With literally hundreds of miles of singletrack and logging roads within a short pedal of our fair city, Missoula has long been known as a mountain biker’s Mecca. Long routes for cyclists of all abilities radiate in all directions from town, with three recreation areas in particular seeing the heaviest traffic. The extensive trail system at Blue Mountain Recreation Area offers long and often demanding rides, but its modest distance from town causes most nobby-tire-types to rack their steeds and unload them at the trailhead.
To our north we’ve got the pristine beauty of the Rattlesnake Recreation Area—15 miles of gravel road and dozens of miles of singletrack can keep hard-riding cyclists exploring new terrain for at least a few seasons. But despite being just four miles from downtown, most folks (again) drive to the trailhead and then saddle up.
Even closer to town lie the duffy trails of the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, a more moderate collection of undulating singletracks that also access a lifetime of old logging roads penetrating the Sapphires from Rock Creek to Hamilton. But until now, accessing these rides has meant either taking the Kim Williams Trail and (illegally) poaching the steep ‘n’ steady Smokejumper Trail, or grinding up the winding, no-shoulder Pattee Canyon Drive. Fat tire junkies on tight schedules have long wanted an off-road route to access this complex of trails, which sits a mere three miles from the valley floor.
Well, it’s taken five years, countless hours of negotiations and a hefty chunk of tax dollars, but the much-anticipated collaboration between the City of Missoula and the Lolo National Forest has finally succeeded in securing the final flank of Mount Sentinel for public, non-motorized use. On Thursday, July 10, the remaining 475-acre chunk of land, owned for decades by the Cox family, entered the public domain due in no small part to the dedicated and forward-looking folks at Five Valleys Land Trust (FVLT). Protecting in perpetuity the high sunbaked parcel of Ponderosa pines, wildflowers and grasses, a pre-existing (and formerly off-limits) route now provides direct and scenic access from the valley floor to Pattee’s coveted trails.
This clever purchase guarantees that Missoula’s showcase hill, Mount Sentinel, will never be flanked with triple-decker prefabs with three-SUV+boat+RV garages, leaving this open space to be appreciated by critters, cyclists and hikers for years to come.
Support this and other land trust acquisitions by partying at the “Hidden Treasure Land Acquisition Celebration” at the Pattee Canyon Picnic Area on Sunday July 12, from 5–8 p.m. There’s a BBQ, live music and guided trail hikes that will lead you through your new land.
With river levels dropping as quickly as the water temperatures are rising, flyfishing men and women are putting away their float tubes and pulling on their waders. If you’re heading out to your favorite stream, bring your Little Yellow Sallies, PMDs and caddis flies, and you’ll be bringing home the fillets and firing up the smoker before you can say “Catch and eat!”
Ever swung a pulaski, dug a switchback or tamped a tread in Glacier National Park? If so, the folks at The Glacier Fund are calling on you and all other trail crew workers to attend a reunion on August 1–3. Previous reunions have rallied more than 100 current and former workers for a raft trip, pig roast and historical slide show weekend, so call (406) 888-7910 to swap griz stories with your fellow backcountry backs.
July 15 is the last day of the season for humans to enter the Grizzly Bear Conservation Zone in the Mission Mountain Tribal Wilderness, so there’s no time like the present to explore this high, rugged and rarely visited country. This protected area, just 30 miles from Missoula, is so dense with great bruins that public access is closed off to allow the bears a refuge free of the tasty tourists who clutter up so much of their remaining habitat in summer months. This bearea contains the majestic McDonald Peak, so if this 9,280’ monster is on your summer summit tick list, be sure to join the Rocky Mountaineers in their attempt on July 12–13. Plan on a long day, with bushwacking, snow travel, a tribal recreation permit and a serious commitment to your fellow participants. Call Ron Pierson (370-5470) to meet your climbing party.
The New Rocky Mountaineers have three adventures planned for the weekend of July 11–13, including an impressive summit bid on the northern-most volcano in Washington, Mount Shuksan. Technically, it’s not too burly, but be prepared for glacier travel, alpine starts and always-variable Cascadia weather. Call über-adventurer Luke Casady (777-0190) to rope up.
Or join NRM-er Russ Lamson (728-7174) for an adventure to the 8,738’ Snowshoe Peak (the highest in the Cabinet Mountains) over the same three-day weekend. From lush, lowland cedars to the icy slopes of Blacktail Glacier near the summit, this unique route crosses through numerous ecosystems and obstacles, so bring along ice axes, homemade treats and a heavy dose of perseverance to succeed at this unforgettable climb.
Or dayhike up the 8,435’ Palisade Mountain with NRM-er Doyle Gerrard (961-3839) in the oft-overlooked Sapphire Mountains outside of Corvallis. It’s an all-on-trail adventure, and rock climbers might consider bringing their shoes to take advantage of the numerous granite spires and boulder problems lining the route.
The Big Mountain Resort’s second annual Wednesday night “Gravity Games” begins July 16, with off-road cyclists competing in downhill and Biker Cross races through August 6. Count on technical drops, steep chutes and a classic body-breaking high-speed Jeep road descent. There’ll be 30’ airs (errors?), numerous entry categories and cold, hard cash for the winners, so call The Big’s Events Department at 862-2911 to enter in the carnage—or just to watch.
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