Flathead National Forest road 38B (NF-38B) leads to incredible views of both the Swan and Flathead mountain ranges as well as Hungry Horse reservoir. The road climbs 1,450 feet over approximately 4 miles and is suitable for both front and read driven handcycles. While there are no technical sections, the road does present a significant climb, hence the 5 rating instead of a 4. The road is closed to vehicles until about July 1st each year and receives light traffic thereafter.
From the junction with Flathead National Forest road 38, road 38B begins an immediate climb through mature forest of Western Larch, Douglas Fir, Englemann Spruce and Lodgepole pine. Huckleberry bushes are plentiful along the edges of the road making this an ideal location for handcycle users to pick berries from mid July onward.
After 0.7 miles the trail begins to offer glimpses of the massive peaks of Great Northern Mountain and Mount Grant to the east in the Flathead range. At 1.6 miles the road makes a sharp hairpin turn and begins climbing to the northwest. Huckleberry bushes continue to populate the shoulders as the trail rises through park-like forest. Near the top of the main climb recent logging operations have opened up views back to the valley below. After this logged area the trail descends a small saddle before climbing again.
The trail continues winding its way north and west, adding another climb and descent before reaching a gate at approximately 3.3 miles. This is the furthest point vehicles may travel when the lower gate is opened. After riding under the gate riders descent to an open ridge, with views of Hungry Horse Reservoir and the Swan Range straight out of a postcard. In all my years of riding this is one of the most jaw-dropping locations I have reached on a handcycle. Even on a mostly cloudy day they were incredible.
The work is not done at this point however, as the lookout tower looms high above one more extremely steep climb. Dedicated riders who complete this final leg are rewarded with additional views of not only the reservoir and Swan range, but Great Northern Mountain and Mount Grant as well.
The return is generally downhill, except for the three short sections previously mentioned. The road is heavily littered with babyhead sized rocks however, so only full-suspension handcycles will truly be able to take full advantage of gravity on the return.
Trail Name: Firefighter Mountain and Lookout
Location: Martin City, Montana |
Type: Unpaved road (open to vehicles), Forest Service Road, Start and end at the same point (Out-and-Back)
Rating: Adaptive Level 5
Steepest Section: Difficult – over 30º
Most Off-Camber Section: Mild – under 10º
Terrain: Mostly hardpack, minimal loose sections
Obstacles: Baby heads and/or rock gardens
Help Needed? Nope
Even more info: Video from ridgeline
Directions to Trailhead
From Martin City, travel along Flathead National Forest Service road 38 (East Side Reservoir Road) for approximately 15 miles. Road 38B will be on the right with a small area to park.
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