Author Topic: Wallace ID to Missoula MT to Great Falls Route Suggestions - Tandem Bicycle  (Read 278 times)

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Offline jamawani

I've stayed out of the discussion since HikeBikeCook presented infor I had offer to him last year.
I've ridden the Idaho Panhandle to Missoula corridor 7 or 8 times over the past 30 years.
I've done stretches of I-90. I've done various trails and backroads that parallel I-90.
On my first X-USA trip back in 1987, I roade Hwy 200 all the way from Sandpoint to Missoula.
My preference remains Hwy 471 and Hwy 200.

In one response above, the writer says that Wallace to Dobson Pass is difficult.
But you wouldn't need to ride via Dobson Pass, you get off the CdA Trail at Enaville.
(If Wallace is one of your destinations, then you would have to do Dobson.)
The CdA Trail east of Kellogg often runs smack dab up against I-90 - very meh.

FR-9 along the North Fork of the CdA is very scenic - a bit busy on weekends - but quiet otherwise.
Murray is an off-the-beaten-path historic mining town with a cafe and B&B.
The road up to Thompson Pass is moderately steep, but pretty darn empty.
Then it is a fast ride all the way into Thompson Falls.
Bonus - historic rail bridge - now bike/ped - over the falls into T.F.

Both the I-90 and Hwy 200 corridors are major transportation routes.
Neither is backwoods quiet, but the I-90 corridor has far more traffic.
Old US 10 and the Mullan Road are nice when they are well away from I-90,
but many times you are next to or near the interstate with the sound and sight of traffic.
Plus, there are times you do have to ride on I-90 - or else take some rough dirt.

The Hwy 200 corridor is less heavily wooded and has more expansive views of the river & mountains.
I don't particularly care for the US 93 stretch - but there are wide shoulders and it is safe.
From the summit on US 93, it is a super-fast ride down to Missoula.
One extra nice thing about the Hwy 200 option is you can detour to the Mission Mountains.
The Missions are only a short zig north from the Hwy 200 & US 93 junction.
After Glacier N.P., the Missions are the most spectacular mountain vista in Montana.

The biggest drawback to Hwy 200 is a lack of shoulder in certain sections.
I do bicycle route planning for individuals and cycling organizations.
I regularly check traffic levels - known as AADT (Average Annual Daily Traffic).
Hwy 200 has low-moderate traffic - which makes the lack of shoulders more manageable.
The last time I rode this stretch was August 2018 - and we did not have any difficulties.

Rural folks - just like city folks - do commute to work, often over greater distances.
Thompson Falls is an employment hub, so it's best to avoid riding 7-9a and 4-6p.
(Since many of the jobs are factory/mill I might make that 6-8a and 3-5p.)
State park camping is a few miles west of T.F, but the grocery store is a few miles east.
Plains, MT - has camping at the fairgrounds and all services closer together.


As with almost all bike routes - there are going to be challenging sections.
Over the years, I have cinsistently preferred the Hwy 200 option - despite the shoulders issue.
I regret that Old US 10 and Mullen Road were cut off when they built I-90 years ago.
I think that was short-sighted, but it means that it's still tough to stitch together a route there.
I am hopeful that, in the future, a better option along I-90 will be developed.

Have a great trip! J

Great views from a shouderless stretch of Hwy 200

Offline jamawani

About those I-90 bridges - -

20 years ago, when I last rode this stretch of I-90, most of the bridges had no shoulders.
Even though the speed limit was only 65 mph back then, it was still super scary.
Yes, I know Montana DOT has been upgrading a couple of bridges per year.
Usually they do one side one year and the other side the next.
I still think there are a number of bridges that have no shoulders as Carla mentioned.
The shoulderless bridges on I-90 are way scarier than the shoulderless sections of Hwy 200.

PS - I must confess that I have driven, but not biked this stretch of I-90 recently.
Whenever I drive it, I am always on the lookout for biking conditions, though.
And, yes, the fear factor of that long-ago ride does color my judgement.

Offline ggwbikemt

MDT has a web cam on the I-90 Nine mile bridge so that you can see how little shoulder and how little east bound sight distance is.