Cycling Southwest Montana offers scenic solitude

With right at a million residents under the Big Sky of Montana, there are many wide-open spaces and roadways guaranteed to tickle the fancy of any skinny-tire zealot. Road touring across Montana offers a more authentic and intimate tour of this grand state, and few regions provide as many thrills per mile as Southwest Montana. Tucked away halfway between Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park, Southwest Montana offers scenic vistas that rival the national parks to its north and south — with far less traffic.

Located on the banks of the famed Madison River west of the fishing/art community of Ennis is a ribbon of high altitude rolling hills known as Highway 287. This is Montana at its most spectacular, with the towering Madison Range to the east.  Time your journey to coincide with the warmer late June-July-August summer months to ensure the best cycling conditions possible. Stop at notorious Nevada City, where time pressed pause during its Wild West heyday. Or rest your cycling muscles at Virginia City’s haunted Fairweather Inn and take in a performance of the Brewery Follies at the historic Gilbert Brewery — just a short walk from the inn. The bawdy performance is a local and visitor favorite!

The annual RATPOD cycle tour benefits Camp Mak-A-Dream, a camp for young cancer patients from across the country. Ride Around the Pioneers in One Day (RATPOD) begins and ends in scenic Dillon (don’t forget to stop at the Patagonia Outlet for any last minute gear purchases!) and climbs up and around the Pioneer Mountains and back along the trout-heavy Wise River. Registration is sold out every year with a burgeoning waiting list as well, so sign up early!

Lastly, a cycle trip to Southwest Montana is not complete without a few days spent along Highway 1, better known as the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Highway.  Beginning in Anaconda, a former hub for copper mining in Montana, Hwy 1 runs along smelting relics and climbs through canyons to stunning Georgetown Lake. Stop for a quick swim in the clear, blue waters and then get back in the saddle for the mostly downhill ride to Philipsburg and a milkshake at the Doe Brothers Soda Fountain, an authentic soda fountain located in the perfectly preserved former mining community. Don’t forget a chocolate treat on your way out of town at the Sweet Palace!


Southwest Montana, formerly known as Gold West Country, is a large swath of mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and hearty communities smack dab in between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.  Southwest Montana offers a sampling of all of Montana’s lightly-tread amenities, including mega-mountains, lunker trout, budding melting pots for art and culture in Butte and Helena, remote yet luxurious escapes, and a slice of the Wild West through the numerous and well-preserved ghost towns in its mineral-rich hills.



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back to the full list >