This is smooth, fun, totally empty single track just 30 minutes from downtown Misosula! Lolo National Forest has marked and mapped bike routes north of the historic Ninemile Ranger Station on a combination of little-used single track and mostly quiet dirt roads. Though the routes are not marked on the Lolo's web page, they do appear on a mountain bike booklet the forest has published and which is available in bike shops in Missoula. Park at the Ninemile Ranger Station then head north and west toward Kreis Pond, then west toward Butler Creek, and finally south and east along the main Ninemile Valley road, looking for diamond-shaped bike signs along the way. Plan on a 19-mile loop with a bit more than 2,000 vertical feet of total climbing -- pretty mellow for these parts. The single track is smooth and non-technical, and winds through rarely-seen forests, some of which have been selectively logged. On a hot day you can cool off in Kreis Pond or in swimming holes along the Ninemile road.
Ch-paa-qn (pronounced ‘cha-pa-kwin’) looks like a volcano but spews nothing more than spindrift. It’s one of the higher peaks visible from the Missoula valley, but once the road to the south side of the peak melts out it’s a fairly easy peak to climb. I’ll always remember this peak, I think, because it was the last hike Laura and I took together before Cooper was born. The peak was once called ‘Squaw’, and some still refer to it by that name. Its current name means ‘shining peak’ in Salish. While the peak is a popular climb, the trail to the summit ends at treeline, meaning determined hikers need to boulder and talus hop the final 300 vertical feet to the summit.