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Level: Intermediate
Length: 9 mi (14.5 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Out & Back
Elevation: +3,549/ -1,875 ft
Total: 12 riders

Mountain Biking Lost Cabin Lake

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#66 of 265 mountain bike trails in Montana
#5,176 in the world

This is a superb piece of singletrack. It’s a tough climb for most of its four-and-a-half mile length, but it’s well worth it. Don’t let the bottom half mile discourage you, you’ll get past the ruts pretty quickly. Then its alternating rough and buff through a gorgeous forest. The first third is a good combination of steep and rugged, but all rideable, the middle third is more level and provides some recovery before the final third, which is the steepest and roughest portion—most will push at the top. Once near the top, you will emerge from the forest into fantastic views of the Tobacco Root Mountains and eventually at Lost Cabin Lake with its stunningly clear emerald waters surrounded by a tall, rugged alpine basin. My mid-August trip still saw a sizeable snowfield at the top, so this one should wait until late season most years. The descent will keep the grin pasted on your face all the way to the bottom—it has great flow and you’ll feel the need to use your brake less than on comparable trails. Hope you were enjoying the scenery on the way up, because all you’re going to see on the way back down is a blur!
This ride has a lot in common with the more famous Emerald Lake ride south of Bozeman. However, this is my favorite for the following reasons: 1. Less crowded—this ride gets the same traffic (of all types—foot, horse, and bike) on a weekend as Emerald Lake gets on a weekday. 2. Scenery—the scenery along the trail and the alpine basins are comparable, but the lake itself is prettier—and there’s more wildflowers along this route. 3. You get to genuine singletrack much sooner—most of the bottom half of Emerald Lake is pretty wide; not so on the way to Lost Cabin Lake. 4. If you’ve got the legs and the lungs when you get back to the trailhead, the adjacent Louise Lake Trail makes for a nice, 7-mile add on with more fantastic scenery. 5. The aforementioned descent—shockingly fun—one of my all time faves!

First added by John Fisch on Aug 20, 2008. Last updated Apr 28, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: unknown
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: unknown
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
Getting there
From I-94 about halfway between Butte and Bozeman, take exit 256 to Cardwell. Follow the road generally south and east—the road wanders a bit—just stay on the most obvious course. After about 6(?) miles, go right (south) on South Boulder Road. This will take you all the way to the trailhead. The first few miles are paved, but the road is narrow with sharp turns obscured by trees. Then, the road turns to gravel—some of it is kind of rough—continue to watch out for blind corners. Allow some time for this part of the journey as it can be time consuming, especially if you get caught behind a horse trailer. After about 14.5 miles on South Boulder road, it splits. If you don’t have a 4x4, this is a good place to stop. There is a large meadow where you can park and there is also a bathroom. Drive/ride up the right fork another 2 miles and look for the sign for the Lost Cabin Lake and/or Louise Lake trailhead(s). If you don’t have the 4x4, this will add 4 miles roundtrip to your ride, but it’s a good warm up to start, the scenery rocks, and the final descent back down the dirt road is just more fun to finish your day.

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britt ballinger (on Sep 18, 2016)
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(on May 30, 2024)
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