Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association Helps Forest Service Maintain the Continental Divide Trail

Author: Curt Nappl, Zone Recreation Staff Officer, US Forest Service

Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA) at Targhee Divide. Courtesy SWMMBA.

As the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) winds its way through the Rocky Mountains, entering Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park (YNP), it heads west in eastern Idaho.  From there the trail meanders to the northwest straddling the Idaho/Montana border as it heads west through the rugged Centennial Mountains.

A section of the CDT just north of Boundary Creek in western Wyoming to Monida Pass along Interstate 15 in southern Montana is almost 100 miles of high mountain adventure. It offers a wide variety of wildlife including, pristine lakes, grand views, and diverse vegetation.

The CDT here is located in the Ashton/Island Park & Dubois Ranger Districts of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.  Public lands with all the solitude and wildness you could want in every direction–exactly what you would want in a section of this classic western trail! Within this gorgeous landscape is also a story to be shared about a partnership to be recognized and respected and a love for the CDT.  

The Montana Mountain Bike Alliance (MMBA) first reached out to the Forest Service (FS) in 2006-2007 about helping maintain the section of trail in the Lionhead, a prominent peak just west of Highway 20 near the Idaho/Montana border.  In 2015, Southwest Montana Mountain Bike Association (SWMMBA) was formed and one of their bigger ambitions was to formally adopt the CDT single track from YNP to Monida Pass.  SWMMBA formally adopted the CDT from YNP to Monida Pass in 2017.  The love of mountain biking, public lands, and volunteer service ensured that 7 years later,  SWMMBA has grown to have 10 Volunteer Board Members, 50 Key Volunteers, and 2500 members!

SWMMBA does everything from rebuilding a switchback, clearing up to 30” diameter trees, installing trail signage,  and improving drainages to help maintain the CDT. Occasionally livestock is used to haul hand tools and other supplies, while chainsaws are hauled along the trail in a slightly different way. The volunteer hours are used annually for grant matches that the Forest Service uses to keep the trail in tip-top shape.  

Another FS employee and I had the opportunity to ride the CDT from Mile Creek in Montana to the Targhee Divide in Idaho last fall with a few members of SWMMBA. They had Passion, drive, enthusiasm, gratitude, and positivity. And to be 100% honest, SWMMBA is exactly the type of group we are so fortunate to have to help maintain the CDT for future generations.  

Learn more about the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail on the US Forest Service Website:

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