“A high elevation wilderness loop with lakes and big views.”
— Matt Barnes
Closed May 1 to July 15 for mountain goat habitat
This is one of the great high country wilderness rides in Montana. This loop will take you along singletrack through lodgepole forest, big rock canyons, high alpine plateaus, and steep talus slopes. This is bear country, with food storage restrictions, so bear spray is recommended. The trail is also open to motors so expect some loose sections but nearly all are rideable if you are ready for them. This ride has it all for the backcountry biker!
Need to Know
This ride can be completed as a shuttled point-to-point or as a loop.
- To shuttle, leave a car at the parking area at the bottom of Rock Creek Trail and then drive to the Curly Creek Trail.
- To ride as a loop, hang a right at the bottom of Rock Creek Trail onto S. Boulder Road and climb back to your car. Completing the loop on the road adds about 4.5 miles and 900' of elevation gain.
There is good camping along the road.
This ride starts at the Curly Creek trailhead, there is another route via the Curly Lake Trail
that starts a few miles farther up the South Boulder Road. About the first quarter mile is a hike-a-bike section for all but the fittest climbers, it's usually very loose also. After that, the climb to Curly Lake is well-maintained singletrack with stable rock gardens, and small creek crossings.
At Curly Lake, there is a great spot to catch your breath and look around, so enjoy the great views here. Take Curly Lake Trail
which continues up the valley and wraps to the west of the lake. From the lake, the trail climbs up the first large saddle to the north through open lodgepole forest. This climb is steady and not very technical.
At the first big saddle, you see the size of the country and can look at the Highland Mtns to the west. This is another good break spot because the climb from here is the most challenging of the ride. Take a right and ride past the sign marking your way and begin the series of steep & loose switchbacks. This climb isn't long but is challenging with the elevation and technical switchbacks.
At the top of this climb is the large plateau above treeline that makes the ride very unique. The views in all directions are huge and the trail the falls away to the north is a fast rocky downhill! This starts a very long descent to McGovern Creek. The trail goes from the plateau and after a sharp left, contours down a steep side slope. The trail goes through several very steep and loose switchbacks, most are rideable if you commit to the turn. The last few miles down to the creek are fast, and on solid trail with lots of rocks and straight sections. Watch out for a few more tight switchbacks hidden in here.
After a water refill at McGovern Creek climb up the short steep section north of the creek. After this climb, the grade lessens for several miles. This section rolls very nicely after the earlier sections and you can make good time, though a few stops on the open ridgelines yield some nice view down into the South Boulder canyon.
There is a sign at the McGovern Creek Trail intersection. This trail can be descended to shorten the ride if desired or needed and will exit you in the town of Mammoth. To continue on the ride stay left and follow the trail through thick lodgepole forest. There are some very technical sections between here and the next intersection. Give them a try, they are very rideable in most conditions.
At the intersection with the Rock Creek Trail
, take a hard right and begin the final descent! This downhill is a great mix of fast open sections, loose rock corners, and flowy singletrack through the creek bottom. There is a gate that is near the bottom after you cross the creek. Leave it as you found it for the cows. After a few more tight switchbacks at the end you pop out at the Rock Creek Trail
. Hopefully you have a shuttle rig there, if not begin the ride up the South Boulder Road to the point of beginning.