Trailing Away

Classic bike rides on the chopping block. 

In Montana, whenever the nearby national forest undergoes a Forest Plan Revision or Travel Plan update, mountain bikers hold their breath.

Time and again, updates mean closures, and trails once open to and enjoyed by cyclists become off-limits.

No matter how much support bikers muster or how loudly we appeal to logic and justice, we’re banned—outright and in perpetuity. Now that the Custer-Gallatin is undergoing its Forest Plan Revision, much-loved rides face the same fate. Here are a few on the chopping block. 

Mile Creek
This backcountry epic, along with several other trails in the Lionhead west of West Yellowstone, could be closed to cyclists in just over a year. This loss would be particularly heartbreaking given the many hours of volunteer time bikers have devoted to the area. 

Chestnut Mountain
A close-to-town favorite, Chestnut offers fantastic views of Paradise Valley and grueling climbs that seem never-ending. There are alternatives within the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that remove bikers from this trail, and while loss is unlikely, it’s not impossible. 

South Cottonwood
Believe it or not, cyclists could lose access to South Cottonwood Creek. Much of the lower section of the trail would remain open to bikes, but the high-drainage singletrack would close, making the outstanding opportunities for solitude and backcountry exploration evaporate. 

Corbly Gulch
Even though Corbly was recently rerouted to provide sustainable trail, mountain bikers could be banned from it. While few would consider the west side of the Bridgers—or any part of the Bridgers, for that matter—eligible for Congressionally designated Wilderness, some within the Wilderness movement seek to remove users from these areas, without sacrificing any of their own access.

North Dry Creek
As if Livingston cyclists didn’t have it bad enough, they could now lose access to an area recently deemed acceptable for bike travel. The North Dry – West Pine connector was recently rerouted with sustainable grades in mind, but going forward, bike access is up in the air.

As the Custer-Gallatin finalizes the Forest Plan Revision, trail closures are imminent. Hikers and horse-packers will enjoy uninterrupted access—but again, Montana mountain bikers will be kicked off trails they’ve ridden, cared for, and in some cases built. Unless cyclists speak up and show the Forest Service that we belong.

Adam Oliver is the advocacy director for the Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association.