Millions of acres of forested hills with roads and trails, numerous lakes, incredible vistas and friendly people make Northwestern Montana a great place to mountain bike. Plain and simple it is a great place to vacation period. But most locals honestly want you just to visit. In fact the locals have bumper stickers on their cars that reads, "Have a nice VISIT in Montana."
Northwest Montana has been a long guarded secret but we have been found. Each weekend Northwest Montana hosts its share of the Hollywood jet-set who come to Montana to relax and get away from it all. Unfortunately we are being discovered by the big city feeling as well including box stores and malls.
Northwest Montana is an incredible place that lures its share of tourists every year to play on the numerous golf courses and recreate in the lakes. We also have the incredible blessing of having Glacier National Park just 30 miles from Kalispell. Glacier National Park gets 2 million visitors every year.
This page is a collection of the trails in Northwestern Montana. So come on up and ride!
Getting to Northwesten Montana is not easy, but your trip will be rewarded with incredible rides.
Glacier International Airport, don't let the name fool you, is served by Horizon Airlines, Delta and Northwest. It is located in Kalispell.
Amtrack has daily service to Whitefish from both East and West.
The Flathead Valley is located approximately 110 miles North of Missoula, MT which is on Interstate 90. The drive North on Highway 93 from Missoula is beautiful as it travels along the Mission Mountains and Flathead Lake. Flathead Lake is the largest natural body of water West of the Mississippi River.
The Swan Valley is located on Highway 83 and is located on the East side of the Mission Mountains. It is also possible to reach the Swan Valley (Highway 83) from Interstate 90 by taking the Highway 200 exit approximately 10 miles East of Missoula.
The "Swan Valley" / Highway 83 Corridor is located between the Mission Mountains to the West and The Bob Marshal Wilderness to the East. It's entire length from Clearwater Junction (look for the BIG Herford Bull) to Swan Lake and the Village of Bigfork is dotted with both valley and mountain lakes. Most of these lakes have westslope cutthroat that reward an angler that makes the effort to get there.
The "Swan Valley" is comprised of both National Forest and State Forest land. Make sure you purchase a state land use permit prior to riding on state land.
Because of the numerous lakes Northwestern Montana is also blessed with a plethora of National Forest Service Campgrounds and to a lesser degree State Campgrounds.
Red Tape and Where To Stay
This whole area is comprised of both National Forest and State Forest land. Make sure you purchase a state land use permit prior to riding on state land.
There are also many Designated Wilderness Areas in Northwestern Montana. All of these areas have motorized vehicle restrictions which according to the definition INCLUDES mountain bikes. The chain makes them motorized. So read no bikes. These areas are for hiking and trail stock only.
There are numerous Flathead National Forest Campgrounds scattered across Northwest Montana check them out before planning your visit.
There are also state parks in Northwest Montana to recreate and camp at as well.
Northwestern Montana / Highway 93 CorridorTHE PIG FARM TRAILS:
The Pig Farm Trails offer challenges for all levels of riders. From oxygen depleting climbs to sustained single-track downhills riding options are endless. A maze of roads and trails can create confusion and it is located in forested rolling hills so use caution.
Located about 18 miles from Kalispell
This loop commences and terminates near Tally Lake, the deepest lake in Montana at 476 feet in depth. Tally Lake has a USFS campground and offers camping and recreating opportunities.
HORNET PEAK LOOP:
This 22 mile loop begins and ends at Polebridge in the North Fork. It is rated as difficult due to sustained climbing requirements. This loop is located in the Salish Range of Montana. A significant portion of the route is through old growth forest.
WHITEFISH MOUNTAIN RESORT
This resort caters to mountain bikers in the summer. A network of trails provides challenges for riders of all skill levels and includes options for down hill as well as a bike park. Weekly races are held for local riders.
The Swan Valley / Highway 83 CorridorThe "Swan Valley" / Highway 83 Corridor is located between the Mission Mountains to the West and The Bob Marshal Wilderness to the East. It's entire length from Clearwater Junction (look for the BIG Herford Bull) to Swan Lake and the Village of Bigfork is dotted with both valley and mountain lakes. Most of these lakes have westslope cutthroat that reward an angler that makes the effort to get there.
The "Swan Valley" is comprised of both Natinal Forest and State Forest land. Make sure you purchase a state land use permit prior to riding on state land.
HOLLAND LAKE LODGE: This 13.5 mile ride is mostly downhill. It is located near Holland Lake in the Swan River Valley. The route begins near the Clearwater Lake trail-head and ends near the Holland Lake Lodge.
Click here for a map.
The Native Residents
This is grizzly bear, black bear and mountain lion country so be prepared and know how to act if you meet one on the trail. The following links will supply information on how to behave while you are visiting their native habitat.
Use caution and practice good manners with the wildlife. You are in bear country. Carry bear deterrent, don’t bike alone and make some noise. For more information please go to the Glacier National Park's website for Bear Information. The U.S. Forest Service also has helpful information on Grizzly Bear Management.
Click here for information on mountain lions
We also have a number of more enjoyable animals such as Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, Rocky Mountain Elk, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep and Shiras Moose.
For more information on these incredible animals visit my Mammals of The Rocky Mountains page at SummitPost. Follow the links in the menu bar for indepth information.
A map and GPS would benefit anyone unfamiliar with Northwestern Montana. It is easy to get turned around in the dense forested areas. There are numerous logging roads creating a maze of roads throughout these mountains reminding us of the bygone era of logging and mulitiple use lands.
Many of these trails have water sources but you may want to filter it so bring a filter if that's important to you. Otherwise just bring your own water.
I also recommend carrying pepper spray such as Counter Assault. Which is manufactured right here in the Flathead Valley.
Most of Northwestern Montana has entered the 21st century and has cellular phone coverage. However, cell phone coverage on these routes is marginal at best. Our carriers are Verizon and CellularOne.
The reader can also refer to the following MbPost.com sites for specific areas in Northwestern Montana.
Glacier National Park
Whitefish Mountain Resort