When the ski lifts stop turning, outdoor junkies start tuning up their mountain bikes and waiting for the trails to dry out. Surrounded by six mountain ranges, beginning to advanced riders can find adventure in every direction. The rides listed below are all relatively short, but if you’re feeling aggressive enough to carry gear, some have Forest Service Cabins, (reserve early, they are popular!) We’ve provided some general information, but always check a detailed map and trail conditions before heading out, weather changes quickly in Montana!
A short 20 minutes from downtown Bozeman, the Bangtail Mountains offer amazing views and some seriously sweet descents.
16 miles, round trip
The ascent is smooth dirt with some singletrack at the end. Once at the top you’ll have views of both the Bridger and Crazy Mountain Ranges. The real draw to this ride is the long downhill, all moderate to steep singletrack. To get there, take Bridger Canyon to mile marker 14.4, there is a dirt pull out on the left and the road is on the right.
22.3 miles, point to point, shuttle recommended
4.5-6 hours, depending on your pace
There are some tight switchbacks on this ride, but overall it’s long and not too technical. Once you reach the top of the Bangtail Range you can see the Bridger, Crazy, Absaroka, Gallatin and Madison Ranges. A few spots along the trail could be confusing, so bring a map. To drop the first car, drive 19 miles from town until the road turns sharply to the left. Veer right before the turn, then turn right into the parking lot. To start the ride, drive back to mile marker 11.8 and turn left. The trailhead is about a mile down the road. If you opt not to shuttle, you can ride 8 miles back on the road.
Big Sky Area
There are numerous rides in the Big Sky area, but two favorites are Garnet Mountain, located up Gallatin Canyon, and the infamous Lone Mountain at Big Sky Resort.
11.6 miles, out and back
This ride starts out along a smooth abandoned road, then quickly turns difficult with steep singletrack. The downhill requires constant attention with a few tight switchbacks. If you have time, ditch your bike (or push it,) to the summit where there is a lookout tower and Forest Service Cabin. Enjoy lunch with views of the Gallatin and Madison Ranges along with Gallatin Canyon. On Highway 191 toward Big Sky, look for mile marker 65.1, turn east onto Squaw Creek Road to get to the trailhead.
Lone Mountain, Big Sky resort
Some of the biggest skiing in America turns into a mountain bike mecca in the summer. Miles of lift-served trails allow you to skip the tiring climb and enjoy long downhills, over and over. We highly recommend taking the tram to the top of Lone Mountain where you’ll have fews of 3 states and 2 national parks.
South of Bozeman, Hyalite Recreation Area is worth spending a few days exploring. Book a campsite or Forest Service cabin and plan to bike, hike, and relax at the lake.
9.4 miles, out and back
Emerald Lake is a beautiful, small mountain lake surrounded by 1,000 foot rock walls and a lush green meadow. It’s a steep climb, but a great descent. If you want to make a long day of it, allow time to hike up to Hyalite Peak, the view is worth the extra time. Keep in mind, snow can remain on the top of the peak well into July, longer on deep snow years. Take Hyalite Canyon Road to the reservoir, drive pass Palisades Falls Picnic Area and continue on until you reach the trailhead.
6.6 miles, round trip
Less than an hour
This trail is great for a short ride. At the top you’ll look out over Hyalite Reservoir and Hyalite peak. The descent is mainly an ATV trail. Park in the main lot, drive over the dam, turn left at the dirt road on the other side.
south Cottonwood Canyon
Another short jaunt from town, South Cottonwood is loved for its tree cover on hot summer days. Beginners can do an easy in and out, but for advanced riders, you can do a shuttle ride from South Cottonwood Creek over Blackmore Peak and end up in Hyalite Reservoir.
South Cottonwood Creek
5 miles, out and back
1.5 hours at 2.5 mile mark
This shady trail follows along the creek. There are a few short climbs, but beginners can always push through these sections. This is a popular trail, so weekday rides are the most relaxing.
South Cottonwood Creek to Blackmore Peak
8.3 miles, point to point
This somewhat technical ride can be done either direction, starting at either South Cottonwood Creek or Hyalite Canyon, leaving a shuttle on each end. The technical spots are hard, but there aren’t many. Much of the ride is covered, smooth singletrack. When you get to the saddle, it’s worth the side jaunt to the peak. The grassy saddle is a great place to stop for lunch.
Sourdough is mainly known for the gentle slope which is good for beginning hikers and nordic skiers, but bikers love the challenge toward the end.
Bozeman Creek to Mystic Lake
19.9 miles, out and back
This ride up to Mystic Lake starts out easy along an abandoned dirt road, but turns into a more difficult primitive road. Most of the ride is smooth trail, but there is a narrow section toward the end with big sidehill exposure. It’s a fairly steep drop so beware if you have a fear of heights! There is a Forest Service cabin at Mystic Lake and it’s not a hard ride for carrying gear. Take Sourdough Road to Nash Road, and turn left. Turn left again on Sourdough Canyon Road and it will take you right to the trailhead.
Home of Missouri Headwaters and Madison Buffalo Jump State Parks, Three Forks is also becoming a sought out biking area. In addition to the trail system running along the old railroad tracks, a whole new biking development is taking shape.
Copper City Trails
A partnership between Southwest Montana Mountain Biking Association and the Bureau of land Management, this trail system has quickly become a local favorite. The 14 miles of trails range from beginner to technical with two downhill-only, bike-only trails—a great place to bring the whole family!
With so many great rides in and around Bozeman, it's hard not to want to stay for weeks-on-end to get all the trail time as possible. Don't forget your rig on your next visit. Or in case you want to fly in and out, you can also find several places that rent high-quality downhill, big wheel, and trail-ready rigs for you to use while your here.
Check out more information about biking in Bozeman right here!