Blazing the Trail

Many mountain bikers don’t realize that for every minute they enjoy on their favorite trails, volunteers spent hours manicuring that piece of hillside into flowy singletrack. Trail maintenance is an important and long-term task that never goes away, and organizations around Bozeman are creating partnerships to make it a priority—helping to build community and increase recreational enjoyment for all.

“There’s nothing like riding down a trail that you’ve made better. It just makes you grin that much harder,” says Tim Hawke, who serves on the board of directors for Dirt Concern, the mountain biking branch of the Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club. In May, he organized volunteers from across the state to clear trees on the Continental Divide Trail.

“I really enjoy trail work and I want to get everyone to start taking a little more responsibility,” he says. “Because land agencies, even though it’s part of their mandate to maintain trails, don’t always have the money or manpower. It only makes sense that the people who use trails repair them and take a proactive approach to land-use issues.”

Basic trail maintenance includes cutting back tree limbs, clearing debris, and repairing water-erosion ruts. Trails are also rebuilt to be more sustainable.

Ben Donatelle, co-founder of the Gallatin Wilderness and Recreation Partnership (WRP), which works to improve trails while protecting wilderness lands, said the organization has logged more than 700 hours of volunteer time on Leverich Canyon, a five-and-a-half mile loop that’s popular with the after-work crowd. The trail was rerouted in August 2010 and will face its final round of fine-tuning this summer.

This August, volunteers and organizations will build the East Bridger Trail, which travels along the face of Bridger Bowl from the South Fork of Brackett Creek, past Slushman’s lift to the Forest Boundary west of Pine Creek. And on National Trails Day, June 2, the WRP, Dirt Concern, and the Bridger Ski Foundation are coordinating volunteers to add a trail across the west shore of Highlight Reservoir, creating a 15-mile loop.

There is also hope that the new mountain bike “pump track”—a continuous loop of rollers and berms that can be ridden without pedaling—which is under construction near the Bozeman Skatepark on 20th Street, will be complete by mid-summer; but this largely depends on donations and volunteer work. “That’s going to be a great thing for the town,” Hawke says. “Kids will have a blast on it, and every mountain biker in town will improve from riding it.”

The Dirt Concern also hosts regular trail maintenance days on Mondays. If you’re interested in getting involved, check their Facebook page for more information. You can also visit for ongoing projects.