“A good mix of rocks and roots. Either direction is great.”
— matt hoyne
Beardance is one of the classics in the Flathead National Forest even though it lacks some of the amazing views other trails enjoy. With the some challenging rocky sections and narrow singletrack (and some man-made features for the mountain bikers) this is arguably the most complete trail in the valley. Don't let the first mile beat you down, this one gets easier as you go.
Some folks choose to shuttle this route, but the drive is quite long. Plus, the climb is awesome, so just enjoy running it. About 15 minutes south of Big Fork you'll see a sign and a small parking lot on the west side of Highway 35. Park here, the trail starts across the street. Be careful crossing since it is a busy highway.
The first mile is tough, right off the bat you'll have to clear a two foot step of knotted root and another tough rocky climb smack in the middle of the first switchback. The rocks continue and the grade bounces between 5 and 25%. In a half mile, you'll find a sign for the "Phillips Trail" which heads to the left. To stay on Beardance Trail, continue to the right.
After this sign you power through another section of sharp rocks but the climb gets progressively easier. There are still several switchbacks and the trail remains rugged with difficult roots and small drainage crossings that create a lot of mud.
Roughly 2 miles in, you'll find another trail intersection. The Crane Creek Trail connects on your left and Beardance continues straight. Immediately after passing the intersection the trail becomes rocky, muddy and rooted again. Once past this part, the climb becomes super gradual.
Just over a mile later you'll climb onto a forest road, turn right and in about 30 feet you'll see the trail continue to the left. Hit another forest road, again turn right, and again find the trail on the left side in about 60 feet.
This final bit is tight, overgrown singletrack. At the 6.7-mile mark you'll hit the top.
Turn around and head back the way you came.