Cycle Montana - Big Sky Country

Cycle through Big Sky Country
David Pinkernell
Price :
Surface :
Duration :
8 days
Support :
Fully Supported
Difficulty :
Level 4

Initially meeting in Adventure Cycling’s hometown of Missoula, we’ll start with a shuttle to Bozeman before making our way back to Missoula over the course of the next seven days. Throughout the ride, we’ll get to experience a number of delightful small towns and soak in hot springs along the way. We’ll cross the Continental Divide and spin through beautiful Flint Creek and Blackfoot valleys.

We’ll stopover in Butte before going over Big Hole Pass making it into the Big Hole Valley, a basin so broad and sparsely populated that you’ll feel as if you’ve ridden back in time 100 years. Keep an eye out — you may catch sight of a bear scampering through the sagebrush, en route from one mountain range to another!

In our final days, we’ll have the chance to visit Jackson Hot Springs, the Big Hole National Battlefield, and climb over Chief Joseph and Lost Trail passes. The final stretch to Missoula takes us through the Bitterroot Valley, where we’ll spend most of our ride on the bike path that parallels the U.S. 93 between Hamilton and the hometown of Adventure Cycling. You’ll return home with a mother lode of memories from this glorious corner of Big Sky Country.

e-bike friendly: Click to read our FAQ

Photos by Derek Gallagher | David Pinkernell | Curtis Corlew | David Pinkernell
Jun 22 - Jun 29, 2024
Space still available

"This was our first tour, but it won't be our last!"


Day 1. Missoula to Bozeman, Montana, Shuttle, 0 miles

You'll get together with your tour leaders and the rest of the group in Montana's "Garden City," home to several national nonprofit organizations -- including, of course, Adventure Cycling Association, whose offices and staff you'll have the opportunity to visit. We'll meet up mid-day with the opportunity to tour Adventure Cycling's Headquarters before boarding our shuttle to Bozeman. We'll arrive in Bozeman, set up our tents then have our orientation meeting and first meal together, ready to set out on the adventure ahead.

Day 2. Bozeman to Three Forks, 37 miles

We'll leave our campsite just outside of town, heading west. For those looking for a bit more riding today, you can add about 15 miles by heading to the Museum of the Rockies on the Montana State University campus and check out the vast collection of dinosaur fossils. Back on route, our leisurely day will get our legs ready for the climbing ahead as we make our way to Three Forks, which Lewis & Clark noted as the place where the Gallatin River joins the Madison and Jefferson to form the great Missouri River. We'll spend one last night here under a beautiful starry canopy.

Day 3. Three Forks to Butte, 62 miles

We'll leave the headwaters of the Missouri and continue westward, gradually at first then more quickly working our way up to our first Continental Divide crossing over Pipestone Pass. Pipestone Pass is located in the Highland Mountains, and once we reach the top we'll gradually descend back down to Butte. There is ample to explore in this great Montana mining town, rich in Irish culture and home to the infamous Berkeley Pit, a toxic mining leftover turned tourist attraction.

Day 4. Butte to Wise River, 56 miles

Today we'll be riding towards the Pintler and Anaconda mountain ranges, a wonderful backdrop for today's ride. We'll make our way out of the Silver Bow Valley, then start our climb to over 6,700 feet from Anaconda. From the top, we'll meander our way back down to Wise River, following the Big Hole River -- a famous fishing destination -- before reaching town.

Day 5. Wise River to Jackson Hot Springs, 65 miles

We have two stunning climbs today! Our first will be a gradual but steady climb to the crest of Crystal Park, located at nearly 8,000 feet in elevation. From there, we'll have nearly 15 miles of generally downhill terrain before climbing up to our second high point of the day, Big Hole Pass, at 7,360 feet. From here, we'll have stunning views of the Big Hole Valley. Todays route follows the Pioneer Scenic Byway, spinning past vast alpine meadows with rugged granite peaks of the Pioneers to the east. We'll end our day at Jackson Hot Springs, ready for a soak.

Day 6. Jackson Hot Springs to Darby, 77 miles

Today's ride, while long, should feel refreshing, with over twice as much descent as there is climbing. Leaving Jackson, we'll head north to Wisdom and cross the Big Hole River whose trout-filled waters draw fly fishermen from around the world. From Wisdom, we'll turn west and visit the Big Hole National Battlefield. This site commemorates a terrible chapter in the Indian Wars of the late 1800s. From there, we'll spin 16 miles before climbing over 7,241-foot Chief Joseph Pass, named for the Nez Perce chief who you learned about at the battlefield, then pop over 6,990-foot Lost Trail Pass. Between these two passes, we'll cross in and out of Idaho and have another crossing of the Continental Divide. A stunning decent of nearly 20 miles awaits us as we reach the Bitterroot Valley and follow the river of the same name.

Day 7. Darby to Missoula, 66 miles

Our last day of riding brings us back to Adventure Cycling's hometown of Missoula. 15 miles from our overnight in Darby we reach Hamilton, our biggest town in a while. From just outside of Hamilton all the way to Missoula, we'll follow 50 miles of bike trail that parallels U.S. 93 and the Bitterroot River. To the west, the high crags of the Bitterroot Range scratch the big Montana sky; to the east, the lower Sapphire Range lines our way. with the stunning vistas of jagged peaks all around. You might consider a short side trip to Stevensville, Montana's first town and original capital, where you can visit the old St. Mary's Mission, established in 1841, to learn the story of Father Pierre DeSmet and other "black robes" who arrived early on the scene in this part of the Rocky Mountains. Late in our ride, we'll reach the town of Lolo where you can swing in and have a look at Travelers' Rest State Park. The park marks the site of an ancient Native American campsite used by the Lewis and Clark expedition in both 1805 and 1806. We'll finally end our day in Missoula, ready to rest and feeling accomplished from our Big Sky adventure.


Additional Details
Start Location:
Missoula, MT
End Location:
Missoula, MT
Missoula Montana (MSO)
Total Days:
Riding Days:
Layover Days:
Average Daily Mileage:
Camping, Indoor Options
Catered meals
Level 4
Very Hilly
Elevation Alert:
High Point: 7,853'

Know before you go

Information for eBike riders:
Because every rider, eBike, road condition, and elevation profile is different, it is ultimately up to the participant to judge best whether their battery will last through each tour day. We recommend using pedal assist in its lowest setting or off when not needed to maximize battery range. Bringing a second battery is also recommended, and it can be carried by staff and available at a designated stop during the day.