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The Ultimate Guide: Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in Montana

The Ultimate Guide: Top 10 Motorcycle Rides in Montana

Montana, known for its stunning landscapes and open skies, offers motorcycle enthusiasts some of the most breathtaking rides in the United States. From the sun-drenched peaks of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the expansive vistas of the Big Sky Country Run, there's no shortage of epic journeys for riders of all levels. This ultimate guide will take you through the top 10 motorcycle rides in Montana, each promising an unforgettable adventure through the Treasure State's most scenic routes.

Key Takeaways

  • Montana's diverse terrain offers a variety of motorcycle rides, each with unique scenic beauty and challenges.
  • Going-to-the-Sun Road is a must-ride for its dramatic views and thrilling twists through Glacier National Park.
  • Beartooth Highway is renowned for its high-altitude landscapes and exhilarating switchbacks.
  • The Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive and the Bitterroot Valley Loop provide a more relaxed riding experience with picturesque lake and mountain views.
  • Motorcycle enthusiasts can combine their love for riding with other outdoor activities in Montana, such as fishing, wildlife tours, and water sports.

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

1. Going-to-the-Sun Road

The Going-to-the-Sun Road, a National Historic Landmark, is a marvel of engineering and natural beauty, offering a 53-mile journey through the heart of Glacier National Park in Montana. This iconic road is renowned for its narrow, winding path that provides an intimate encounter with the Rocky Mountains' rugged terrain. Open seasonally, the road presents a unique opportunity for motorcyclists seeking an exhilarating ride amidst breathtaking landscapes.

During the spring months, the road becomes an exclusive haven for cyclists, free from vehicular traffic. This period allows for an unencumbered experience, where riders can immerse themselves in the serenity of the park without the usual congestion. The conditions, however, demand caution as they are ripe for hypothermia, with cool temperatures and moisture from snowmelt.

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is not just a route; it is a journey through the very essence of Montana's wilderness, offering a symphony of scenic vistas and the raw beauty of nature at every turn.

For those planning to embark on this adventure, here are some key considerations:

  • Seasonal Availability: The road is only open to motor vehicles for a limited time each year, typically from late June to October, depending on weather conditions.
  • Cycling Period: Before the road opens to cars, there is a window from late April to early June when cyclists can enjoy the road car-free.
  • Safety Precautions: Riders should be prepared for variable weather and be vigilant of hypothermia risks.
  • Accommodations: Nearby Whitefish offers lodging options for those looking to extend their stay in the region.

2. Beartooth Highway

2. Beartooth Highway

The Beartooth Highway is a marvel of engineering and natural splendor, offering motorcyclists an exhilarating journey through some of Montana's most breathtaking landscapes. This route is characterized by its sharp curves, steep grades, and stunning vistas, making it a must-ride for any motorcycle enthusiast.

Route Characteristics:

  • Length: Approximately 68 miles
  • Starting Point: Near Red Lodge, Montana
  • Ending Point: Cooke City, Montana
  • Elevation: Peaks at 10,947 feet

Motorcyclists can expect a ride that is both challenging and rewarding, with opportunities to witness expansive views of the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains. The highway's highest point, the Beartooth Pass, provides a panoramic spectacle that is unparalleled in the region.

The Beartooth Highway is not just a road; it is a journey through the very essence of Montana's rugged beauty.

Safety is paramount on this ride, as weather conditions can change rapidly and the high elevation can affect both riders and their machines. It is advised to check weather forecasts and prepare for varying conditions before embarking on this adventure.

3. Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive

3. Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive

The Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive is a journey through the heart of Montana's pristine wilderness, offering riders an intimate experience with the state's natural grandeur. This route is characterized by its tranquil lakes, dense forests, and the towering peaks of the Mission and Swan mountain ranges. The drive encapsulates the essence of Montana's rugged beauty, making it a must-ride for motorcycle enthusiasts.

The Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive is not just a route; it's a passage through some of Montana's most breathtaking landscapes, where every turn presents a new vista to be savored.

Riders embarking on this adventure should be prepared for a variety of conditions and take note of the following key points:

  • The drive stretches over a considerable distance, offering numerous opportunities for stops and exploration.
  • Wildlife sightings are common, so riders should remain vigilant and respectful of the natural inhabitants.
  • Seasonal weather changes can affect road conditions; therefore, checking forecasts and road statuses is crucial.

The Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive is a testament to the untamed spirit of Montana, providing an unforgettable journey through the state's wilderness.

4. Kings Hill Scenic Byway

4. Kings Hill Scenic Byway

The Kings Hill Scenic Byway offers motorcyclists a remarkable journey through the heart of Montana's picturesque landscapes. This route is not just a ride; it's an experience that encompasses the essence of what makes Montana's terrain so unique and captivating. The byway stretches over a distance that promises an adventure filled with natural beauty and historical intrigue.

Motorcyclists embarking on this route will find themselves surrounded by the diverse topography of Montana, from rolling hills to majestic mountains. The ride is characterized by its serene environment, allowing riders to fully immerse themselves in the tranquility of the open road. The Kings Hill Scenic Byway is a testament to the allure of Montana's great outdoors, providing an escape into a world where the journey is as significant as the destination.

The Kings Hill Scenic Byway is a journey through the very soul of Montana's natural grandeur, offering riders an unparalleled experience of freedom and beauty.

For those planning to take on this route, here is a brief overview of what to expect:

  • Starting Point: The northern end of the byway begins just a short ride from the rugged and historical Skyline Drive.
  • Elevation and Terrain: Expect a thrilling 6,000 feet of climbing, leading to a ridge crest that offers near-treeline riding.
  • Scenic Highlights: Riders will be treated to views of abandoned mining towns, the stunning Sawtooth Valley, and the rejuvenated mining town turned tourist destination of Wallace.
  • Best Time to Ride: The ideal riding season stretches from mid-May to late September, offering the best conditions for this scenic adventure.

The Kings Hill Scenic Byway is not only a route but a passage through time, where each mile tells a story of the land and its history. It is a ride that should be on every motorcyclist's bucket list, promising an experience that is both exhilarating and reflective.

5. Bitterroot Valley Loop

5. Bitterroot Valley Loop

The Bitterroot Valley Loop offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance, making it a must-ride for motorcycle enthusiasts. This route takes riders through the heart of the Bitterroot Mountains, providing breathtaking views and a sense of solitude that is hard to find elsewhere.

The Bitterroot Valley Loop is not just a journey through stunning landscapes, but also a ride through history, where every turn offers a glimpse into the rugged past of Montana.

Motorcyclists can expect a variety of road conditions, from wide open gravel to rocky and rutted paths. The ride is suitable for advanced beginners and offers challenges such as downed trees and steep climbs, requiring quick thinking and preparedness. The loop includes long descents and ascents, sandwiched between two of the largest Wilderness areas in the Lower 48, presenting an exhilarating experience for riders.

Here are some key points to consider before embarking on the Bitterroot Valley Loop:

  • The route is demanding and exposed, offering a true wilderness experience.
  • Riders will encounter a mix of forest roads, old rail grade, and pavement.
  • Public lands and water sources are abundant, with relatively frequent resupply options.
  • The loop features a significant amount of climbing, especially near Elk City, with a 14,000-foot elevation gain over 125 miles.

The Bitterroot Valley Loop is a testament to the adventurous spirit, where the raw beauty of Montana can be experienced on two wheels.

6. Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway

6. Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway

The Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway offers a breathtaking journey through Montana's rugged terrain, providing riders with an authentic taste of the state's natural beauty. This route is characterized by its long ascents and descents, challenging even the most experienced riders with its rocky and potholed dirt roads. The ride is suitable for advanced beginners, but requires quick reflexes to navigate around the potential obstacles that lie in wait.

The Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway is not just a ride; it's an adventure that demands respect for the wilderness and a readiness for the unexpected.

Along the way, riders have the opportunity to explore remnants of Montana's rich mining history, including abandoned towns and an intact gold mining dredge. The byway also offers several vantage points with panoramic views of the Bitterroot Valley and the northern Bitterroot mountains, making it a favorite among those who appreciate the grandeur of Montana's landscapes.

Region Miles Days Out Physical Difficulty Elevation Gain Recommended Tire Size Technical Difficulty
Montana 2,700 40-65 5/10 120,000' ≥ 2.2” 4.5/10

 

The table above provides a snapshot of the route's specifications, highlighting the physical and technical challenges that await. With an elevation gain of 120,000 feet over the course of 2,700 miles, the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway is a testament to the endurance and spirit of motorcycle adventurers.

7. Flathead Lake Circle Tour

7. Flathead Lake Circle Tour

 

The Flathead Lake Circle Tour offers motorcyclists an unparalleled opportunity to experience the beauty of Montana's largest natural freshwater lake. The route encircles the entirety of Flathead Lake, providing riders with breathtaking views and a variety of landscapes.

  • Starting Point: The tour begins in the charming town of Polson, located at the lake's southern end.
  • Scenic Highlights: Riders will enjoy vistas of the Mission Mountains and the lush orchards of the Flathead Valley.
  • Distance: The complete loop is approximately 80 miles, making it an ideal day trip.
  • Stops: Quaint lakeside towns such as Bigfork and Lakeside offer delightful spots for rest and refreshment.
The Flathead Lake Circle Tour is not just a ride; it's an immersive journey through the heart of Montana's natural splendor. Riders are encouraged to take their time, savor the views, and enjoy the local hospitality that these communities have to offer.

8. Glacier National Park Loop

8. Glacier National Park Loop

The Glacier National Park Loop offers a unique opportunity for motorcyclists to immerse themselves in the rugged beauty of Montana's wilderness. This route is particularly famous for the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a National Historic Landmark that provides a thrilling ride with its tight turns and steep grades. The road stretches for 50 miles from West Glacier to St. Mary, presenting riders with breathtaking views and a sense of adventure.

It is recommended that you start early to fully experience the serenity of the park without the congestion of heavy traffic. The early morning light also enhances the natural beauty, making for an unforgettable ride.

Riding distances and elevation gains are significant factors to consider when planning your journey through the park. From Lake McDonald Lodge, the distances to key points along the route are as follows:

  • Avalanche Creek: 5.5 miles (8.9 km) and 219 feet elevation gain
  • West Tunnel: 12.7 miles (20.4 km) and 1,030 feet elevation gain
  • The Loop: 13.3 miles (21.4 km) and 1,100 feet elevation gain
  • Big Bend: 18 miles (29 km) and 2,545 feet elevation gain
  • Logan Pass: 21 miles (33.8 km) and 3,427 feet elevation gain

For those seeking a car-free experience, there are periods in spring when the road is open exclusively to cyclists. This allows for a more relaxed and safe ride, free from the concerns of traffic. Always be prepared for changing weather conditions and consider the potential for hypothermia, especially during the cooler months.

9. Yellowstone River Ride

9. Yellowstone River Ride

The Yellowstone River Ride is a captivating journey that offers motorcyclists an immersive experience in one of America's most iconic landscapes. This route is renowned for its breathtaking views and the opportunity to witness the natural beauty of Yellowstone National Park.

Motorcyclists embarking on this ride should be prepared for a variety of conditions, as the terrain can be as diverse as the wildlife inhabiting the area. Safety is paramount, and riders are advised to wear appropriate gear to ensure a stylish and safe adventure.

The Yellowstone River Ride is not just a path through nature, but a passage through history, where each turn offers a new vista and a chance to connect with the wild heart of Montana.

For those seeking guidance or equipment, local businesses such as Yellowstone's Casanova Guided Tours and GT eBike Rentals have received high praise for their services. These establishments enhance the riding experience by providing expert knowledge and quality gear.

Below is a summary of services available for riders in the Yellowstone area:

Service Provider Rating Offerings
Glacier Outfitters 5.0 River Rafting, Bike Tours
Yellowstone's Casanova Guided Tours 5.0 Multi-day Tours, Heritage Tours
GT eBike Rentals 5.0 Bike Tours, Kayaking
Explore Yellowstone Like a Local - Off-Road Tours, Bike Tours

Riders are encouraged to explore the Yellowstone River Ride, a route that promises an unforgettable experience with every mile.

10. Big Sky Country Run

10. Big Sky Country Run

The Big Sky Country Run offers motorcyclists an unparalleled experience of Montana's vast landscapes. With routes that showcase the state's natural beauty, riders can immerse themselves in the freedom of the open road. This ride is not just about the destination but the journey itself, where every turn brings a new vista and every mile further connects you to the spirit of the West.

Montana's bike tours are highly rated by enthusiasts, with many options available for different skill levels and preferences. Whether you prefer a self-guided adventure or a structured tour, the Big Sky Country Run has something to offer. The following table summarizes some key aspects of bike tours in the region:

Rating (out of 5 bubbles) Tour Type Notes
5.0 E-Bike Tours Accessible to various abilities
5.0 Gear Rentals Flexible and knowledgeable
5.0 Private Tours Personalized experiences
The essence of the Big Sky Country Run is not merely in traversing the terrain but in embracing the sense of adventure that comes with exploring Montana's open spaces. It's an invitation to experience the state's grandeur on two wheels, with the wind as your companion and the horizon as your guide.

For those seeking a comprehensive experience, Montana offers a plethora of motorcycle gear and accessories, ensuring riders are well-equipped for their journey. The state's commitment to providing an unforgettable experience is evident in the quality of services and the variety of scenic routes available, including the top 10 motorcycle rides in Colorado for those extending their adventure beyond Montana's borders.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top motorcycle rides in Montana?

The top motorcycle rides in Montana include Going-to-the-Sun Road, Beartooth Highway, Seeley-Swan Scenic Drive, Kings Hill Scenic Byway, Bitterroot Valley Loop, Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, Flathead Lake Circle Tour, Glacier National Park Loop, Yellowstone River Ride, and Big Sky Country Run.

When is the best time of year to go on motorcycle rides in Montana?

The best time to go on motorcycle rides in Montana is during the summer and early fall months when the weather is warm and the roads are clear of snow.

Are there any bike tours available in Montana?

Yes, Montana offers a variety of bike tours, including e-bike tours and rentals, which cater to different fitness and ability levels.

Can I rent a motorcycle or e-bike for touring in Montana?

Yes, there are businesses like Montana E-Bikes & More that offer motorcycle and e-bike rentals for touring the scenic routes in Montana.

What should I prepare for a motorcycle ride in Montana?

You should prepare appropriate gear for changing weather conditions, a map or GPS device, a first-aid kit, and ensure your motorcycle is in good condition for the ride.

Are there any specific safety considerations for motorcycle riding in Montana?

Yes, riders should be aware of wildlife on the roads, changing weather conditions, and varying road elevations and conditions. It's important to ride within your ability and be prepared for emergencies.

Can beginners enjoy motorcycle rides in Montana?

Yes, there are routes suitable for beginners, but it's recommended that less experienced riders take caution and possibly start with guided tours or easier routes.

Are there any popular events or gatherings for motorcycle enthusiasts in Montana?

Montana hosts various motorcycle events and gatherings throughout the year. It's best to check local listings and motorcycle clubs for the latest events.

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