Choose your poison

The main trails downhill at Acton Recreation Area are marked with signs, the top of which denote the difficulty. Black is tougher than blue and green is the easiest.

The Bureau of Land Management has cooperated with Billings-area mountain bikers to create a fun play area about 30 miles north of Billings, the Acton Recreation Area.

From the top of a bluff three trails — Redline, Tumbleweed and Rollercoaster — drop off ridges through the pine trees and sandstone to the grassy, flowered valley about 350 feet below where mule deer race you to the next ridge.

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Big sky area

Once at the bottom of the hill the Acton Recreation Area opens up into a large bottom land for fun cross-country travel.

From the top it’s about a mile-and-a-half to the valley floor where riders can then pick their way on trails through the knee-high grass and sagebrush fields or hit the dirt road for the huff and puff back up. (If you have mountain biking friends, you could drive two vehicles and park one down below as a shuttle if you’re lazy. It’s a four-wheel drive road.) Yellow caution signs highlight drop-offs. Look for the less traveled routes around those pitches if you’re not an A grade rider, or hop off and walk around.

A new family friendly loop about 1 mile long stays on top of the ridge just south of the parking area.

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Take the road up

Signs advise cyclists to not ride up the trails. A dirt road provides the safest route back to the top.

The BLM has invested in a large lot, vault toilet and picnic area, but bring your own water. The area is also open to horseback riders, hikers and hunters. The Spoke Shop has links to the three trails online. Counting the road, the area has a little over 30 miles of routes right now, said Dean Cromwell, owner of The Spoke Shop. When completed there will be more than 40 miles, including a 15-mile perimeter loop.

The Big Sky State Games’ Enduro and mountain biking competition will be held at the site this year on July 22, bringing more attention to what’s been a pretty quiet site considering its close proximity to Billings.

"It could become a regional destination," Cromwell said.

Pedal United, the local International Mountain Biking Association chapter, has volunteered a lot of time and energy to the creation of the trails. Log on to their Facebook page to find their next work and ride dates.

Dave Lefevre, acting field manager for the Billings Field Office of the BLM, praised the volunteer's work. 

"The lion share of the investment has come from the volunteers," he said. 

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