South Cottonwood Out-and-Back

Hyalite

An easily-accessible trailhead leads deep into the Gallatins.

Mountain Biking Difficult

Distance
27 km
Ascent
665 m
Descent
665 m
Duration
2-3 hrs
Low Point
1.7 km
High Point
2.2 km
Gradient
South Cottonwood Out-and-Back Map

The South Cottonwood trailhead is located right on the outskirts of Bozeman, making it a very popular access point for accessing the Gallatins. This trail can be filled with hikers, trail runners, and other mountain bikers at all times and on any day of the week—especially during mid-summer. Even still, it's a beautiful ride in an incredible mountain range.

Description

The ride begins on a flowy, smooth singletrack trail that's quite wide initially. You'll cross the creek a few times, sometimes splashing through the water directly and at other times utilizing bridges.

The higher you go, the narrower and more technical the trail gets. Consequently, this ride is quite bipolar. If you were to stick to the lower stretches alone, this trail would only warrant a "Moderate" FATMAP difficulty rating. But some of the upper rock gardens might even deserve a "Severe" FATMAP rating. I've assigned it a "Difficult" rating to recognize this.

Since the ride gets more and more difficult as you progress, you can choose to turn around at any point. Whenever you are no longer comfortable with the technicality level or the distance, you can choose to turn around then.

Even though the upper reaches are filled with rock gardens and are quite chunky, the rocks are still quite rideable for advanced-level riders.

One goal of continuing deep into the valley is to reach a section of beautiful meadows. These meadows in the valley bottom provide fantastic views of the mountains towering above you on both sides!

Whenever you're ready, turn around and rip back down, enjoying the fast, flowing trail and challenging rock gardens. Be sure to ride heads-up for other trail users, especially in the lower reaches of the trail.

Note:

The Bozeman area is renowned as prime grizzly bear country. Signs at every trailhead warn that bears are highly active in the area. Mountain biking is considered a high-risk activity in grizzly bear country due to the quiet speed of a bicycle and how quickly you can accidentally sneak up on a bear when rounding a blind turn. To mitigate this risk, make plenty of noise while riding, try to ride with a group of people, and consider attaching a bear bell to your handlebars. Also, make certain that you carry bear spray with you every time you ride, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.

Difficulty

Difficult

Mostly stable trail tread with some variability featuring larger and more unavoidable obstacles that may include, but not be limited to: bigger stones, roots, steps, and narrow curves. Compared to lower intermediate, technical difficulty is more advanced and grades of slopes are steeper. Ideal for upper intermediate riders.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.

Remoteness

3 out of 4

Little chance of being seen or helped in case of an accident.

Best time to visit

June, July, August, September, October

Features

  • Flow
  • Technical
  • Singletrack
  • In the forest
  • Roots
  • Rock Gardens

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area