Montana’s summer is incomplete without mountain biking. Others may disagree, but we are not others. We are two married empty nesters getting into the mountain biking game later than most. With only two years under our belt in this choose-your-own-adventure sport, we have some catching up to do. And while we have no plans of becoming the next Danny MacAskill or Rachel Atherton, we do love a bit of a challenge, just without the flips and tricks. We’ll leave those for the experts.
Mountain Biking in Lost Creek State Park
And after conquering the initial uphill battle on Lost Creek Trail #8133 we kinda felt like experts. Located in Lost Creek State Park about 80 miles SW of Helena, and just a hop, skip, and a jump from classic Anaconda, this trail offers a great ride with scenic views, a variety of terrain (depending on the season), and close proximity to that celebratory brew afterwards.
Montana’s state parks are free to residents, and only cost $6 per vehicle for nonresidents, so even on a budget, this trail is worth so much more than that 5 dollar bill and 4 coins that you scavenged from your seat cushions or coin tray or wherever it came from. Not only is the trail worth the ride, but the drive in is worthy of the cost. With only around a million people in the entire state of Montana, it is rare to come across crowds on the trails here, even on the weekends. And this trail was no exception. We were two of maybe a total of 6 bikes on the trail and around a total of 12 people including hikers. Busy trail system, right? Granted, we were there early June; however, I doubt this trail ever gets that busy, especially with the largest town right next to it being Anaconda, calling it home to less than 10,000 residents.
Regardless of your skill level, the first 1/4 mile of this 7 1/2 mile trail is a bitch! Buckle down and get ‘er done! You gotta earn your beers, right? ‘Sides after conquering that initial incline, it gives the next couple of miles of steady climb some perspective. We were constantly remembering that first part of the climb; being forever grateful that the entire trail wasn’t that tough.
Since we were riding early summer, the terrain was a bit bipolar in that it was rocky, yes, but wet, muddy, dry, and snowy! Let’s just call it an all season trail. No matter, the beauty here, amidst soon-to-be blooming wildflowers, rustic cabins, and remnants of a magical winter in the form of a raging river, is worth every season. Even if you use the “raging” river and the rustic cabin as an excuse to not hit the last couple of miles.
Oh, and the best part of this trail…because it is a gradual climb (after the initial ascent and if you don’t go past the “raging” river), it’s all downhill back to the parking lot, baby. And what a fun downhill. Not too technical or too steep (until that last 1/4 mile). Goldilocks nailed it, “It was just right!”
Craft Beer Rewards – Smelter City Brewing
Feeling like we just completed a Tough Mudder, both because we were exhilarated and muddy, we knew we earned our adult beverages. So after a quick cleanup (as best as one can in an RV), we drug our muddy asses to Anaconda, Montana.
Located about 13 miles south of Lost Creek, this copper town, founded in 1883, was originally named Copperopolis with plans of becoming Montana’s state capital. Marcus Daly, Montana’s copper industry founder built a copper smelter, basically putting the currently named, Anaconda, on the map. While no longer in use today, its 585 foot smokestack dominates the skyline of this small town in rural Montana.
Taking advantage of its history, Smelter City Brewing was born. Keeping that history alive, owner Luke Carlson worked hard at remodeling the Electric Light Building (built originally in 1895) to stay true to the roots of the region using ornate brick work, a 19th century mahogany bar originally believed to be from Butte, and wide open inviting spaces.
While ambiance plays a role in craft breweries, ultimately it is still about the beer. And with beers such as a Lemonade Stand Lager, a Montana Mimosa (fruited wheat), and a Norwegian Farm Ale (clocking in at a light 3.7%) to name just a few, these presented with just the right amount of ABV and flavor, with the perfect touch of Montana-Proud-Attitude thrown in. In the unblemished beauty that can really only belong to mountain states without all the craziness of humans, Anaconda and Smelter City Brewing offered a superb ending to an accomplished and splendid mountain bike ride in one of the most stunning states in the US.
Welcome to Montana.
We are not experts, nor do we claim to be. We just want to tell you our stories and experiences from mountain biking in hopes that we can help you enjoy your own experiences. Generally, when biking we use MTB Project. You can use that, too, or any other apps out there. There are some great ones. Bike smart so you can enjoy the beer part of craft beer biking.
Happy craft beer biking!
For more craft beer biking stories, click here.
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Ken and April, craft beer and travel lovers. We live and work from, RAIF, our 24 foot RV, while traveling to drink good beer, visit Mother Nature, and mountain bike. We are not experts and don’t want to be. We are, however, tourists, just like you, and we want to do everything and visit everywhere. We also know that this is impossible (dammit – and wrote a post on it), so in order to help you experience as much as you can in the time you have, what we experience, we pass onto you. We hope to only give you guidance (although our friends say to never follow April), because you need to also create your own adventures along the way. Happy craft beer and biking travels!