Author Topic: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)  (Read 664 times)

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Offline theshow499

Planning for a 2020 ride across the country that will route us from St Regis to Missoula.  I'm reading all sorts of contradictory stuff online, so I wanted to see if there truly is a way to make it to Missoula from St Regis entirely or almost entirely off the interstate. 

Excitedly, there is a new bike lane expansion that will connect from Huson to Wye, around 11 miles total, which makes this route even more attractive. I found this route posted to Ride with GPS, https://ridewithgps.com/routes/7643564, and it seems to show a route all the way to Missoula while avoiding the interstate with the exception of a few miles between Cyr and Alberton and another two miles further east.  That seems like an okay compromise for me (around 5 miles total w/o crossing any exit ramps), but I'm wondering if anyone can confirm this route doesn't run into some of the closed sections I've read about in posts that are a few years old?

Offline John Nettles

Re: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2018, 10:29:09 pm »
Yes, that route is mostly correct.  I rode it east bound and the only difference is I am pretty sure you have to do 1 extra mile on the interstate due to the location of a special westbound only entrance. 

That said, we had absolutely no trouble with the interstate.  Traffic wasn't bad at all and the vast majority pulled to the inner lane when passing.

As a side note, if you are doing the route of the hiawatha and are willing to do some easy downhill miles of gravel, I highly recommend you ride the St Joe River Road between Avery to Gold Creek Road then up over the pass (paved up, gravel down) into St. Regis.

Absolutely great scenery and quiet roads.  NO services other than camping (filter water) but wonderful overall.

Offline theshow499

Re: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2018, 10:55:29 pm »
Yes, that route is mostly correct.  I rode it east bound and the only difference is I am pretty sure you have to do 1 extra mile on the interstate due to the location of a special westbound only entrance. 

That said, we had absolutely no trouble with the interstate.  Traffic wasn't bad at all and the vast majority pulled to the inner lane when passing.

As a side note, if you are doing the route of the hiawatha and are willing to do some easy downhill miles of gravel, I highly recommend you ride the St Joe River Road between Avery to Gold Creek Road then up over the pass (paved up, gravel down) into St. Regis.

Absolutely great scenery and quiet roads.  NO services other than camping (filter water) but wonderful overall.

That's reassuring.  I'll look into the exact location of the westbound only entrance.

As for getting to St Regis, we were going to take the new(ish) rail trail called Route of the Olympian (by way of NorPac Trail) which terminates right next to St Regis. The NorPac and Hiawatha trail connect, so we'd like to sneak in the Hiawatha if we can.  I think we're going with 35mm tires in order to take gravel roads and rougher rail trails along our journey.

Offline jamawani

Re: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)
« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2018, 05:49:42 am »
You will be chock-a-block against I-90 for quite a few miles.
Some folks are O.K. with this - others not so much. At least I-90 in Montana ain't I-95 in Jersey.
Much of the route is Old US 10 - and when on the opposite side of the Clark Fork is quite nice.

Took a look at route specifics - -
Why not take Mullan Road west out of Missoula - from MP 2 to MP 17?
W. Broadway is a developed strip with heavy traffic.
Mullan has a wide shoulder for 6 miles, then light traffic.

Since you mentioned dirt - -
Have you considered Ninemile Rd. over Siegel Pass?
Gradual valley climb on east side, steeper on west side.
You branch off at MP 26 and hit MT Hwy 135 just west of Quinn's Hot Springs.
(Quinn's used to have camping and was quite nice, but now is cabin-only and $$$.)

I would certainly get a Lolo National Forest Map - not too difficult.
Ninemile Rd. is a maintained county road and primary forest route.
Can be muddy/snowy into June and by late Sept. Also tough after heavy rain.
It's a moderate-plus climb - but Ninemiile Valley is lovely.

Strongly rec slight detour at start to access Historic Ninemile Ranger Station -
Which also is a visitor center with water. Otherwise, very limited services.

http://greatamericanplaces.tu.org/ninemile-valley-lolo/


Offline John Nettles

Re: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)
« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2018, 04:37:40 pm »
I was mistaken.  It is about 1 mile LESS of interstate eastbound compared to westbound.  As we were eastbound, we took Exit 68.  If you look at the map, there is a eastbound Exit 68 but no westbound entrance.  The westbound entrance is about 1 miles east at MM67 (not marked on Google Maps but if you zoom in you will see it).
While I know you are going to do the new Olympia Route (please report back on how it is!), I still strongly recommend you ride the Hiawatha leg also.  They do have a shuttle so you can ride downhill across the many trestles and through the many tunnels and then have a school bus bring you and your bike back to the top where you can continue on the Olympia Trail.  It really is a Top 10 Rail Trail.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2018, 07:32:47 am »
I did Missoula to St. Regis in 2017. I will take a look at the map further, but at this point I will say that I would be wary of the stretch between mile 43 and 47. I am almost certain that's the old Milwaukee Road right of way. It very well could be a private road now. Turn on the satellite view and look at mile 45.8. There appears to be some sort of structure in the middle of the right of way with a track going to its south. I also read a journal page on Crazy Guy describing how the author was confronted by a local about his trespassing. Based on the description, it sounded like he was on that right of way.

Also, look at Street View at mile 77 (Red Hill Rd.) A portion of the road east of there is definitely the old Milwaukee Road right of way. As you can clearly see from Street View, it is signed as a private road with a no trespassing sign. (Notice the old railroad mast signals used to string up the private road sign. Nice touch.) There is also a sign indicating that county maintenance ends at that the point where the road is signed as private.

As for the Olympian, note that is is rough in places. And once you get east of Haugan there is no getting off until interchange 26 of I-90. That's because you are hemmed in by the river. Also, the connection from the NorPac to the Olympian is NOT at grade. Going east you will have to climb a relatively short but very steep gravel road. The connection doesn't appear on Google Maps, but you can see it on satellite view.

Offline roadrunner

This response is a bit tardy, since I was off-line for the holidays.

I did a tour in 2014 that included the stretch from Spokane to Missoula, with the objective of maximizing riding on trails and avoiding interstates.  It included the Centenial trails between Spokane and Coeur d'Alene, the Trail of the Coeur d'Alene, the Route of the Hiawatha, and the Route of the Olympian from the east end of the Hiawatha to Saltese.  Rode the I-90 shoulder from Saltese to St. Regis, which was no problem.  From St. Regis, the route followed Montana Highways 135 and 200 to St. Ignatius (a beautiful ride along rivers), then Highway 200 to Missoula.  The whole route was a great ride.

Offline theshow499

Re: St Regis to Missoula avoiding the Interstate? (with new bike lane update!)
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2019, 11:36:10 pm »
I did Missoula to St. Regis in 2017. I will take a look at the map further, but at this point I will say that I would be wary of the stretch between mile 43 and 47. I am almost certain that's the old Milwaukee Road right of way. It very well could be a private road now. Turn on the satellite view and look at mile 45.8. There appears to be some sort of structure in the middle of the right of way with a track going to its south. I also read a journal page on Crazy Guy describing how the author was confronted by a local about his trespassing. Based on the description, it sounded like he was on that right of way.

Also, look at Street View at mile 77 (Red Hill Rd.) A portion of the road east of there is definitely the old Milwaukee Road right of way. As you can clearly see from Street View, it is signed as a private road with a no trespassing sign. (Notice the old railroad mast signals used to string up the private road sign. Nice touch.) There is also a sign indicating that county maintenance ends at that the point where the road is signed as private.

As for the Olympian, note that is is rough in places. And once you get east of Haugan there is no getting off until interchange 26 of I-90. That's because you are hemmed in by the river. Also, the connection from the NorPac to the Olympian is NOT at grade. Going east you will have to climb a relatively short but very steep gravel road. The connection doesn't appear on Google Maps, but you can see it on satellite view.

Thanks for this!  This is really great detail and insight. I'll have to think this over a bit. 

Offline rootchopper

I rode Missoula to St. Regis last summer. Getting out of Missoula was unpleasant (suburban strip malls) but it lasts only a few miles. The route includes a frontage road to I-90 for several miles. This was being reconstructed when I rode it. I'll bet it's in a lot better shape (including pavement) now.

I-90 has WIDE shoulders. No worries at all, except for the four bridges that were under construction. Traffic was squeezed to one lane each way. No shoulders. No guts, no glory. I waited for a big gap in traffic and went for it. My guess is that this won't be an issue this summer.

There is a section than runs through a wooded area parallel to I-90. This is very pleasant. I suppose this is what other were saying may be a private road. I didn't see any access issues and there was store along the road where I waited out a passing storm.

From St. Regis to Paradise along 135 is very scenic.

Hope this helps. Enjoy your trip.