Connecting the Flathead’s Trails

Flathead Area Mountain Bikers is partnering with several organizations and stakeholders to bring new trail networks to the valley while maintaining existing trails

By Maggie Dresser
Bryan Tremayne helps construct a new segment of mountain bike trail in the Spencer Trail network outside of Whitefish on May 27, 2020. D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

To add to the Flathead’s extensive trail network throughout the valley, the public can now enjoy almost four additional miles of trails called the Holbrook Overlook near Big Mountain Road, which was recently finished and is the first phase of the 28-mile Taylor-Hellroaring project that will border Whitefish Mountain Resort.

In a collaboration between the United States Forest Service (USFS), the City of Whitefish and the Whitefish Trail, the trail completion triggers the next phase of a larger $400,000 construction project that was approved in 2019 and will utilize federal funding, grants and private donations.

“Their hope is to start the connection to Taylor-Hellroaring, but that’s still a few years out,” said Ron Brandt, the new executive director of Flathead Area Mountain Bikers (FAMB), a trail advocacy nonprofit.

FAMB collaborated with Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish Legacy Partners and other organizations to expand 28 miles of trail northwest of the ski area to add to the network. The project will include commercial logging, fuel reduction and trail building.

Fuel reduction has already begun in the region and stakeholders have been scoping the terrain over the past two years to identify potential trail locations, which Brandt says will likely include four trails, with one connecting to Holbrook.

“It’s going to be a really fun all-around trail for everybody,” Brandt said. “We’re really fortunate to get to access it.”

Separately, FAMB has partnered withs Gateway to Glacier Trails to build the Crystal Cedar trail network, which broke ground last fall. Brandt said a portion of the project was recently finished in the Cedar Flats area as part of a 25-mile project and a timber harvest in the upper region is planned for this fall.

FAMB will send its three-person trail crew to Cedar Flats this fall, which Brandt says has been instrumental to the organization.

“One of the big things that we are doing this year is to focus on our trail crew,” Brandt said. “That’s something I’m personally really proud of and it’s something that touches all user groups – not just mountain bikers.”

As of last week Brandt says the trail crew has cleared 67 miles of trail and more than 250 trees all over the valley. In addition to heavily trafficked trails, the crew has been clearing overgrown areas like Fawn Creek Trail near Doris Lakes, which likely hasn’t been cleared in a decade, and the Alpine 7 trail in the Swan Range, which has significant brush and blowdown from storms.

“We’re really stoked with the work they pull off,” Brandt said. “It’s not a glamourous job.”

Although Brandt only recently began his new role as the executive director, he has been involved with FAMB for the last several years and was on the board of directors at one point. He remembers when the organization was still in its early stages, primarily working on Spencer Mountain, a project that evolved into FAMB.

“We couldn’t do this without our great community that we have to physically help us and financially help,” Brandt said. “That’s one of the great things I’ve always found amazing and has inspired me to come back to this. I remember how small this organization was and how small our budget was – and now we’re able to create jobs in the valley.”

The City of Whitefish, the USFS, and Whitefish Legacy Partners will host a grand opening celebration of the Holbrook Overlook on Thursday, Sept. 8 at 6 p.m. at 2930 Big Mountain Road in Whitefish.

For more information, visit www.flatheadamb.org.