer possible due to land disputes.
Luckily Missoula was a lot easier, and most trails are fairly close to each other.
My first choice of trails were in the Rattlesnake Trail System which offers a great network of trails for every level of experience.
Trailhead is easy to find, and there are maps (free) at the trailhead. There were numerous vehicles at the trailhead, but once a short distance from the trail head, I did not see many people at all.
These trails are shared with hikers and horses, so caution is always needed.
I started this ride at 10.30am on a Tuesday, the weather was ideal and the trails did not seem to be too busy. The trails I opted for started off on an easy level double track. After about 0.5 miles I veered off onto a singletrack, from this moment on, it was just myself on the trail.
The first 3 miles was easy going on a steady climb, and had more of a XC feeling. After the 3 mile point the trail suddenly changed, and really started to climb, still manageable but it did start busting my lungs.
While climbing I was getting pretty hyped about ride back, which was 100% downhill on some fantastic singletrack, all in all about 8 miles of sweet downhill. I followed the “Stuart Peak Trail” all the way to the Rattlesnake Wilderness, which is the turn around point, as bikes are not allowed past this point.
The ride back to the trailhead following the “Stuart Peak Trail” was FUN, FAST and FURIOUS!! sweet singletrack with enough clearance to be able to “Open Up”
All in all, this trail does not offer much scenery, but what it lacks in scenery, it definitely makes up with the fun factor.
Traffic on Trail : 2 hikers on singletrack, numerous near Trailhead
Wild Life : lots of deer ( did see steaming bear scat)
Scenery : Not very scenic
Other : Free map at trailhead, Trails are VERY busy during weekends
My Trail Rating : 7.5 / 10