Runnin' Dirty

Early-season, dirt-road running.

Come spring, we’re all bored of circling subdivisions and itching to get on real trails again. But in Bozeman, snow lingers on the best trails till summer, and melt-out can make conditions miserable for the ill-prepared. To put miles on something softer than pavement and still have a dry run, let your feet fall on one of these great dirt roads. They’ll give you the scenery and change of footing you’ve been craving to satisfy that spring itch.

River Road: Four Corners to Gateway
A great conditioning run, this road lends itself to a broad range of fitness levels—you can turn around whenever you want, making it perfect for a relaxing Sunday jaunt or a more strenuous half-day epic. The most scenic section, a 12-mile round-trip, starts at the intersection of Norris and River roads and winds idly along the Gallatin and several of its tributaries until reaching Axtell Anceney Rd. Be aware of uneven conditions, especially early season.

Revenue Flats: Between Norris and McAllister
About an hour from Bozeman, Revenue Flats offers a variety of typically sunny dirt roads (and some nice rock climbing). An elaborate road network lets you pick your passion—distance-runners can try the 20-mile round-trip to McAllister, or choose a shorter out-and-back to N. Meadow Creek Rd. Or just meander the hardpack, running by rock crags and climbers. Camp out, stay the weekend, and enjoy a soak at Norris Hot Springs before the ride home. Don’t forget to bring layers, as spring temps are unpredictable and the winds can really pick up here at night. Be wary of snowdrifts in early spring; four-wheel-drive is always a good idea. Check out Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest maps for more trail info.

Springhill: North of Belgrade
Far away from the subdivisions of Bozeman lies a vast series of dirt roads with excellent options for runners and minimal dust in the spring. These hilly paths amble between the foothills of the Bridgers and the Horseshoe Hills, offering runners an excellent backdrop for their workouts—especially near sunset. With countless routes to play on, you can expect the footing to be mostly soft, but not overly muddy (unless it rained the night before; in that case, enjoy the gumbo). Park at Corbly Gulch and let your feet lead the way south, across Springhill Community Rd. and down Walker Rd. Hang a left on Forswall and head up to Truman Gulch, or continue on Walker and loop back around whenever you get tired. For a longer out-and-back, push your limits and see how long your legs can carry you north along Rocky Mountain Rd. Enjoy the wide-open vistas and bring plenty of water for the open road.