3 - 4
FATMAP difficulty grade
For over a decade, Bozeman, Montana's Bangtail Divide Trail has been considered by many to be the best mountain bike ride in the state.
This is quintessential Big Sky State singletrack.
It is epic in its demands, requiring 3,400 vertical feet of climbing, much of which comes in the first five miles.
It has over 22 miles of pristine singletrack rising from the valley floor to lofty heights along its namesake ridge.
It has unparalleled scenery that, along with the climb and the altitude, will take your breath away.
It has dense forest and open meadows.
It finishes off with a lengthy descent that starts off fast and flowy and finishes tight and full of narrow switchbacks. The route shown requires a shuttle, however, it's only an extra eight miles of relatively easy paved highway riding to close the loop.
Just beware that some Big Sky residents like to take this highway very fast and there's not a lot of shoulder, and that even though it's only an extra eight miles, it may seem like more after the Bangtail Divide takes its toll on your legs and lungs. The trail is excellent ridden in either direction, but most riders prefer south to north as it allows you to finish with the better of the two descents.
Either way, it'll be a long, challenging grunt to gain the ridge.
Once on top, the hardy climber is treated to amazing scenery, with almost a dozen mountain ranges visible on a clear day.
The best scenery is in early summer, as soon as the Bangtail divide melts out and becomes rideable, but before the surrounding ranges shed their white blanket of snow cloaking their high alpine peaks.
The jagged spine of the Bridger range is in your face immediately to the west.
To the east are the equally dramatic Crazy Mountains.
Looking south, Montana's most picturesque, rugged, and remote Absaroka, Beartooth, and Gallatin mountains will make you want to stop in the middle of your ride just to sit in a meadow and soak it all in.
If you hit it during the right time of year, you will also be treated to some wonderful wildflowers. With all this going for it, it's easy to see why no trip to Southern Montana is complete without a spin across the Bangtail Divide.
Just be prepared for serious exertion.
Take plenty of water as there is none up on the ridge, and take a few more calories than you think you'll need.
Also, be prepared for any kind of weather, even in midsummer.
Things change very fast at 8,000 feed in Montana's mountains.
If you're up to it, this is a ride you'll never forget.
Be sure to bring your camera! -Written by John Fisch