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MISSOULA RIDE GUIDE
Missoula's an amazing place to ride, but with a high density of trails and a notorious lack of signage, it can be tough to find your way. This guide will make sure you find what you're looking for.
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The Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, lying directly north of town, is what most people think of when they think of mountain biking in Missoula. A wilderness feel, smooth singletrack, and, it's close enough to ride from downtown.
The Rattlesnake NRA was created by the same act of Congress that created the Rattlesnake Wilderness just to the north. While mostly known for smooth trails, Overlook and the Stuart Peak Trail/Upper Spring Gulch have some fun, steeper technical sections. Sawmill Gulch is where you'll find some mellower riding and gentler grades, and on your way back from there make sure not to miss a lap on Ewok, which parallels Sawmill Gulch Road.
Dogs are not allowed in Sawmill Gulch (Fenceline) year-round, but during the summer season dogs are allowed in most other areas. Check the signs at the trailhead.
Marshall Mountain lies just east of the Rattlesnake, NE of Missoula. Head to East Missoula and then up into the hills.
MTB Missoula has built 6 miles of trail there since 2016, including two bike-only, downhill-only tracks: Bjorn Again and the Hello Kitty flow trail.
Because the old ski area base is private property, access this spot from the green gate at the lower Marshall Trailhead. You'll find a sign with clear instructions on how to get up there. It's about a 35 min pedal up the road.
Once you get to the trails, maps in 4 locations help you navigate. Make sure to take a few warm up laps on the jump line, "Little Huck". It's right in the middle of the property near the old rope tow hut. The best thing about Marshall is that it's really easy to spin a bunch of laps once you're up there.
Marshall is MTB Missoula's laboratory for proving that progressive trail management concepts can work in Missoula - and it's all a product of our strong relationship with Five Valleys Land Trust, who own the land. If you like the trails here, consider supporting their work as well as ours.
On the southeast corner of town, Pattee is the closest place to ride from downtown or the University. The MoZ (say Mow-zee) trail leaves from the south edge of campus at the Maurice Ave Trailhead. It's also the first trail to melt out in the spring, so you'll find the dirt-starved locals doing laps on it in February or March.
Continuing up the MoZ takes you around the corner of Mt. Sentinel, the "M" mountain, and up into Crazy Canyon on Crooked Trail. From here, you can access the Sam Braxton area, head up toward Mt. Sentinel, or for the very ambitious, take the logging road up to University Peak.
Pattee will also form the NE corner of the Dean Stone project, in the future.
About halfway to Lolo, Blue Mountain sits on the south end of the Missoula Valley. Blue Mountain is notable for being home to much rockier trails than the other nearby areas. Motorized use in some areas means the trails are often bermed and definitely technical. It's a fun place to ride.
The Blue Mountain Sampler is a great mix of the closer trails- some narrower non-motorized front side trails, and some of the faster, rougher back side moto trails.
For a technical challenge, look to Deadman's ridge. In the summer season, you can shuttle to nearly the top of the trail. It's a moto hillclimb, so watch out for uphill trail users, but that also means it's the steepest, rockiest piece of dirt around.
If riding for a whole day with only a slight chance of encountering another human is your thing, Missoula is a great place to be. This list contains rides within a 1.5 - 2 hour drive (some much shorter) that will provide a wild and rugged experience.
Those stunning photos that fill this site? All taken on these rides.
These rides put you in remote areas, where EMS response is limited and slow. Keep that in mind, and be prepared. A lot of trees fall down in this part of the world, and a lot of bears live here too, and you never know which one is around the next corner.
So many trees fall down each winter -- about 400 on an average year on just the Sheep Mountain trails, for example -- that it takes a dedicated effort by the Forest Service and user groups like MTB Missoula to keep these trails open. Without MTBM's dedicated volunteer sawyers, Sheep Mountain would only be cleared once every 3 to 5 years. We think that's not enough! Consider packing a folding handsaw when you ride, or coming along on one of our volunteer days.
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