Curly Lake - overrated?
I've ridden this trail a couple of times now and am less enthusiastic about this ride than others who rave about it. Don't get me wrong - it's a fun ride but I wouldn't characterize it as epic as others have. I know everyone has a particular type of trail they tend to gravitate to but over Curly's 25ish mile length; it doesn't seem to have a ton of any features that really make it stand out. I don't think the amount of climbing is too out of hand or steep but do find that a lot of the climbs are tougher to clean because of loose rock and the switchbacks have gotten pretty hammered from dirtbikes. The above treeline section of the trail is pretty brief and the long descent after the climb is more of war of attrition to finish. There are a couple of great descents like the initial one to Curly Lake and one a couple of miles through the sage hillside near the end. However the majority of the descents are neither technical or fast and flowy - they're just steep enough to have to be on the brakes a lot and rocky enough to not let you open it up.
I realize I could have just described the perfect trail for somebody out there but again, I've talked to others who agree that it's not a trail they'd ride again let alone consider a classic. I should probably add that an all mountain bike that is light enough to climb well but with enough travel to allow for less fatigue and add to the fun of the descents would be ideal but I know people ride this trail on everything from rigid single speeds to DH rigs. Anybody else got an opinion on Curly?
I hear some of what you're saying, but I rate the descents higher than you do. I think the long ridge descent after all the switchbacks off the top is pretty sweet, probably my favorite descent on the ride. Sure, it's chunky, but nothing big enough you can't blast through it on a typical AM bike without difficulty. I was on a 130mm 29er my last time, and loved that stretch. And the grassy sidehill downhill is pretty fun.
I agree that the trail is a bit loose, has a lot of switchbacks in spots, and a couple of them are pretty much unrideable uphill. But while it's actually not my favorite downhill trail, it is a big day out, gets you up high, and the views to the south are pretty great. I figure it's worth a ride or 2 a year. Still got more 'sploring to do, though. Lots of places to ride.
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The descent into Rock Creek is the worst part of the trail but overall still a very worthy trail.
I think it's a top 3 trail along with Mile/Sheep area.
If not Curly then what?
RIP, Gallatin Crest (not for the riding per se, but for what it is and where it goes)
Yeah. I don't think Curly should be judged based only on its ride qualities but instead you need to look at the "whole package". Curly is usually a weekend trip for me. Camp out with some buddies, take a short ride to Lost Cabin Lake, then ride Curly the next day, hang out, drive home. All without seeing much in the way of crowds. It's hard to do that on Grassy Mountain, Leverich, or any other trails around Bozeman. Curly has great views and above-treeline riding. How many other trails offer that without a serious amount of hike-a-bike?
Originally Posted by Montana Rider
I agree that it's not the toughest climb/ride that I've done nor the most fun downhill but it wasn't built to be a mtb trail. We're lucky it's rideable at all and that we're still allowed to do so.