A ride for those who like long distances, wide open spaces, light traffic, and few people. Once you enter Bridger Canyon just outside Bozeman, you'll leave the hustle and bustle behind. The only "population centers" on the entire 186 mile out and back route are the unicorporated towns of Wilsall, Ringling, and Martinsdale-each with only several dozen residents.
Layer up for an early morning (pre-dawn) start out of Bozeman and ride the long steady climb up Bridger Canyon past Bridger Bowl ski area while you watch the morning sun light up the snow capped peaks along the Bridger Range. After two miles of steep climbing to Battle Ridge Pass (elevation 6372 ft) hold on tight for a fast downhill into the Sheilds River Valley. Take a rest stop in Wilsall and refill your water bottles-the next services are 53 miles away! After a long, steady uphill ride past the almost forgotten community of Ringling on US Highway 89 you'll turn on to the very lightly traveled MT Highway 294 and ride between the Castle and Crazy Mountains. After a few miles of climbing enjoy a sustained 20 mile downhill cruise into the little hamlet of Martinsdale. Refuel at the Crazy Mountain Inn Cafe and reverse the route back to Bozeman.
This route is a sanctioned Randonneurs USA (RUSA) Permanent. One of the methods of "proof of passage" for randonneurs is mailing a post card to the ride organizer with time and date information from a designated waypoint or destination. You'll eventually get the post card back and have a unique momento from your ride. Thus the stated mission of the "Martinsdale Mail Run". For more information about permanents and randonnuering in general-click on the RUSA Website . For specific information about this permanent, including organizer contact information, cue sheet, and entry form click here.
Touring cyclists not participating under the rules and time constraints of randonneuring might consider breaking this ride into a two-day adventure. Ride to Martinsdale and stay at the cozy and quaint Crazy Mountain Inn Bed and Breakfast, then tour back to Bozeman the next day-making sure to stop in at the friendly and delicious Wilsall Bar and Cafe to refuel for your final assault over Battle Ridge Pass.
TO TRAILHEAD: From I-90 take South 19th Avenue to Durston Road. The Holiday C-Store is west of 19th at 1951 Durston Road.
Turn Left - N. Rouse Ave. (MT 86) bc Bridger Drive bc Bridger Canyon Road
Then go 37.03 mi
Turn Right - US Highway 89
Then go 1.39 mi
U-Turn - Wilsall (Open Control Obtain Proof of Passage)
Then go 26.11 mi
Turn Right - MT 294
Then go 27.02 mi
Straight - MT 294 Entering Martinsdale
Then go 0.12 mi
Bear Right - Grant Ave.
Then go 0.09 mi
Turn Right - Main St.
Then go 0.35 mi
U-Turn - Martinsdale
Then go 0.10 mi
Turn Left - Grant Ave.
Then go 0.11 mi
Bear Left - MT 294
Then go 27.12 mi
Turn Left - US Hwy 89
Then go 26.05 mi
U-Turn - Wilsall (Open Control) Obtain Proof of Passage
Then go 1.42 mi
Turn Left - MT 86/Bridger Canyon Rd bc Bridger Drive bc North Rouse Ave.
Then go 37.05 mi
Turn Right - Peach St. bc Durston Road
Then go 1.50 mi
Stop - Holiday Store
Points of Interest
Location: 45.686231, -111.062647
The Holiday C-Store at 1951 Durston Road in Bozeman is the start/finish for this ride. Make sure you're well stocked as services on this route are very sparse.
Randonneurs: Those riding this route as a permanent will need to obtain "proof of passage" (usually a store stamp on your brevet card with time noted, and signature from an employee, or a receipt showing date, time, and location) from various checkpoints including the start/finish. Other checkpoints on this route are at Wilsall (both out and back) and Martinsdale.
Location: 45.866465, -110.889301
Sacajawea Peak (elevation 9,665 feet) in the Bridger Range is lit up by the morning sun on the climb to Battle Ridge Pass.
Battle Ridge Pass
Location: 45.882473, -110.881823
A frosty morning at Battle Ridge Pass. It's a steep two mile climb up either side. It gets especially steep in the last half mile on the inbound route-especially with 175 miles in your legs (there's no shame in walking for a ways). There's water and restrooms available in the campground (short gravel road to the facilities).
Location: 45.994100, -110.626144
A sleepy Sunday morning in Wilsall with the Crazy Mountains (as in, "You're crazy to ride such long distances.") in the background. Nordies Grocery is a good place to stock up on supplies-but they are closed on Sundays-and nothing else will be open until 11:00 a.m. Sunday brunch at the Wilsall Bar and Cafe across the street. Look for a hose bib on the outside of one of commercial buildings on Highway 89 to refill your bottles if everything is closed. Wilsall will be an information control for early birds and Sunday randonneurs.
US Highway 89
Location: 46.130125, -110.729656
Somewhere between Wilsall and Ringling. There's not much to look at except vast open plains and distant mountain peaks. The wind usually comes out of the northwest so the outbound (uphill) portion of the route will be slow, but the return will be fast(er). Try to put the wind out of your mind and just enjoy being "away from it all".
Location: 46.272046, -110.803299
Pearched on a wind swept hill, Ringling Church (est. 1914) overlooks the town of Ringling across US Highway 89. Ringling is named for John Ringling of Ringling Bros. Circus fame. He owned thousands of acres around here in the 1920's. The town consists of a few scattered residences, school house, post office, bar that appears to be undergoing renovation, and an abandoned railroad depot.
Location: 46.365055, -110.713434
The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, commonly referred to as the Milwaukee Road, was a transcontinental railroad that passed through Martinsdale and Ringling. The crest of the climb at Loweth waypoint marks the first of five mountain crossings of this rugged railroad. An empty brick building that was used as an electrical substation for the once electrified railroad still stands along MT Hwy 294. The Milwaukee Road finally ceased operations in 1980 and the tracks were taken up shortly after. The road bed, signal posts, and the old substation are the forlorn remains of a former lifeline to this part of the state. When the railroad left many small towns all across Central Montana like Ringling and Martinsdale withered.
Martinsdale Post Office
Location: 46.457011, -110.314831
A hearty randonneur (that would be me) looking no worse for wear fullfills his mission of mailing a post card at the Martinsdale Post Office. This photo was taken by my wife Brenda who along with my son and Mom met up with me in Martinsdale for lunch (they were smart and took the car).
Crazy Mountain Inn
Location: 46.457670, -110.314721
This little bed and breakfast/cafe serves up some terrific food (try the pie). In the summer they are open Thursday through Sunday, and during hunting season (when they are really busy) they are also open on Wednesday.
Wilsall Bar and Cafe
Location: 45.993145, -110.672150
A nice friendly place with excellent food and ice cream! This is a good place for randonneurs to get their proof of passage on their inbound trek back to Bozeman.
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