Weekend Wheeling: Missoula
Stand anywhere in Missoula and search the hillsides for the giant concrete "M." Once you've spotted it plastered to the side of Mount Sentinel, you've found the location of the University of Montana resting at the base of the mountain. The university is a major attraction in Missoula, home to more than 10,000 students each year.
This mountain bike loop ride begins near campus and the base of Mount Sentinel (by the "M"). It will take you across the valley, up and over Mount Jumbo (location of the giant "L") and deliver you back to the university.
When you have finished exploring the mountains surrounding Missoula, head over to the Waterfront Pasta House for some great homemade ice cream. It's just two buildings west of the footbridge at 830 East Front Street. This may also be a good time to wander the University of Montana campus.
This ride starts in Missoula at the Van Buren Street footbridge, sandwiched between the north end of the University of Montana campus and East Broadway. If you drive up, there is plenty of parking on campus and at the north end of the bridge in the Eastgate Shopping Center parking lot.
Nearly all categories of riders should be able to complete this moderately difficult, 19.3-mile ride. Most of it occurs on roads, but one 2-mile single-track section does require some technical skills. The ride follows the Kim Williams Trail along the Clark Fork River to the Deer Creek Road. From there you ride into East Missoula and proceed to the Marshall Canyon Road. One and a half miles up the road you turn onto a gated logging road. From here you climb up and over Mount Jumbo. The road climbs 1,200 feet to the intersection with the Woods Gulch Trail. The Woods Gulch Trail is a steep descent to Rattlesnake Drive. From here cross Rattlesnake Drive and follow a single-track downstream along Rattlesnake Creek for about a mile and a half. Then take several side streets back to the starting point.
0.0 Van Buren Street footbridge Go east on the Kim Williams Trail (old Milwaukee Railroad bed).
4.3 Turn left onto Deer Creek Road.
6.1 Turn right onto Speedway Avenue.
6.2 Turn right onto Old Highway 10.
6.9 Turn left onto Marshall Canyon Road.
8.3 Turn left onto Road 2122 (a dirt logging road; go around the gate). At this point you'll start climbing. After about three quarters of a mile there will be a road junction. Take the switchback to your right. (Going straight at this point provides a shortcut across the Mount Jumbo Saddle, and ties in with several other trails.)
11.6 At road junction take the sharp switch to left.
11.9 Turn left onto Woods Gulch Trail #513 (just after you crest the hill look to your left for this single-track trail).
12.4 Turn right at Y intersection to stay on Woods Gulch Trail. (Going straight at this Y would bring you onto Mount Jumbo and leads to several other trails.)
13.7 Turn right onto Woods Gulch Road.
14.2 Cross Rattlesnake Drive and continue straight on Sawmill Gulch Road. If you don't mind road riding, you could just take Rattlesnake Drive/Van Buren all the way back to the start.
14.3 Turn left onto a single-track that follows Rattlesnake Creek.
15.7 Go straight onto Fox Farm Road.
16.3 Turn left onto Creek Crossing Road.
16.5 Turn right onto Rattlesnake Drive.
17.1 Turn right onto Pineview Drive just past the Rattlesnake School. Alternatively, if you want to shortcut back, just take Rattlesnake Drive/Van Buren back to the starting point.
17.2 Turn left onto Gilbert Avenue.
17.7 Turn right onto Lolo Street.
17.8 Turn left onto Missoula Avenue.
18.4 Turn right onto Van Buren Street.
19.3 Van Buren Street footbridge, end of ride.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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