All listed rides have been recently ridden by some (or all) of Glacier Cyclery’s staff and all descriptions are as current as possible. All of the trails can be found on the Flathead National Forest map ($16.99).
MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDES
Reid Divide (Trail 800) Ride
Fifteen miles west of Whitefish, right next to beautiful, swimmable Tally Lake is where this 22 mile loop begins. The 12 mile gravel road climb will definitely warm you up for the moderately technical Reid Divide Trail. The Flathead National Forest map ($16.99) will show you a couple of different descents back to the Lake, including the Bony Gulch Trail 801 with its numerous switchbacks and water-bars that will leave your hands aching and brake pads smoking. Usually snow free from June to mid-October; this ride is best suited for the intermediate to advanced rider.
This ride starts at the top of Reid Divide about 27 miles west of Whitefish, where on a clear day, you can see the distant peaks in Glacier National Park. The first 1/2 mile of this 12 mile loop is the most difficult, offering a nice short climb to get the blood pumping before diving into the woods for a 5 mile singletrack descent that makes the easy 6 mile gravel road climb back to the top well worth it. This is a good ride for anyone with some trail riding experience. Cutting out the first mile of trail is an option if you are a beginner; or if you are an advanced rider, check out a couple of added trail/mileage options. Usually snow-free from June to mid-October.
The Alpine Trail #7
Both the North and South halves of this trail are for experienced riders only; allow 6 to 8 hours of riding time and approximately 1 to 2 hours of car shuttling.
This ride is either the ultimate trail or the most brutal time you’ve ever spent riding and pushing your bike. The trail is broken into two parts, the north half and south half, separated by Jewel Basin hiking area which is closed to bicycles.
The southern half begins at Napa Point, climbs to Inspiration Pass and follows the ridge above timberline north, before descending to the town of Swan Lake. This is a 27 mile trail ride more down hill than up hill, thanks to it’s point to point nature. However, there are a few miles of hike-a-bike and some exposed technical sections, so it is for advanced to expert trail riders only.
The north half of the Alpine trail is shorter, 24 miles, but has much more climbing (6,600 feet). The climbing begins immediately, starting at the Strawberry Lake trailhead. Strawberry Lake and Lamaze Lake are a couple of the scenic views on the otherwise wooded ride. Then around Doris Mountain you see some great views of Great Northern Peak and Glacier National Park. The northern end of the trail switchbacks down to the town of Columbia Falls via approximately 42 tight turns (it is easy to lose count). The technical demands of this ride and these spectacular views are the reasons this trail has received a lot of press and is considered by some to be one of the top 10 trail rides in the US and by others, one of the toughest 10 rides in the US.
Glacier National Park
Technically, there is no trail riding in Glacier National Park, but this ride qualifies as “off-road”, is signed as a bike trail and easy enough for a family ride. To get the most mileage, begin in Apgar Village and ride the bike paths back towards the entrance station to the road going to the horse barn. From here, the route follows an old road that crosses MacDonald Creek on the historic Quarter Circle Bridge, goes through the forest and eventually ends on a high bluff over-looking the Middle Fork and the North Fork of the Flathead River where an old ranger station once stood. This area and the old Flathead Ranger Station were burned in the summer of 2003 by the Trapper Lake Fire. The behavior of fire and its effects along this trail actually make this a very interesting outing. This out and back ride is 13.5 miles long and is one on which you can enjoy the park’s solitude while riding.
ROAD BIKE RIDES
Star Meadows Road
This 36 mile out and back ride is a perfect way to combine beautiful scenery, peace & quiet and a good workout. Star Meadows Road, which passes through some excellent mountain bike trail territory, offers very little traffic and some climbs that will make you glad the return trip is downhill. This ride starts 11 miles west of Whitefish on Farm-To-Market Road, passes through Flathead National Forest land, and ends where the pavement does, about 2 miles past beautiful Star Meadows. Once newly paved as well as lightly trafficked, the road surface of the Star Meadows road is becoming like a lot of other paved roads in rural Montana with break-ups, chuck holes and lumpy patch jobs. Keep an eye out for those things, cattle guards, cattle, and their slippery road hazards as well!
Head of Whitefish via Lakeshore Drive
This 21 mile round trip, out and back ride from town is a great short spin when you don’t have a lot of time, but just have to ride. Moderate hills, good road surface and low residential traffic add to the views of Whitefish Lake. Stop by Les Mason Park for a swim on your way back, or head up Big Mountain Road for a fairly steep 5 mile climb to the Whitefish Mountain Resort’s base area where you can grab a cold drink and take in some spectacular views. As you sprint along, you may over-take loaded down, trail weary backcountry bike tourers on the Great Divide Route as East Lakeshore Dirve is the route’s backdoor entrance into Whitefish.
50+ Mile Valley Loops
There are various less traveled roads on the valley floor that can be linked together for looped road rides. From the north end of the Farm-To-Market Road, south to Reserve Drive, east on Reserve Drive across Hwy. 93, and then north back to Whitefish on Whitefish Stage Road is one of these loops. Most of the rides in the valley are flat or rolling hills; the trick to making these loops fun is to avoid heavily traveled main roads and roads that become dirt and dusty in the dry season, or mud and mire in the rain! For several other suggested routes around the valley, go to Map My Ride and type in Huckleberry 100 the Fresh Life Church event organized and sponsored by Glacier Cyclery.
This fantastic 80+ mile road ride circumnavigates Lake Koocanusa and qualifies as an expert ride because of the mileage and hills. Our recommendation is to park your car at the Rexford Bridge and ride the route in a clock-wise direction. If you head south along the east shore of the reservoir on Hwy 37 in the cool of the morning and return on Forest Service Road 228 along the west shore you’ll escape some of the hot afternoon sun. Take a break at the dam’s visitor center where you can pedal a bike to see how much power those legs of yours can generate. But save some energy. The west shore road is an up and down roller coaster of hills. The Lake Koocanusa loop is incredibly scenic and the west shore particularly, virtually free of traffic. If you prefer a longer ride, approximately 110 miles, park and begin pedaling at Rexford, but be advised: a climb back to your vehicle awaits you at the ride’s end.
By the way, Koocanusa is not an Indian name. The name is derived from the first three letters of the words Kootenai, Canada and USA, since the reservoir was created by damming the Kootenai River and filling a valley extending from the USA into Canada. Watch for osprey and their nests all along the lakeshore as you go. Take plenty of water, except for the visitor center at the dam, it is a dry route.
For current information on cycling the Going-To-The-Sun Road and road conditions call Glacier National Park at 1-406-888-7800.
Bicycling the Going-To-The-Sun road in Glacier National Park is as close to bicycling in the Alps as you can experience in the US. The Going-To-The-Sun road from West Glacier to the top of Logan Pass is 32 miles, the first half of which is fairly flat following McDonald Creek. The climb begins shortly after Avalanche Creek and is a sustained climb but doesn’t exceed between a 5 to 6% grade. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day bicycling the Going-To-The-Sun road from the west is closed between 11 AM and 4 PM. All that means is you get up early and pedal to the top before 11, or for you late risers, wait until after 4 PM and pedal up in the evening.
The best time of year to ride on the Going-To-The-Sun road is early in the spring as the Park Service begins snow plowing operations and the road is closed to automobiles but open to hikers and bikers. The date of this event varies depending on the severity of winter and late spring snow storms. Often by early May, until at least mid June, the Park Service gates the road at Avalanche Creek Campground to prohibit automobile traffic, people can experience the park at its best, and as it should be experienced – outside of a car.
During the summer months on clear evenings that correspond to a full moon cycle, Going-To-the-Sun-in-the-full-moon is an extremely unique experience. You don’t have to ride on the exact night of the full moon, but you do need to time your ride to coincide with the moon cresting the pass or you won’t be in the moonlight. The National Park Service requires night riders to have front and rear lights on their bikes and wear helmets. A jacket and dry clothes are necessary gear for the ride down.
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Glacier Cyclery’s best selling road bikes are of the Kona Jake family, great cross bikes that can handle most road surfaces that Montana can dish up. The reason: around here there are miles of great riding that have some rough pavement, or gravel, or dirt, or all three. On the rides below you’ll experience the essence of Montana and only have to share the road with the occasional pickup full of firewood. Adventure on!
50% paved, 50% dirt or gravel surface on Forest Service roads qualifies this as a true cyclocross ride. Rough, scenic and remote, it begins with the Star Meadow Road ride described above but continues when that ride and the pavement ends. The route turns left onto Rd 538 and climbs up onto the shoulder of Ingalls Mountain where you can look down on the meadow (and your route) below. At this point you are at the Ingalls Mountain/Sylvia Lake trailhead.
Continuing on Forest Service logging roads, you climb some more and then enjoy a downhill run to Sylvia Lake and the gravel surfaced Griffin Creek road. You’ll be riding through fire ravaged country (Little Wolf fire, 1994 and the Brush Creek fire, 2007) going downhill until intersecting Road #113, coasting by another mountain bike trailhead (for Elk Mountain) and soon enough you’re back on the paved Star Meadows road. Afternoon shadows across the road obscure chuck holes and rough spots in the road so stay alert and keep your hands on the brake levers!
Another 50 mile loop in the same general area of the Tally District of Flathead National Forest as the Farm To Market – Sylvia Lake Ride mentioned above, but somewhat more difficult because of elevation gain, is the Farm To Market – Dunsire Pass ride. It can be ridden clockwise or otherwise and like any cyclocross ride it can be ridden on a mountain bike as well.
Starting from the Farm To Market Road ride up Star Meadows watching for FS Rd #10360. This is the road you will return on, or should you desire, turn right onto if you choose to go counter clockwise. To get the climbing out of the way first continue straight ahead on the paved road. About five miles beyond Star Meadows you arrive at a three way junction. Take the right hand road up to Dunsire Pass. The view to the west is of the Elk Mountain Trail and Brush Creek Divide. You’ll have time to admire the scenery for a couple of miles as you climb to the next junction, a right turn onto FS Road #2908. The terrain continues to climb for another mile or so before the welcomed descent. Watch for FS Road #2907. You can “bail out” early on this road if you’ve had enough dirt as it returns to the Star Meadows Road, but if you’ve made it this far keep going, it’s well worth it. Follow signs to Sanko Creek Road, turn right again at the T- intersection and you’re back on pavement. For elevation profile see MapMy Ride by this name.
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