They say that once you learn to ride a bike, you never forget. Well, once you ride the singletrack around Bozeman, you never forget—and you never stop craving it. If you want to hit the trails, great, just be sure to do it right.
Obviously, you need a bike. As with most things, it’s advisable to try before you buy. Most shops have decent rentals, and the most affordable long-term investments will be found in the shop’s demo fleet. Often, brand reps come to town with their whole lineup in tow, giving you the opportunity 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 pay more, hit the bike shops. Remember that rear suspension is ideal, but expensive—if you’re a casual biker, you might be able to 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 glasses. Total newbies might want knee and elbow pads until the awkward always-crashing period has passed.
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 almost ten miles to Mystic Lake, but you can turn around wherever and coast effortlessly all the way back to your car. Next, check out Copper City. With several miles of manageable trails, low elevation, and a drier climate, this destination is excellent for fall or spring riding, and a good place to train your lungs before the big summer season.
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 the South Cottonwood trailhead. 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, probably Bozeman’s most popular mountain-bike trail. During the summer, the parking lot overflows with vehicles, so we suggest making some biking friends to carpool with. Although Leverich isn’t technically directional, almost everyone rides the trail clockwise, taking a left at the first junction. Right out of the gate, you’ll 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 at the southern end 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 reward is well worth the effort.
A great way to immerse yourself in the Bozeman biking scene is at the many fun events throughout the year. Meet biking buddies, enjoy a few beers, and talk shop at these classic get-togethers.
Several organizations around town 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.
Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays
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.
Dig Days – Bozeman. Kick off the spring season with some dig days hosted by the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association. They’ll start in town, on trails like Highland Glen, then work their way uphill as the snow melts. southwestmontanamba.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
Montana Enduro Series – MT. If you’re serious about mountain biking, tackle some serious spring/summer competition. Four towns, four races, plenty of grueling uphill, and always a wild ride down. montanaenduro.com.
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 round town, just for riding your bike to work. gallatinvalleybicycleclub.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.
National Public Lands Day – Bozeman. Before midterms roll around, 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.