by the editors
Bozeman hasn’t always been a hotbed for mountain biking, but over the past decade, our trail systems have evolved to offer tons of options for two-wheeled enthusiasts, thanks largely to the efforts of the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA). No matter your style or what kind of challenge you’re after, you’ll find it on our local trails, from the rolling hills of Triple Tree to crushing climbs like Garnet Mountain and daunting descents at Copper City.
Where to Go
Bozeman has a bounty of trails. From beginner to expert, there are plenty to match your style and help you learn.
If you’re a newbie, head to the old logging road up Bozeman Creek, also known as Sourdough. This all-dirt trail steadily climbs for miles with options along the way, but you can turn around wherever and coast effortlessly all the way back to your car. Note: if you take the left fork just before the bridge (about 5 miles in) toward Mystic Lake, the trail shrinks to singletrack and increases in difficulty. Next, check out Copper City. With its low elevation and drier climate, this destination is excellent for fall or spring riding, and has a huge variety of trails from beginner to expert, to help you progress as a rider.
In town, you can hop on the Main Street to the Mountains trail system at any point and go until the sun sets. Mosey along the Gallagator to Peets Hill, then onto Highland Glen where the trails are packed into a small area, and multiple figure-eights make for fun beginner looping.
Once you’re comfortable riding singletrack, head over to South Cottonwood. This creekside trail has gradual climbs, mellow descents, and loads of technical rocky sections to test your skills. It’s another out-and-back, so you can ride for two miles or ten, depending on your energy level and available time.
Up in Hyalite, the Moser Creek area has several options, all of which feature shorter climbs than some of Hyalite’s burlier rides like Emerald Lake. While Moser’s trails are on the map, there are some confusing junctions, so do some research and figure out loops that work for you.
South of town in the Gallatin foothills is Leverich, Bozeman’s most popular mountain-bike trail. During the summer, the parking lot overflows with vehicles, so make some biking friends to carpool with. Leverich is a directional trail and is meant to be ridden clockwise, so you’ll take a left at the first junction. Then, climb a series of relentless switchbacks before topping out along a ridge. This is a good spot to take a break—there’s more climbing ahead. After about an hour of slogging uphill, get ready for a smile-inducing downhill full of flow, berms, and a few small drops.
For a true Bozeman classic, head to the Emerald Lake trail up the East Fork of Hyalite Canyon. The climb has several brutal sections, full of loose rock and steep grades. But your reward is an alpine setting rivaled by few anywhere. Even if you have to walk parts of this trail, the effort is well worth it.
First things first: you need a bike, and it’s best to try before you buy. Most shops have a variety of rental options, and they’ll help you find a ride to fit your needs. Brand representatives often come to town with their whole lineup in tow, giving you a chance to demo and decide what kind of bike you want—cross-country, downhill, etc.
Bikes are expensive, so you’ll need to overcome the initial sticker-shock. That being said, as a mountain-biking mecca, our town runneth over with deals on gear. If you’re looking to spend as little as possible, start at a second-hand store, 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 rear suspension is ideal, but expensive—if you’re a casual biker, you can save a grand or more by sticking with a hardtail.
Next, you’ll need a helmet, pack, and multi-tool for those likely 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. Total newbies might want knee and elbow pads until the awkward always-crashing period has passed.
With most of our bike trails designated as multi-use trails, save for the downhill-specific trails at Big Sky, it’s especially important to consider other trail users, whether they’re on foot, horseback, or motorized equipment. The general rule of thumb is for bikers to yield for hikers and horses, but use your discretion and pay attention. If you’re approaching a hiker, make eye contact as early as possible. 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; it’s best to stop early, and on the downhill side. If you’re traveling with a four-legged friend, make sure to keep your pup under control. Be prepared to clean up after your dog, and dispose of waste properly—not in a bag on the side of the trail. Avoid biking off-trail to limit damaging sensitive vegetation.
There’s no reason not to immerse oneself in the Bozeman biking scene at the 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. 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, you’ll be treated to free coffee, breakfast, and beer at select locations around town, just for riding your bike to work. gallatinvalleybicycleclub.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.
Moser Shake ’N’ Bake – Hyalite. Choose either the 40- or 20-mile race and enjoy a combination of singletrack, double-track, and roads, with spectacular views. facebook.com/mosershakenbake.
Montana Enduro Series – various locations. If you’re serious about mountain biking, tackle some serious summer competition. Four towns, four races, plenty of grueling uphill, and always a wild ride down. montanaenduro.com.
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.