motorcycle destinations

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Montana, United States

Best Motorcycle Roads and Destinations in Montana, United States

While called “The Treasure State” because its many mountains used to be filled with gold and silver, Montana is a treasure to motorcyclists for different reasons. With roads that stay level on the flat plains then wind around the treacherous mountains, Montana offers plenty of excitement and adventure for motorcyclists.

If you were planning to go on a motorcycle trip in the future, you may want to consider visiting Montana. But before you go, you may want to study up on what to expect when you get there. Being a tourist, you will have to adhere to the motorcycle laws of the state, know which luggage to bring, and plan out your intended route to make the most of your stay in Montana.

For this article, you will be given a preview of the most interesting motorcycle roads and destinations in Montana. Either because they challenge your riding skills or take you by famous attractions, you may read about locations in Montana that will pique your interest.

1. Roads and Destinations in Montana

1.1 C.M. Russell Motorcycle Ride:

Distance: 250 miles
Time: 5 hours 27 minutes
Start: Great Falls
End: Great Falls

After leaving Great Falls, your first destination will be a former inland port town for steam ships known as Fort Benton. If you are looking for a place to get lunch, you may want to try The Clubhouse or the Wake Cup Coffee Shop & Restaurant. If you plan to hang around and are old enough to drink, get a bottle at the Golden Triangle Brewery.

When you come across the town of Square Butte, you can go and see the titular butte that gave the community its name. You can also get to know the town’s history by meeting the locals at the Country Club or visiting the town jail.

Stop by in Lewistown and go spend time at the Montana Tavern. Running underneath, the tavern is Big Spring Creek where you can engage in fishing if you would like.

1.2 U.S. Route 12:

Distance: 217 miles
Time: 4 hours 30 minutes
Start: lewistown,tdaho
End: Missoula, Montana

Passing through both Idaho and Montana, you will ride alongside the Clearwater River as you cut through the rolling hills near Lewistown. You will then wind through the dense pine forests of Orofino and get to enjoy the natural beauty of the Nez Perce Reservation along your way to Kooskia.

After you go past Syringa, you may want to take in the greenery that makes up Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest. If the season is appropriate and you wish to engage in camping, there are spots available near Jerry Johnson Warm Springs.

After you pass the border between states, you may want to rest at the hotels, dine at the restaurants, or relax at the Lolo Hot Springs.

1.3 The Last Battle Motorcycle Route:

Distance: 137 miles
Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Start: Great Falls

For the first half of the motorcycle route, you can focus on just navigating and riding down Montana highways from Great Falls to Box Elder.

When you get to Havre, that’s when you will start to see the historical sites and local establishments. You can get a glimpse of what life was like in Havre almost a century ago by taking the Havre Beneath the Streets tour. You can also see a bison kill site at WahkpaChu’gn. Get a bite at the Wolfer’s Diner, a café that draws inspiration from the 1950s. If you are of legal drinking age, there are no shortages of distilleries to choose from including Triple Dog, Old Station, and Vizsla Brewing.

Arriving at Chinook, you can visit the Blaine County Museum to see an interpretation of the last great Native American battle in a video titled “Forty Miles from Freedom.” A little distance away along Route 240, you can ride to see Bear Paw Battlefield, where Nez Perce Chief Joseph finally surrendered close to the end of the wars between Native American and the U.S. Army.

1.4 Hyalite Canyon:

Distance: 20 miles
Time: 35 minutes
Start: Bozeman
End: Hyalite Reservoir

Heading south away from Bozeman, you will eventually come across the twisty and bumpy routes that trail along the Hyalite Canyon. It will give you an overview of the run from Hyalite Creek and the top of the conifer trees that line the mountain region.

While you are in the area, you should go park your motorcycle at the Hyalite Canyon Recreation Area. If you are interested in roughing it out in the wilderness, try finding a spot at Hood Creek Campground or Chisholm Campground. There are plenty of hiking trails situated around the Hyalite Reservoir such as History Rock.

Speaking of Hyalite Reservoir, besides being the source of drinking water for Bozeman, it is also an ideal body of water to engage in canoeing and fishing. If you are willing to take out your motorcycle during the winter, the Hyalite Peak Trail has plenty of surfaces that are good for ice climbing.

1.5 The Beartooth Scenic Byway:

Distance: 64 miles
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Start: Red Lodge
End: Cooke City-Silver Gate

This scenic byway has a vicious reputation of having freak storms and harsh weather conditions that could make it difficult to operate a motorcycle. As Beartooth Pass is elevated at 11,000 feet, the temperature will also be cold regardless of the time of year. Even during the summer, there can be sudden snowstorms and thunderstorms that can come out of nowhere.

Upon your departure from Red Lodge, you will encounter many switchbacks roads that will keep you on your toes, pass along beautiful mountain lakes, and paths that precariously lean over high cliff faces. Only the most experienced motorcyclists can successfully conquer yet admire this route.

Your final destination, Cooke City-Silver Gate, is a former mining town that has been transformed to a tourist attraction. You can find the supplies you need for hiking, camping, and motorcycle rides due to its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park.

1.6 Lolo Pass:

Distance: 132 miles
Time: 2 hour 40 minutes
Start: Kooskia, Idaho
End: Lolo, Montana

A mountain pass that sits on the Bitterroot Mountains and serves as the gateway between both Idaho and Montana.

When you reach the summit of the Lolo Trail, you may want to spend time at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center and Rest Area. You can learn about the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Nez Perce War.

If you happen to be visiting during summer, bring your motorcycle to the Packer Meadows and take some time to admire the landscape full of colorful wildflowers.

If you decide your motorcycle can brave the winter, take your time to enjoy the snow by engaging in skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. Even if you cannot take your motorcycle through the thick snow, you can spend time riding a land vehicle.

1.7 Kings Hill Scenic Byway:

Distance: 86 miles
Time: 2 hour 5 minutes
Start: Armington Junction
End: White Sulphur Springs

A mix of both historical sites and recreational locations, this scenic byway offers plenty of attractions that will keep you occupied while on your motorcycle trip through Montana. There is some rough terrain since the pavement can give way to gravel roads, but it is worth the bumpy ride if you get to observe the mountains, lakes, campgrounds, and relics of the Old West.

You will get to pass through the forests and limestone canyon of the Little Belt Mountains and the Lewis & Clark National Forest where you can traverse the same pockets of wilderness that the titular explorers discovered all those years ago.

You will find no shortage of monuments to the age of exploration and settlement thanks to the abundance of museums and abandoned mines. You can find exhibits all along your planned route such as the Charles M. Bair Museum, the Castle Museum, and the Belt Museum. Two of Montana’s notable abandoned mining sites include the Glory Hole and the Neihart Star.

Once you are done getting familiar with Montana’s rich history, you may want to visit the hot mineral water spring in White Sulphur Springs to decompress.

1.8 Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway:

Distance: 79 miles
Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Start: Butte
End: Drummond

Your journey starts out slow after you pass the old mining town of Anaconda. The roads are relatively level with the ground and are surrounded by fields of gravel. Be mindful that your wheels do not slip on any stray pieces of gravel that are on the road.

The gravel begins to fade away as you approach Georgetown Lake and get to travel alongside the stunning lakefront beneath the base of the Anaconda Range. Your surroundings begin to turn lush and green as you get closer to the mountainous region.

As you get closer to Phillipsburg, you may steer by Flint Creek Canyon and the Sapphire and John Long Mountains. Flint Creek Canyon has some items of interest since there are plenty of old mining tools from the age of settlement.

At Philipsburg, you will get to escort your motorcycle through the remnants of a Western town with plenty of shops for you to buy souvenirs. Go a little past Philipsburg and you will come across Granite Ghost Town, an abandoned mining town that was once rich with silver.

1.9 Figure 8 Motorcycle Ride:

Distance: 158 miles
Time: 2 hour 50 minutes
Start: Great Falls
End: Valier

If you are more interested in just spending time with your motorcycle rather than getting to a final destination as quickly as possible, the Figure 8 Motorcycle ride is perfect for you. The crisscrossing path you follow will allow you to stop at more towns in Montana while keeping you engaged as you cross the swerving highways.

When you reach Conrad, you can find a small coffee shop known as Folklore. Treat yourself to a warm drink to get your blood pumping again and sample the brownies or pastries to satisfy your sweet tooth.

As you begin your approach to Valier, you may want to take pictures at the inland lighthouse outside the city, breathe in the fresh air beside Lake Frances, and also travel beside peaceful farmlands.

1.10 Chief Joseph Run:

Distance: 148 miles
Time: 2 hour 45 minutes
Start: Hamilton
End: Butte

While you are in the vicinity of Darby, you may want to take small detours so you can get the chance to appreciate natural sites like the Bitterroot National Forest and Painted Rocks State Park.

As you dip into the Big Hole Valley, you should be able to see the snowcapped and forested peaks of the Pioneer Mountains and the Anaconda Range in the distance. If you are looking to pick up supplies, you may want to have a pit stop at the town of Wisdom.

While you are still in the area, you may want to drop by and see the Big Hole National Battlefield where the Nez Pearce Native Americans fought the U.S. Army after they were trapped after failing to escape to Canada.

1.11 Skalkaho Highway:

Distance: 63 miles
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Start: Hamilton
End: Philipsburg

This route requires a bit of off-roading as the paths can switch between being pavement and dirt throughout. As you travel along Highway 38, you will come across the beautiful sight of the Skalkaho Falls. You will also be able to admire the rows of trees surrounding you while passing through the Bitterroot National Forest.

If it is the right season, you may catch a glimpse of the migrating elk near Fool Hen and the Kneaves Lakes. If you decide to go on hikes, you might be able to see mountain goats climbing Dome Shaped Mountain or moose patrolling along the trail to the Burn Fork drainage.

1.12 Ennis Loop:

Distance: 147 miles
Time: 2 hour 40 minutes
Start: Ennis
End: Ennis

Before you embark from Ennis, you may want to visit the local food and drink establishment such as Yesterday’s Soda Fountain, On the Fly, etc. Besides being able to sample the local products, it should give you the energy you need for the long journey ahead.

Whether during the warmer or colder months, the Norris Hot Springs offers a comfortable wooden pool full of mineral water heated by the earth producing heat at 120° F. You can also admire the local wildlife such as deer, sandhill cranes, or red-winged blackbirds.

A monument to the Gold Rush era, Virginia City is a western-style town with a modern twist. You can pick up pastries at the Star Bakery or visit the 150 different historical landmarks native to the city.

When you reach the Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park, you can take guided tours into the limestone caves. You can get a look at the stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and helictites along the lighted paths, but you are forbidden from actually touching the walls.

1.13 Going-To-The-Sun Road:

Distance: 85 miles
Time: 2 hour 35 minutes
Start: St. Mary
End: West Glacier

Due to its close proximity with the Canadian border, this road can become covered in a thick layer of snow near the end of summer till the start of spring. Due to weather conditions, the steep climbs, and the sharp turns, only the most experienced of motorcyclists should attempt this route.

The Glacier National Park is a natural marvel due to being covered in alpine meadows, mountain ranges, and crystal-clear lakes. If you wish to get a better look, you can ride up to Red Rock Point that overlooks the region.

Thanks to the environment being largely untouched, you may come across many forms of wildlife that live in the area such as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, deer, gophers, and hawks.

1.14 The Yaak& Lake Koocanusa Loop:

Distance: 112 miles
Time: 3 hour 15 minutes
Start: Troy
End: Troy

As you travel along Highway 2, you will soon find yourself on the Yaak River Road which will take you by the similarly named Yaak Falls. A combination of both thick forests and wet marshes surrounds you, serving as the home for moose, elk, deer, and bears who you may spot as you zoom by.

As you continue to skirt around Kootenai National Forest, you will eventually climb higher and higher until you reach a pass that will give you a panoramic view. You will be able to see miles of Montana’s territory as well as parts of British Columbia and Idaho in the distance.

Once you have cleared the pass and begin to descend, you will end up at Lake Koocanusa, a reservoir that connects both British Columbia and Montana. You can engage in fishing and hiking around the body of water while admiring the Libby Dam.

2. Motorcycle Laws in Montana

All drivers have to abide by traffic laws to ensure their own safety and prevent harm to those they share the road with. But because motorcyclists are more vulnerable in collisions or bad weather, there are additional measures taken. While motorcycles are driven all over the United States, no motorcycle laws are exactly the same between states. Montana is no different as it has its own take on aspects of motorcycle laws such as motorcycle helmets, required safety features, lane splitting, and carrying passengers.

2.1 Helmet Laws

If you are under the age of 18, it is mandatory that you wear a motorcycle helmet at all times whenever your motorcycle travels down the Montana roads or highways. While adults can opt out of wearing a motorcycle helmet, it is not recommended. Considering you may end up traveling across hundreds of miles, climbing up steep mountains, and sharing the road with other vehicles, there are plenty of hazards that could cause you to be thrown from your motorcycle.

Your motorcycle helmet must meet the standards laid out by both the Montana Department of Justice and Department of Transportation. You should be able to tell which is an approved model in Montana by the DOT sticker on the back or interior of the motorcycle helmet.

Speaking of an approved model, there are two types of helmets that should provide maximum protection for your head: three-quarter helmets and full-face helmets. The features that they have including the following:

Padded lining for comfort

Durable yet compact outer shell

Form of eye protection (face shield, goggles, glasses)

Has opening with full peripheral view

Interior that contours snugly around head

Strap/chin bar to help keep secure

2.2 Required Safety Features

Before you head out on your trip, make sure to check over and provide maintenance to the following parts so that your motorcycle functions properly while on the road:

  • Horn
  • Wheels
  • Tires
  • Handlebars
  • Brake system
  • Controls
  • Headlight
  • Tail light
  • Brake Light
  • License plate light
  • Rear reflector
  • Turn signal lights
  • Exhaust system
  • Muffler
  • Spark arrestor
  • Rearview mirror

Your motorcycle must have at least one headlight, but you are allowed to equip a maximum of two headlights if you wish to increase visibility.

Depending on the year your motorcycle was manufactured, the noise emitted from your exhaust system must stay below a certain decibel limit. The noise limit can range from 70 to 92 decibels. Be aware that the older your motorcycle model is, the lower the noise limit is going to be.

The spark arrestor will help destroy or trap any flammable particles that are released from your exhaust system.

2.3 Lane Splitting Laws

While lane splitting has not been legalized yet in Montana, the practice will be permitted when the law is enacted on October 1st, 2021. Motorcyclists will be allowed to ride on the dividing lines between lanes so long as the lane they transition from has enough room to maneuver. It is ideal to move over when the flow of traffic has slowed or stopped, but never attempt lane splitting when you are moving 20 mph faster than the vehicles around you. If you see the flow of traffic beginning to pick up speed or it seems unsafe to stay on the dividing lines, return back to the center of an adjacent lane.

2.4 Passenger Laws

There is no age restriction for motorcycle passengers in Montana. However, your motorcycle needs to have seating and footrests that are suitable and safe for carrying a passenger. While your passenger is on your motorcycle, he/she has to comply with the same motorcycle laws as you. If the passenger is below the age of 18, he/she is required to wear a motorcycle helmet at all times whenever the vehicle is in motion. The passenger also has to be old enough to understand and follow commands when initiating turns, stops, etc. As you are held responsible for your passenger’s health and compliance with motorcycle laws, make sure he/she is receptive to directions.

3. Motorcycle Luggage for Montana Touring Trip

Due to being positioned in the northwest, Montana has a relatively dry atmosphere. The summers are relatively short yet pleasantly warm. The winters are cloudy and can reach freezing temperatures. Depending on which season you decide to plan your motorcycle trip to Montana, you may need to bring clothing, gear, and provisions suited for the weather. To help you carry all of your belongings over miles of unspoiled natural terrain, you may want to consider getting one of the following:

Motorcycle Saddlebags

Motorcycle Trunk Bags

Motorcycle Sissy Bar Bags

Motorcycle Seat Luggage

Motorcycle Tail Bags

Every type of motorcycle luggage is equipped with secure mesh or zippered pockets, can stay secure on almost every part of your motorcycle, and can be easily carried with you if need be. Not to mention their stylish design which looks good on the sleek chassis of your motorcycle.

4. Parting Words

As you review the motorcycle roads and destinations in Montana to try and figure out which sites you would like to visit during your tenure, try not to overwhelm yourself by going to too many locations at once. Reading about the distance and time it takes to complete a route or reach a destination is one thing. Actually, feeling your motorcycle cruising along a road that is hundreds of miles and feeling the hours fly by is another. You may not be able to see every scenic byway, national park, and mountain pass in Montana all in a single motorcycle trip. But that is okay. That just means there will still be plenty of landscapes, towns, and attractions waiting for you the next time you and your motorcycle come to visit Montana.

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