A fantastic backcountry loop serving up stunning views and rad ripping.


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FATMAP difficulty grade



The so-called "Fairyhouse" loop combines the Fairy Lake and Shafthouse trails into one big loop, hence the mystical-sounding compound name. The ride begins from a trailhead along a two-wheel-drive dirt road by dropping down a short segment of ATV trail and then powering up a beautiful but brutal two-track towards Fairy Lake.

This route will take you through a beautiful forest, right past the drop-dead-gorgeous Fairy Lake, and will keep you away from the vehicle traffic on the forest road.

These are all massive bonuses.

However, the pedaling is likely to be much easier going up the forest service road.

Pick your poison carefully. After passing Fairy Lake, the route kicks up to the lake trailhead, descends the road, and then picks up the Shafthouse trail on the left. More climbing is in store as you power up to an alpine ridge, slowly leaving the trees behind as you barely reach treeline.

Barely touching treeline is enough: from this vantage point you'll enjoy unbelievable vistas of the Bridger range towering above you.

The mountains that flank this ride are formidable stone peaks that look like they've barely seen any wear and tear from the eons of time.

This sharp, jagged ridgeline is dominant, beautiful, intimidating, and serene—all at the same time. As you pass over a small saddle and begin descending the opposite side of the small ridge, you'll reach an entirely different perspective of the Bridgers.

The mountains to the north boast colorful striations in their stone visage—better bring a camera to capture the beauty! But don't look too long, because it's time to descend! Here's the payoff for all of your labor: the trail rips back down the mountainside, alternating between alpine terrain, deep forest, meadow, and forest again.

While some map apps rate this trail as a black diamond, that's overstating the difficulty.

There are a few roots and rocks in spots, but overall Shafthouse ranks as upper intermediate difficulty.

The grades aren't too steep, and any of the obstacles can be easily negotiated or avoided.

This is just a downright fun downhill romp that makes it all worth it. Be sure to pick up the right turn onto a doubletrack to return to the trailhead.

If you're not careful, you can descend all the way down the mountainside, much lower than the marked trailhead for the beginning of this loop. **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.