mountain biker in Copper City Three Forks Montana

Things to do in Three Forks, MT: Bike | Hike | Brew

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This post is sponsored by Montana’s Yellowstone Country  

Since I am such an athlete (ha ha) I am sharing my second triathlon post. While you might think of swimming, biking, and running long, hard distances, I think of an easier, more fun version that involves a couple of my favorite outdoor pursuits and a little beer or cocktail to finish the day. 

We recently found my version of a triathlon to be three of the fun things to do in Three Forks, MT.

We spent the day before winning the Belgrade triathlon and were ready to test our skills on a new course.

Three Forks is one of the great places to visit in Montana, and there is a lot to recommend it:

  • easy access to trails for hiking and mountain biking trails
  • cute downtown
  • close to three Montana State Parks: Lewis and Clark Caverns, Madison Buffalo Jump, and Missouri Headwaters State Park.
  • fishing, swimming, and boating on the Gallatin, Madison, and Jefferson Rivers.
  • good restaurants
  • Headwaters Trail System: 12 miles of rails-to-trails pathways from Missouri Headwaters State Park to the Jefferson River’s Droulliard Fishing Access.

While there are lots of things to do in Three Forks, Montana, we spent one day doing three of them.

woman mountain biking near Bozeman Montana

Where is Three Forks, Montana? 

Three Forks is about 30 miles west of Bozeman, Montana and 55 miles east of Butte, Montana, just off of I-90. It is 68 miles southeast of Helena, Montana.

Three Forks MT Map

Three Forks got its name because it is where the three forks that form the Missouri River come together. The Jefferson River, the Madison River, and the Gallatin River join in Missouri Headwaters State Park.

This was a pivotal spot for the Corps of Discovery (you might know them as the Lewis and Clark expedition) because it’s here that they had to decide which river to follow to get to the Pacific Ocean. When you are at the headwaters, the rivers all look to be of similar size, so it’s not an easy choice.

Learn more about Lewis and Clark’s journey across Montana (along with Sacajawea and the rest of the Corps of Discovery, of course)

Three Forks and the surrounding area is the ancestral home of the Salish Kootenai (Flathead), Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), Cheyenne, Apsaalooké (Crow), and Shoshone-Bannock tribes. A lot of people were using the area seasonally.

What to Do in Three Forks, Montana

mountain biking in montana

Biking in Three Forks, Montana

One of the top Three Forks, MT things to do is to get outside. We were excited to check out some newer mountain biking trails on BLM land near Three Forks. 

We are not expert, or even intermediate mountain bikers, but we like to give it a go and I knew there were some beginning trails we could manage at Copper City.

The trails are marked like ski slopes, with green (easiest), blue (more difficult), and black (most difficult) stacked loops.

We started on the pump course adjacent to the parking lot and it turned out to be a lot of fun. Riding up and down little hills and around curved banks was pretty easy and we were all laughing and hooting the whole time.

We opted for the easy route, combining Green Eagle North and Green Eagle South. It was a blast. We probably could have thrown in one of the blue loops, but since this was a triathlon day we had to move on.

I didn’t think I liked mountain biking very much, but riding these lovely trails has changed my mind.

mountain biking at copper city three forks montana

See the trail map for Copper City here.

Getting to Copper City

From Three Forks, drive west on I-90 3.3 miles and ake exit 274 toward US-287 N. Turn right and drive 5 miles to Copper City Road. Turn right and follow the gravel road to the parking lot.

reading interpretive signs at Missouri Headwaters State Park

Hiking in Three Forks, Montana

After picking up sandwiches at Wheat Montana near Copper City, we drove to the picnic area at the north end of Missouri Headwaters State Park.

The park has 17 campsites, tipi rental, foot trails to points of interest, interpretive programs, and interpretive displays of the area’s cultural and natural history.

After lunching alongside the Gallatin River, we walked the easy, 1.3-mile Fort Rock Loop trail. From the top we spied the three rivers that form the official start of the Missouri River.

Long before Lewis and Clark got here, several tribes used the area to hunt bison, collect plants for food and medicine, and to trade with other tribes. Looking across the river, we saw rock cliffs hiding a prehistoric chert mine. Ancient people dug chert ( a type of rock) for weapons and tools there, and it’s dated to 11,000 years ago.

hiking in Montana State Parks

While the hiking isn’t challenging, we appreciated how much there is to learn about the area and the people that have lived here and traveled through for tens of thousands of years. The view isn’t too bad either.

Getting to Missouri Headwaters State Park

From Three Forks, cross over I-90 and turn right, following MT-2 E/Frontage Rd W for 2 miles. Turn left at the State Park sign onto Trident Road and drive into the park.

roasting marshmallows at Sacajawea hotel in Three Forks

Brews in Three Forks, Montana

We enjoyed our brews around a fire at the Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks. There are two restaurants with bars inside the hotel. We took our beers and the s’more kit the offer guests out to the fire pit on the spacious patio.

Sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows was a good time for us to recap our day and solidify the memories we had made.

small town montana Three Forks

Restaurants in Three Forks, Montana

As I mentioned above, there are two restaurants in the Sacajawea Hotel. Pompey’s Grill is fine dining (make reservations!) and Sacajawea Grill is more casual. 

Iron Horse Cafe and Pie Shop has great food and yummy pie.

We also like Wheat Montana for breakfast and takeaway sandwiches. 

Hotels in Three Forks, Montana

The Sacajawea Hotel is a charmingly restored historic hotel. The lobby is lovely, the rooms are cozy, and the beds are super comfortable. 

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