A fantastic backcountry loop on the Gallatin Front.


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FATMAP difficulty grade



The Gallatin Front is chock-full of trails to explore on your mountain bike.

The options are almost endless, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly the best way to combine trails or what route to attempt.

This 16-mile loop connecting Bear Lakes and New World Gulch is a popular option on the northern end of the network.

Depending on your fitness, you might be looking to create a much longer loop...

and those options definitely exist.

But this base loop is a great place to start. The route begins with the main climb up the Bear Canyon and Bear Lakes trails.

These are doubletrack trails open to ATVs, but the mellow grades and smooth trail tread make for easy and enjoyable climbing.

It feels nice to get into a rhythm and bash out some elevation, stroke after pedal stroke, as you gain elevation steadily up the mountainside. At the top of the Bear Lakes trail, you'll reach the eponymous lakes, which provide the perfect spot to take a break from the climb.

But you aren't finished ascending yet: the trail turns to singletrack, with a steeper grunt topping out on top of a ridge in an alpine meadow.

This would also be a great spot to stop for lunch. Since the trail has transitioned to singletrack, the descent off the top of the ridge is a true gem, dropping down narrow, challenging singletrack with tight turns and a few fun rock features.

The pine trees blur by as you launch off of ledges, blast through rock gardens, and skitter over root webs.

This section of the ride on the Mystical Bear trail is probably the highlight of the entire loop. Watch for a couple of turns coming up to pick up the Mystic Lake Cutoff to reach the New World Gulch trail.

Once you bottom out at what once used to be Mystic Lake, you'll have to power up another stiff climb before the final descent down New World Gulch. New World Gulch is an old-school singletrack that has seen better days.

This trail has eroded deep into the mountainside, with some substantial ledge drops, burly rock gardens, off-camber water bars, and all manner of old-school gnar.

The downhill sections are an absolute riot, as the trail drops fast and furious.

While you're likely to encounter hikers, if you get the chance to let it out, you can absolutely rocket down the mountain through this brutal gnar fest. Or I should say, accomplished enduro riders will be able to rock and roll down New World Gulch.

This technical challenge isn't for the faint of heart.

This route earns its "Severe" FATMAP rating. Aside from a few punchy climbs, New World Gulch wraps up quickly, depositing you back at your car—tired, sweaty, and enthralled with Bozeman mountain biking! **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.