Beardance is one of the classics in the Flathead even though it lacks some of the amazing views other trails enjoy. With the super challenging rock obstacles, some man-made features, and narrow singletrack this is arguably the most complete trail in the valley that will cater to each rider's strengths and weaknesses. Don't let the first mile beat you down, this one gets easier as you go.
Some folks choose to shuttle this route, but the drive is much longer than the downhill, which makes the shuttle pretty horrible. Plus, the climb is awesome, so just pedal and enjoy. About 15 minutes south of Big Fork you'll see a sign and a small parking lot on the west side of Highway 35. Park here, the trail starts across the street. Be careful crossing since it is a busy highway.
The first mile is tough, right off the bat you'll have to clear a 2ft step of knotted root and another tough rock climb smack in the middle of the first switchback. The rocks continue and the grade bounces between 5 and 25%. In a half mile, you'll find a sign for the "Phillips Trail" which heads to the left. To stay on Beardance, continue to the right.
After this sign you power through another section of sharp rocks but the climb gets progressively easier. There are still several switchbacks and the trail remains technical with difficult roots and small drainage crossings that create a lot of mud but most riders will be able to clean the majority of these parts.
Roughly 2 miles in, you'll find another trail intersection. The Crane Creek Trail connects on your left and Beardance continues straight. Immediately after passing the intersection the trail becomes rocky, muddy and rooted again but there are some split logs to ride up if you want to test your balance. Once you clear this part the climb becomes super gradual.
Just over a mile later you'll climb onto a forest road, turn right and in 10m you'll see the trail continue to the left. As you keep climbing note some of the jumps and drops in this section, they make the trip down more interesting. Hit another forest road, again turn right, and again find the trail on the left side in about 20m.
This final bit is tight, overgrown singletrack, so stay centered on the trail. This whole part flows well and is seldom used. At the 6.7-mile mark you'll hit the top.
Turn around and hold on, the trip down goes fast but can be sketchy. The trail is tight and gets steep just when the roots and rocks tend to pop up. This descent is incredible but requires a lot of focus.