2 - 3
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. 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 trail 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.
There are a few roots and rocks in spots, but overall Shafthouse provides very approachable running.
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.
To mitigate the risk of bear encounters, make plenty of noise while running, try to travel with a group of people, and consider attaching a bear bell to your backpack.
Also, make certain that you carry bear spray with you every time you head into the mountains, in case you do get into an encounter with a grizzly.