West Fork Butte Lookout: An Overnight in the Sky

Adventure Cycling staffers, Casey and Nathan, rode fat bikes up to the West Fork Butte Lookout for a night in Montana’s high country.

Bicycle Adventurers: Adventure Cycling staffers Casey Greene, Nathan Taylor, and friends.

When: Fat Bike February 2013

Accommodations: The West Fork Butte Lookout on Montana’s Lolo National Forest

Distance: It's a six-mile climb from Highway 12 to the lookout.

Bonus tips for this adventure: Make reservations at West Fork Butte Lookout on Recreation.gov.

When I wrote the post, 5 Years of Bikepacking Lookouts, I had no idea I’d be getting myself into this kind of a lookout trip. In fact, I didn’t even know Nathan and I would be riding fat bikes up to the West Fork Butte lookout, located high in western Montana's Lolo National Forest, a few days before we set out. We stumbled upon the option to borrow a couple of Salsa fat bikes at the last minute, and we went for it. I was curious to see how the Mukluk and Beargrease would perform.

Adventure Cycling cartographer Nathan Taylor having fun in the sun.

Day One

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions. The glare ice that had been prevalent on the lower sections when I’ve visited in previous Februarys was covered with a groomed snowmachine surface. The bikes held their own on the climb, and we only walked about about three-quarters of a mile — way less than we’d anticipated.

Shaun and Jeff had snowshoed up the previous day and were waiting for us at the top.

Nathan splits a round for the wood stove, while Shaun gets ready for another downhill run.

Both Shaun and Jeff were stoked to get a chance to ride fat bikes for the first time. We rode the packed-down singletrack off the lookout for awhile. Then we stomped down a fresh trail on the steeper wind-loaded eastern slope, although we just kept wrecking into the soft powder over and over (which made everyone laugh over and over). Looking back, we should’ve let the trail settle for an hour or so, like when making a quinzee.

Jeff goes down on the steep foot-stomped singletrack.

Day Two

The ride back down the next morning was the most fun I’ve had on a fat bike yet. It was a novel feeling to notice your back end slip when going 18+ mph downhill, and actually be able to correct it every time.

The sun even made an appearance, and I was finally able to grab a few well-lit, blue-sky shots with my new lens.

All in all, it was a great weekend.

All photos by Casey Greene. To see more from this trip, visit Casey's blog.

For more about West Fork Butte and riding to fire lookouts, read Travel Tip: Riding to a Fire Lookout.


HOW ABOUT YOU? Inspire others by submitting your own bike overnight adventure!

1 response so far ↓

AT - Feb 21, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Nice! Still think I'd rather ski it, but that definitely looks fun.

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