The Estes Lake trail near Bigfork is an out and back of approximately 2.7 miles round-trip to a small lake tucked into the woods. The trail contains numerous rocks, root exposure and small to medium size ledges and is suitable for rear-driven handcycles. The majority of this trail is downhill on the way out and uphill on the way back, so keep that in mind as the return ride is significantly more taxing.
From the trail-head the Estes Lake trail follows a generally level path through primarily lodgepole pine forest for the first 0.2 miles before a short but moderately steep climb. Just prior to the top of this climb the trail forks, with the trail to Estes lake bearing to the left and a trail to a lookout bearing to the right. Stay left, climbing the last bit over a rise of open-woodland.
At this point the trail begins a mile long descent of approximately 400 vertical feet to the lake interrupted only briefly by short and mild climbs. The trail is wide but contains numerous medium sized ledges, rocks and root exposure to keep a rider on his or her toes. Along this section of trail be on the lookout for an abandoned SUV which is an odd thing to find in the middle of the woods on a trail.
At approximately 1.3 miles the trail splits again, with the right-most fork going to a ledge overlooking the lake and the left-most fork continuing to circle around the lake. Follow the right-most fork here to the ledge which provides great views of the lake and surrounding hills. The lake itself provides good fishing for small perch, so be sure to pack a rod and enjoy some fishing.
The return ride includes the climb back out of the valley including all of the rocks and ledges along the way so make sure you’ve saved plenty of energy for this more difficult part of the ride.
Trail Name: Estes Lake
Location: Bigfork, Montana |
Type: Wide trail (≥ 30″), Start and end at the same point (Out-and-Back)
Rating: Adaptive Level 8
Steepest Section: Difficult – over 30º
Most Off-Camber Section: Moderate – between 10-30º
Terrain: Mostly hardpack, lengthy loose sections
Obstacles: Root exposure, Deep ruts and erosion, Baby heads and/or rock gardens, Drops, ledges, jumps, Water crossings
Help Needed? Nope
Directions to Trailhead
From Bigfork, go south on Highway 35 for 0.7 miles, turning left onto Hwy 209. Stay on 209 for 3 miles, turning right at the light onto South Ferndale Rd. After 2 miles, merge right onto Crane Mountain Road #498. The trailhead for Estes Lake is 2.2 miles up Road # 498 off of a spur.
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