Photo: Bangtail Divide Epic, image by BobAllenImages.
Built in 2003, the Bangtail Divide Trail (BDT) quickly became the local go-to trail for those looking for a long ride without a long drive. The BDT offers easy access to a ridgeline traverse with stellar views of multiple mountain ranges, fields of wildflowers and well-crafted singletrack sections guaranteed to satisfy.
The trail was built by crews led by Terry Johnson, a local trail building legend, who was ahead of the sustainable, bike-friendly building curve by delivering backcountry grade reversals, rideable switchbacks and flowing lines long before these techniques were popularized.
23.8 miles point-to-point (plus 8 miles on pavement to return if not shuttling or riding out and back). South to north is recommended for first-timers.
Estimated Ride Time:
Total Feet of Climbing:
Bozeman, MT, 19 miles up Bridger Canyon
A well-maintained, well-marked trail that is generally smooth and not very technical, so it rates as an intermediate ride in the skills department. But climbing lungs and legs are required.
Standard Montana rules apply: The weather can change in an instant, so be prepared with extra layers and wet-weather gear. Spring and fall are hit-or-miss due to snowfall and snowmelt, so plan on a summer day before afternoon thunderstorms become a possibility. From the beginning of June through mid-September, you will almost always luck out.
The BDT starts climbing right out of the parking lot. Utilizing 20 switchbacks, some of which are stacked rock walls that are nothing short of rideable sculptures, the trail ascends through sections of old growth and newly logged sections, eventually arriving at the main ridgeline of the Bangtail Mountains.
The trail continues to contour and climb north along the skyline through deep, dark, timbered sections alternating with wide-open meadows that provide Sound-of-Music alpine views. Grassy Mountain is the last climb before the fast and flowing, 5-mile descent down to the Bracket Creek trailhead.
The success and popularity of the Bangtail Divide Trail has leveraged the construction of new trails on National Forest land across the canyon in the Bridger Mountains. The hope is to construct a return singletrack trail that would offer an extended epic loop of 40+ miles of natural surface trail.
From Main Street in the center of Bozeman take Rouse St. north following signs toward Bridger Bowl Ski Area. Rouse turns into Bridger Canyon Road (highway 86). Continue north for approximately 11 miles. Turn right on Stone Creek Road (a dirt road). Follow that road to large parking area where road is gated. The trail takes off the south side of road just before gate. The Bracket Creek trailhead is another 8 miles north of Stone Creek just east of the highway 86/Bracket Creek intersection