A Handbook for Cycling Montana, US: The Essentials

With its wide-open spaces and stunning scenery, Montana is a go-to place for cyclists nationwide. The state’s diverse landscapes provide a rich and varied cycling experience for riders of all skill levels.

The best time to cycle in Montana is generally from late spring to early fall, roughly from May to September.

Late Spring (May-June): Weather begins to warm up, but you might still encounter chilly days and occasional rain showers. The landscape is lush, and the mountains still have snow caps, making for picturesque rides.

Summer (July-August): This is the peak season for cycling. The weather is typically warm and sunny, with long daylight hours allowing for extended rides. However, it can sometimes get hot, especially in the eastern plains, so early morning or late evening rides might be preferable.

Early Fall (September): The weather starts to cool, offering comfortable cycling conditions. The changing colors of the foliage provide a beautiful backdrop for rides. This is also a less crowded time as the tourist season winds down.

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Top 6 Bike Rides in Montana

Going-to-The-Sun Road 

Distance: 105 km with 2,000 m elevation gain

Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, Montana, offers cyclists a breathtaking ride through some of the most stunning alpine scenery in the United States. This iconic route traverses the park west to east, crossing the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. It is a challenging climb, especially near the pass, with steep inclines and elevations reaching 6,646 feet. 

The road is well-maintained but narrow, featuring sharp turns. Cyclists are treated to views of glacier-carved peaks and lush valleys, with frequent wildlife encounters, including mountain goats and bighorn sheep.

Jeff Hyer What to Know Before Biking the Going-To-The-Sun-Road in Glacier National Park, Insights from a Local

The River’s Edge Trail

Distance: 41 km with 500 m elevation gain

The River’s Edge Trail in Great Falls, Montana, is a gem for cyclists. It offers scenic views, rich wildlife, and a route encompassing urban and natural environments along the Missouri River. The trail provides stunning views of the waterfalls and the rugged Montana landscape. As you get further away from the city, you might spot various wildlife, including deer, eagles, and other birds.

The trail runs through downtown Great Falls, making it easy to access local amenities such as cafes, restaurants, and shops. This section is well-paved and perfect for a leisurely ride. Outside the urban areas, the trail extends into more natural settings, offering unpaved paths through cottonwood forests and along the river’s edge. 

Bike Trail Reviews Ride Along Review of River’s Edge Trail in Great Falls, MT

Bozeman to Bridger Mountains Trail

Distance: 4 km 

Bozeman is home to an extensive trail system that consists of 60 miles of greenways across the city and beyond. The Bozeman to Bridger Mountains trail is a popular route for cyclists looking to experience Montana’s scenic beauty and challenging terrain. This trail is favored by both recreational and serious cyclists for its access to spectacular landscapes and its proximity to Bozeman. The trail offers breathtaking views of the Gallatin Valley and the surrounding mountain ranges, including close-up views of the rugged Bridger Mountains.

Riders may encounter local wildlife, such as deer and various bird species. This route offers an excellent cycling experience with Montana’s natural beauty as a backdrop, suitable for cyclists prepared for some physical challenge and adventure. 

Bangtail Divide Trail

Distance: 38 km with 1,400 m elevation gain

The Bangtail Divide Trail is a renowned mountain biking destination in Montana. It is celebrated for its breathtaking vistas, wildflower-covered meadows, and well-engineered singletrack that caters to various cycling abilities. 

The Bangtail Divide Trail is ideal for experienced mountain bikers looking for a challenging and rewarding day out on the trails. Its physical demands, stunning scenery, and well-maintained paths make it a must-ride trail for cycling enthusiasts visiting or residing in Montana.

Kris Yahner Riding Bangtail Divide North Trail in Bozeman Montana

Whitefish Lake loop

Distance: 30 km with 400 m elevation gain

The Whitefish Lake Loop in Montana is an idyllic cycling route encircling the serene Whitefish Lake. This easy to moderately difficult paved loop caters to a range of cyclists, from families enjoying a leisurely ride to more experienced cyclists seeking a picturesque ride. The path winds through residential areas and secluded natural spots, offering stunning views of the lake against a backdrop of majestic mountains, particularly enchanting during sunrise or sunset.

Along the way, numerous public beaches and picnic areas are perfect for rest stops, and the nearby town boasts various cafes and restaurants for a post-ride meal. Optimal from late spring through early fall, the Whitefish Lake Loop is a splendid way to spend a day cycling in the beauty of Montana’s outdoors, making it a must-visit for both tourists and locals alike.

Whitefish Bike Park is just a short distance away if you’re craving epic mountain biking adventures. Get ready to conquer challenging trails and experience the adrenaline rush of riding through Montana’s breathtaking landscapes. The park is open from June 14 to September 28.

skiwhitefish Whitefish Mountain Resort Bike Park

Jumbo Saddle Road & Deer Creek Sneak Loop — Missoula, Montana

Distance: 40 km with 700 m elevation gain

The Jumbo Saddle Road & Deer Creek Sneak Loop near Missoula, Montana, presents a challenging yet scenic cycling route. Starting in Missoula and extending into the Rattlesnake Wilderness, this loop is characterized by steep climbs and swift descents, traversing both paved and unpaved sections. Particularly suitable for adventure cycling or mountain biking, the terrain offers paths that test endurance and technical skills.

Cyclists on this route enjoy stunning views of the Missoula Valley and surrounding mountain ranges, with lush forests and potential wildlife encounters. The smoother surfaces of Deer Creek Road still challenge with significant inclines, making the loop a favorite for locals seeking a rigorous workout amidst nature. 

Recommended Eateries in Montana

Walker’s Grill: 2700 1st Ave N, Billings, MT 59101 link | Instagram

Jam! on Main: 25 W Main St, Bozeman, MT 59715 link | Instagram

Biga Pizza: 241 W Main St, Missoula, MT 59802  link | Instagram

The Wassweiler Dinner House & Pub: 4528 US-12, Helena, MT 59601 link | Instagram

Loula’s Cafe: 300 2nd St E, Whitefish, MT 59937 link | Instagram

Roadhouse Diner: 613 15th St N, Great Falls, MT 5 link | Instagram

Where to Stay in Montana

Element Bozeman: 25 E Mendenhall St, Bozeman, MT link | Instagram

Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown: 200 S Pattee St, Missoula, MT link Grouse Mountain Lodge: 2 Fairway Dr, Whitefish, MT link | Instagram

The Firebrand Hotel: 650 E 3rd St, Whitefish, MT link | Instagram 

Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern Hotel: 835 Great Northern Blvd, Helena, MT link 

Northern Hotel: 19 N Broadway, Billings, MT link | Instagram

Boothill Inn & Suites: 242 E Airport Rd, Billings, MT link | Instagram

Bike Hires in Montana

Round House Ski and Sports Center: 1422 W Main St, Bozeman, MT link | Instagram

Bangtail Bicycle: 137 E Main St, Bozeman, MT link | Instagram

Missoula Bicycle Works: 708 S Higgins Ave, Missoula, MT link | Instagram

The Bicycle Hangar: 1801 Brooks St, Missoula, MT link | Instagram

Glacier Cyclery & Nordic: 326 2nd St E, Whitefish, MT link | Instagram

Big Sky Cycling & Fitness: 801 N Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT link | Instagram

The Spoke Shop: 1910 Broadwater Ave, Billings, MT link | Instagram

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