Bozeman is surrounded by peaks and broad valleys, which means road biking options abound. But even the state's fastest growing city is a small island of city streets and bike lanes in a vast sea of rural countryside. Montana's vast pastoral landscape means nearly infinite possibilities, and while that much choice is enticing, it can be a bit overwhelming without the right sort of local guidance.
Fortunately, Bozeman has numerous great bike shops, and everyone working in those bike shops knows great rides. For a few new route suggestions, I went down the street to my favorite shop, a hole in the wall operation (with great bike techs) named Alter Cycles, and asked proprietor Mason Griffin. His suggestions:
1. Triple Tree — The classic suburbia hill route and one of Bozeman's most popular after-‐work rides. From Main, take Church Ave south. It turns to Sourdough. Take a left on Triple Tree, which will eventually turn north and become Tayebeshockup. You can turn left on Kagy to return to Sourdough, or you can extend the ride by taking a right on Bozeman Trail Road, then a left on Fort Ellis Road, and riding under I-‐90 to the Kelly Canyon Road.
2. Kelly Canyon to Bridger Canyon — More rural than Triple Tree, with bigger hills. Follow Main street east until it looks like you're about to get on the interstate, but follow the 'Frontage Rd' sign. Go under the highway, and follow this frontage road to Fort Ellis Road, where you'll take a left, then a right onto the Kelly Canyon Road. A short way up you'll pass one of Lewis and Clark's campsites, which probably doesn't look too different today than it did in the early 1700s. Ride over the big but moderate hill on the nearly empty road, then down into ultra-‐scenic Bridger Canyon. Follow Bridger Canyon for more hills up Bridger Road, Jackson Creek Road, or the fresh blacktop on Bracket Creek Road.
3. Hyalite Canyon — The classic 20 mile, 2,000 foot climb from Bozeman to Hyalite Reservoir. The first leg of the Hyalicknic. One of the advantages to doing this ride as part of a picnic is that you do it very, very early in the morning, when there's minimal traffic. This is one of the best rides in the area but traffic on the winding mountain road can get thick. *The best time to ride Hyalite is in the springtime, from late March to Mid may, when the road is closed to motor traffic. Route: From Main, head south on Church Ave, which turns into Sourdough. Turn the obligatory right at Nash, and a left on 19th. which takes a big right hand turn before you take a left on Hyalite Canyon Road. Reverse for the way back.
4. Walker Road — An ultra scenic loop north of town with few hills and nice, quiet flats. From Main, take Wallace north. It turns to L Street and eventually dead-‐ends into a hill. Take a left, which turns into Story Mill Road. Follow north. It turns to Rolling Hills Dr., and after a few rolling hills, takes you to Sypes Canyon Road. Take a left, head down the hill, then take a right at Summer Cutoff, for another enjoyable, moderate hill. When this ends, take a left, which will bear right and head north as Walker Road. The pavement ends at Baseline Road, so take a left there to Springhill Road. Watch out for Springhill Road itself. It's a very narrow two laner with a 70 mph speed limit. I don't recommend Springhill Road as a way to finish the loop. I recommend going back the same way for more of the same quiet you enjoyed on the way out and double the hills.
5. Yellowstone Park, spring or fall — Like Hyalite Canyon, the roads into Yellowstone are closed to motor traffic in the shoulder seasons, but open to biking, allowing savvy locals and tourists the most amazing bike riding experience of all: perfect pavement, with no motor traffic whatsoever to interrupt your bliss, through one of the wildest and scenic national parks in the world. Check the current status of all roads in the park here. From Bozeman, the closest place to enjoy this rare treat is West Yellowstone, an hour and a half south of Bozeman. Don't forget to pack one extra item: bear spray. Interactions are rare, especially on park roads, but you gotta stop for a break sometime. Might as well be prepared.
For more information on the Picnic movement go to: www.thepicnic.co