by Adam Brown
When it comes to mountain biking, Bozeman’s got it all. There are countless alpine rides that take you through lush forests and rocky mountainsides, along with fast, developed, downhill-specific rides. We also have some phenomenal desert-style riding just outside of town. And when you don’t feel like driving, you can get your biking fix right out your back door.
Where to Go
Right in town, you can hop on the Main Street to the Mountains trails at any point and go until the sun sets. Pedal on the Gallagator to Peets Hill along gravel paths as you get your steering and balance dialed. Next you can tack on Highland Glen and Painted Hills. These trails are popular options for folks to rack up some convenient mileage before or after work. You can even ride all the way up Triple Tree if your heart and legs desire.
Now that you’ve gotten a feel for your bike, you can pedal up the old logging road alongside Bozeman Creek—also known as Sourdough. This all-dirt trail climbs steadily for miles, and you can turn around whenever you’d like and coast back to your car. If you take the left fork just before the bridge (about five miles in) toward Mystic Lake, the trail shrinks to singletrack and increases in difficulty.
Once you’re comfortable riding singletrack, head over to Crosscut for one of the area’s best trail systems. Here you’ll find a web of great single- and doubletrack for many different riding styles. Make a cross-country style loop from Loggers to the East Bridger North trail, or hop on the What Goes Up climbing trail to the Must Come Down trail for a flowy downhill experience.
Up in Hyalite, the Moser Creek area has several loop options, all of which feature shorter climbs than some of Hyalite’s burlier rides like History Rock. While Moser’s trails are on the map, there are some confusing junctions, so do some research and figure out which loops you like most.
South of town in the Gallatin foothills is Leverich, Bozeman’s most popular mountain-bike trail and the Custer-Gallatin National Forest’s first dedicated bike trail. During the summer, the parking lot overflows with vehicles, so make some biking friends to carpool with or park down at Nash Park and ride the road up. Leverich is meant to be ridden clockwise. Hop on the uphill-designated trail straight out of the parking lot, then climb a series of tough switchbacks and steep, rocky sections before finally topping out. Enjoy a stellar downhill with some sweeping berms, jumps, and hootin’ & hollerin’.
For more bike-specific trails, head to Copper City for a 20-mile network with something for everybody. Keep in mind that hikers and runners are also welcome. Here you’ll find everything from a fun skills park and mellow green trails to rough and rowdy descents, including massive jump lines.
First things first: you need a bike, and bikes are expensive, so you’ll need to overcome the initial sticker-shock. But consider yourself lucky, because our town runneth over with deals on gear. If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, start at a second-hand store, a virtual marketplace, pawn shop, or the annual GVBC Bike Swap. If you’re willing to shell out for a new set of wheels, hit the bike shops. Remember that full-suspension is often preferred, but will be significantly more expensive to purchase and service. For some, especially if you’re a casual biker, you can save a grand or more by going with a hardtail.
Next, you’ll need a helmet, pack, and repair kit for those inevitable mechanical failures on the trail, plus the standard outdoor equipment: extra layer, rain shell, first-aid kit, and bear spray. Padded gloves are a great option, as are sunglasses to keep wind and debris out of your eyes while riding. You might also want some knee and elbow pads, because the crashing never stops, even after you improve.
Bikes are fun because they are freeing. How else can human power alone get you so far out there? But a malfunction is inconvenient at best, and extremely dangerous at worst. Knowing how to make a few fixes on your own will prove beneficial when something goes wrong out on the trail, and you’ll save some money because you won’t need to shell out cash every time you need work done. There are lots of great bike classes and resources in the area. Check in with local bike shops and the Outside Bozeman website to find resources (outsidebozeman.com/biking) and upcoming classes (outsidebozeman.com/events).
It’s always important to consider other trail users, whether they’re on foot, horseback, or motorized equipment. Use your discretion and pay attention. Spot approaching hikers as early as possible. They have the right of way, regardless of conditions, but still, there’s a good chance they’ll step off the trail to let you pass without interrupting your ride. If not, pull off to the side, give a polite nod, and carry on. Always give horses a wide berth to avoid spooking them, and when possible, pull off on the downhill side of the trail. Greeting the rider in a friendly voice often helps ease a spooky horse, too. If a biker comes upon another biker, the one going uphill has the right of way. If you’re traveling with a four-legged friend, make sure to keep it under control. And be prepared to clean up after your dog.
Trail preservation is the name of the game when on wheels. Since bikes damage the trail more than boots, it is our responsibility to limit the impact. Don’t go out when trails are muddy. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re leaving deep marks in the dirt, you should consider walking that section instead of riding. If the conditions persist, turn back and try a different ride. Avoid biking off-trail, which damages vegetation and can create incidental and unwanted walkaround trails. If you come across a pool of water, take a few minutes to dig a little trench and re-direct it off the trail.
Immerse yourself in the Bozeman biking scene with many fun events throughout the year. Meet biking buddies, enjoy a few beers, and talk shop at these classic get-togethers.
Group Rides – various locations. Several local organizations host group rides around Bozeman. Check out Alter Cycles, Owenhouse, Pedal Project, SWMMBA, the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club, and Bangtail to get in on these fun social events.
Bike Kitchen Hours – Bozeman. One way to get a bike cheaply is to work for it. Donate hours to Bozeman’s nonprofit bike shop and your time could earn you a free bike. bozemanbikekitchen.org
GVBC Bike Swap – Bozeman. This is your chance to score sweet deals on used biking gear and last season’s models. Go early and get in line—the best stuff flies off the shelves. gallatinvalleybicycleclub.org
Bike to Work Week – Bozeman. Commuting by the power of two legs is good for us and the environment, and it cuts down on traffic congestion, too. During this fun week, select locations around town will treat you with free coffee, breakfast, and beer, just for riding your bike to work. gallatinvalleybicycleclub.org
GVLT Trails Challenge – Bozeman. Every summer, starting on National Trails Day, GVLT runs a challenge where Bozeman trail-users rack up miles to raise money for trail maintenance. gvlt.org
Dig Days – various locations. Get your hands dirty and help maintain our trails with dig days hosted by the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association. These events are a great way to meet like-minded bikers, and you’ll get to sample all of the Bozone’s best trails. southwestmontanamba.org
Bike Clinics – Crosscut Mountain Sports Center. With programs for all levels of riders, from general technique to specific skills, taking a clinic with Crosscut will surely level-up your skills. crosscutmt.org
Moser Shake ’N’ Bake – Hyalite. Choose either the 20- or 40-mile race and enjoy a combination of singletrack, doubletrack, and roads, with spectacular views. facebook.com/mosershakenbake
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Before the season winds down, join the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association for a day of giving back to the trails. southwestmontanamba.org
Editor’s note: Dates are subject to change based on weather and other factors. For the most updated information, visit outsidebozeman.com/events.