The flavor of riding around Whitefish, MT can be likened to a well-balanced, three-course meal.
There are short loops to satiate those initial hunger cravings, hearty all-day epics as the entrée, and lift-served flow trails to end the feast with a slight sugar rush.
A decade ago, it was a very different meat-and-potatoes style of riding. All the ingredients were present, but there were no chefs to envision and create the full buffet. Since then, the community has rallied to develop and maintain a growing menu of trails that is delicious, exhilarating and fully satisfying.
To whet the palate, the Whitefish Trail is the perfect way to prepare for local riding in the Flathead Valley. When I first rolled into town 10 years ago, only a few sections of the trail, linked by logging roads on lumber company property, were within pedaling distance from town. There was always the threat of one of those trails disappearing during a logging operation. Now, thanks to a group of dedicated locals, the nonprofit Whitefish Legacy Partners and generous land owners, that once-truncated assortment of singletrack has been linked into a 36-mile trail system, all rideable from town, all fast, flowy and as smooth as butter. One section is still missing, and the completed trail will provide the final link between town trails and those of nearby Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Every menu has an old standby, one that never lets down, and the Tally Lake area has been a staple of Whitefish mountain biking since the beginning. Whipped up well before the days of excavator-polished flow trails, it is true old-school, hand-built, skinny singletrack. While the trail isn’t overly technical, it is rugged enough to warrant full attention and a tap on the brakes from time to time. Bill Creek Trail, known locally as #800, is another example of a Whitefish classic, a multidirectional ride that is as tasty heading north as it is south, each direction with its own distinct flavor.
Pedaling along the Whitefish Trail will bring you to numerous other riding zones, including Spencer Mountain, home to some of the spiciest trails around, complete with woodwork that would make any engineer proud. This includes a handful of black-diamond, “expert-only” options—if you like airtime and tricky features, head to jump trails like Otter Pop, Flow Factory, Spooky Pete’s, Recess, and Malice in Plunderland, which can keep even the most ambitious shredders satisfied (and scared).
For those looking for pure, gluttonous descents, the recently built downhill trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort deliver just that. Like other areas, the resort has offered lift-accessed mountain biking since the mid-1990s, albeit of the XC loop or service-road variety. But a few years ago, they began constructing purpose-built trails like Kashmir, a beautiful gauntlet of berms that will leave riders’ heads spinning. A collaboration between local trail-building company Terraflow Trail Systems and Whitefish Mountain Resort’s crew, Kashmir was recently recognized by IMBA as a “model flow trail.”
Perhaps the most impressive part of the Whitefish culinary experience are the chefs themselves. Throughout the past 10 years, the quality of riding around Whitefish has made leaps and bounds, and that can be attributed directly to entities such as the Flathead Area Mountain Bikers and Whitefish Legacy Partners. They have organized and rallied the community to take ownership of trail development through fundraising, trail building and maintenance.
A great meal is much more than the sum of its individual courses; it’s the vibe and ambiance that form the whole. Combined with the town’s multiple breweries and bustling culture, Whitefish is the type of establishment that leaves customers hungry for a second helping.
Freehub Magazine Issue 8.3, the Montana Photo Book, is a visual guide to the trails of the Treasure State. We selected four local photographers, Reid Morth, Jason O'Neil, Tom Robertson and Nick VanHorn, to document their respective hometowns of Big Sky, Helena, Missoula and Whitefish and capture the experience and vibe that fill the mountains of the Montana high country. Be sure to check out all the other articles!