14 miles
4,122 ft
-4,122 ft
1 miles
High Point

The Bilk Mountain loop consists of a rarely used pair of non-motorized USFS trails along Avalanche Gulch Road in the Big Belts. It is a very challenging loop, with elements including heavy brush, downfall, minor trail-finding, a steep climb, a long undulating ridge section, and a fast and variable-condition downhill. The reward is huge views from many points of the ride, a very remote feel, and a fun descent that is not overly technical.

To get to the trailhead, take Canyon Ferry Road eastbound out of Helena. 8 miles past the dam, take a left on the USFS-signed Avalanche Gulch Road. Continue on the 2wd passable road for 5 miles to the Bilk Mountain Trailhead on the right.

To begin the ride, pedal up Avalanche Gulch for 3.4 miles until the valley widens and you see a sign (facing North) indicating the turn for Cayuse Mountain Trail #235. The trail starts on a sidehill before dropping to Cayuse Creek and crossing it at an old washed-out culvert. Then, the doubletrack climbs to a small meadow and turns right. Instead of turning, look for a faint singletrack heading to the left/straight and a USFS blaze. This is where the frustratingly thick overgrowth begins, which will slow your progress up the still easy to follow trail, which does not stray from the gulch bottom. The trail and creek take a right (south) turn and begin climbing more steeply. After switchbacking across the now trickle of a creek, the trail mostly disappears and you instead follow a very old and steep doubletrack road up the side of Cayuse Mountain.

Upon reaching the grassy saddle, there is a view to the southeast, and a forest service sign for the Cayuse Mountain Trailhead - which would require a very roundabout drive to get to. Turn right (south)
on doubletrack and go over a small hump before dropping off to the right on the Bilk Mountain Trail #232 at the remnants of a signpost. The trail descends and climbs frequently on the south face of Bilk Mountain, but does not reach the top. In May 2017, there was a large amount of downfall on this stretch, but also evidence that the Forest Service clears it frequently. This XC portion of the trail has great views and also a few spots where it is hard to follow - look for the frequent white reflectors.

After passing through a gate, you see no more ridges in front of you and the trail drops through meadows and open forests with long sight lines. The singletrack is fast, dry, and occasionally rocky here. After a quick uphill section to give your breaks a break, the trail descends more steeply into the creek bottom where it has smoother tread with a few outcrops and water bars/roots, and still decent sight lines, allowing for a screaming-fast finish. Cross the creek and pass through a gate to end up at your car.

This loop is under consideration to be proposed wilderness which could ban bikes.

Local Trail Association
Montana Bicycle Guild (www.montanabicycleguild.org)
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1 Review & Comments

  • + 1
flag nwflyer (May 30, 2018 at 18:31)
 If you like downhills, this trail is not worth the epic climb and bushwhack/log hopping. Lots of pushing up an old steep jeep road. Lots of downed trees. If the trees were taken out, it might provide a more pleasent ride but it is very steep for pedalling an AM bike.

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  • Riding area
  • Difficulty rating
    Black Diamond
  • Route Type
  • Bike type
    AM, XC, CX
  • Direction
    One Direction
  • Physical rating
  • Ridelogs
More Stats for Bilk Mountain Loop mountain bike route
  • Altitude min
    4,529 ft
  • Altitude start
    4,544 ft
  • Altitude end
    4,544 ft
  • Grade max
  • Grade min
  • Distance climb
    8 miles
  • Distance down
    6 miles
  • Distance flat
    3,867 ft
Avg: 4 (1 votes)
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
Trail Ridden Direction

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The colour categories are based on what percentage of riders are riding a trail in its intended direction.

  • > 96%
  • > 90%
  • > 80%
  • > 70%
  • > 50%
  • < 50%
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The intendid direction a trail should be ridden.

  • Downhill Only
  • Downhill Primary
  • Both Directions
  • Uphill Primary
  • Uphill Only
  • One Direction

Trail Difficulties
  • Access Road/Trail
  • White
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  • Double Black Diamond

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  • Significant Issue / Amber
  • Closed or Major Issue / Red

  • Land Owner Overlay
  • Wilderness (typically no bikes in USA)
  • BLM (public)
  • USFS (Wildlife sanctuaries darker than usfs)
  • State land
  • Indigenous
  • Military
Trail Conditions
  • Unknown
  • Snow Packed
  • Snow Covered
  • Freeze/thaw Cycle
  • Icy
  • Prevalent Mud
  • Wet
  • Variable
  • Dry
  • Very Dry
  • Map Markers
  • trail Trail Head
  • photo Photo
  • place Directory Listing
  • region Riding Area
  • Parking Parking
  • Viewpoint Viewpoint
  • Information Information
  • Warning Warning
  • Directions Directions
  • Water Fountain/Source Water Fountain/Source
  • Sight Sight
  • Restrooms Restrooms
  • Gate Gate
  • Camping Camping
  • Trail Sign Trail Sign
  • Table or Bench Table or Bench
  • Other Other
      Trail transparency

      Recent Trail Reports Along Route

      Bilk Mountain Trail #232
      May 30, 2018 @ 6:32pm
      May 30, 2018
      Multiple downed trees on the climb. Otherwise, trail is dry and rideable. Hoping the FS brings their chainsaws soon if you want to ride this. We had a medium sized pull-saw but we barely made a dent in the trail.
      Avalanche Gulch Road
      Nov 1, 2017 @ 11:23am
      Nov 1, 2017
      First real snowfall of 2017/18 reporter
      Cayuse Mountain Trail #235
      Nov 1, 2017 @ 11:23am
      Nov 1, 2017
      First real snowfall of 2017/18 reporter
      more reports »
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