Alternates to Trail
By Forrest Boughner
Missoula loves trails and right now being out on dirt is literally (I don’t use literally lightly) saving our sanity. But all this trail love is making for crowded trails during a time when we have to avoid crowds. Many places around the country have closed trails to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread, and I don’t want Missoula to end up that way. Even if we are all making efforts to follow proper social distancing guidelines while sharing the Missoula open space, the risk is becoming too great.
So what can we do?
The first thing is accepting that our runs, hikes, or rides may look different than they normally do.
Maybe stick to the roads a few extra times a week. Maybe avoid going at peak times (I’ve taken to running after 9pm a few times a week and have yet to see another person on trail). Maybe take an extra rest day. But, this can also be a chance to try new places.
Montana’s rich logging history is visible on just about any hillside in Western Montana. Old road cuts climb out of just about every valley and make for great places to run. These road beds tend to be less traveled, and if you do meet someone else out there, it is much easier to stay six feet apart without having to do the social distance tango. Dirt forest service roads and old logging roads offer hundreds of miles to explore without traveling outside the viewshed of the Missoula Valley.
I highly encourage you to pull out that map and start looking at some of the dirt roads around here. It’s not single track, but the small sacrifice to spread out our use area is worth keeping our trails open. Here are a few of my favorite dirt roads to get you started on places to go:
-Deer Creek Sneak
-Deer Creek to Deer Creek Saddle
-Road to the Beacon
-Gold Creek Road
-Sheep Mountain Road
-Black Cat Road (Frenchtown)
-Albert Creek Road
-Deep Creek Road
-Mormon Peak Road (Hwy 12)
-Howard Creek Road (Hwy 12)
-Ninemile Road/Stark Mountain Road
-Wagon Mountain Road (above the Jack Saloon)
Disclaimers: Snow conditions are variable this time of year. Please look at maps and snow data before committing to a big run. Please follow all traffic laws and make sure you parked legally. Have fun! If you have questions or suggestions please let me know.