Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, in conjunction with the City of Whitefish and Whitefish Legacy Partners, has been working towards legitimizing the Spencer Mountain area to ensure that the trails on Spencer will stay open and will be properly maintained. FAMB’s work on Spencer Trails has been years in the making, and we’re not done yet!
FAMB was awarded a $25,000 grant from the 2015 Recreational Trails Program (RTP), and a $38,000 grant from the 2017 Recreational Trails Program, which is run by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. This funding has paid for Spencer's annual Special Recreational Use License Fee (approx. $4,000/year), much needed trail work, proper signage, improvements to the parking lot, and the reconstruction and rerouting of trails damaged by a multi-year timber-sale logging project in the area. We also received funding from the 2017 Great Fish Community Challenge - for which Spencer was our secondary project (the primary project is FAMB's Armory Pump Track).
What can I do to help?
We’d love to have your help! There’s a lot of trail work to be done, and there is a substantial cost associated with this project. Even with the RTP grant in place, your financial support is critical to the project’s success, and every dollar donated is greatly appreciated. We also really need your on-the-ground help each Spring/Fall - our grant funds come to us with the caveat that we need to supply a certain number of volunteer hours, which works out great because it allows you to give back to the trails that you love riding! Watch for trail days on FAMB’s calendar, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can help.
Is this part of the Whitefish Trail?
The freeride trails at the north end of Spencer are separate from the Whitefish Trail, but this project is done in conjunction with Whitefish Legacy Partners (the organization behind the Whitefish Trail). In addition to FAMB's improvements on the freeride trails, Whitefish Legacy Partners has licensed an 8 mile connector loop that circumnavigates the Spencer Mountain area and will be an extension of the Whitefish Trail. As part of that project, ¾ mile of new trail was built to complete the singletrack loop, offering great views and access. You can learn more about The Whitefish Trail (and ways you can help!) at www.WhitefishLegacy.org.
Why did this happen? Why not just leave it the way it was?
Before FAMB took on management and upkeep of Spencer Trails, they were technically unauthorized trails. The jumps, drops, and other trail features in particular put the DNRC in a difficult position. The DNRC recognized that these were popular trails, but there were concerns about liability and resource damage (among other concerns). The easy option for DNRC would have been to simply decommission the trails and tear down the features. Fortunately, the DNRC and FAMB, along with the City of Whitefish and Whitefish Legacy Partners were able to work past this and find a way to make sure the trails could stay, and made it possible for FAMB to construct and maintain safer, higher quality features built to generally accepted freeride specs. These groups have entered into a cooperative agreement, and the trails at Spencer are now licensed for public use for the next ten years (through 2024), as long as the agreed-upon requirements in the license are followed. One of these requirements is that FAMB pays an annual Special Recreational Use License Fee to the state annually. The fee is on a sliding scale and increases each year, but is currently approximately $4,000/year. This is the fee that enables all users to recreate on these trails.
Are there going to be any more new trails?
We’re trying not to count our chickens before they hatch, but we’re working on gaining approval for some additional trails. More on that to come…
I have fond memories of riding and building features at Spencer, and I’d rather keep doing my own thing and building my own trails.
Please don’t. Finding a way to keep the trails at Spencer has been a long process, involving a lot of time and work from a lot of different people from a number of different organizations. While this project means that Spencer is no longer the trail building free-for-all that it once was, this is the only way to make sure that Spencer will continue to exist in the future.
We recognize that a lot of people have put in lots of time building and maintaining the trails at Spencer over the years – these people made Spencer what it is. If you want to make sure the trails are built and maintained the way you like, contact us at email@example.com and we’ll try to make it happen.
Who owns the land?
Spencer Mountain is owned by the State of Montana, held in trust for the benefit of specific schools and institutions (Montana School for the Deaf and Blind and Montana Tech). The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) is the agency that manages these lands for the benefit of the trusts. DNRC’s goal is to manage the state of Montana’s trust land resources to produce revenue for the trust beneficiaries while considering environmental factors and protecting the future income generating capacity of the land.
Do I need a Montana State Land Recreation Use Permit at Spencer?
Not if you are recreating on the trails specifically authorized for public use. Part of the Licensing fee for Spencer includes a public access permit for those trails. As long as you are within the designated Spencer freeride trail corridor or within the Whitefish Trail system (including Lion Mtn., Beaver area, etc.), you do not need an individual permit. If you leave these system trail corridors to go explore, you are outside of the licensed area and therefore need a permit. If you need a permit, we recommend going to Sportsman & Ski Haus in either Whitefish or Kalispell - it's only $10.
What’s the deal with parking?
Portions of the old parking lot by the lake needed to be blocked off to protect the ecological buffer zone around the stream and Spencer Lake. There is now ample parking in the new upper parking lot by the kiosk. Please nose-in your vehicle while parking instead of parallel parking to maximize the number of vehicles that can fit in the parking lot.
Why were some trails decommissioned and destroyed?
There were a few small segments of trail that were decommissioned and closed permanently. The most noticeable of these was probably the short skidder trail that went straight up from the Twin Bridges trailhead. There is a variety of reasons for these closures, including limitation of ecological harm, safety issues, and limiting access to unauthorized vehicles.
Why are there horses at Spencer? Isn’t it just for bikes?
Mountain bikes aren’t the only user group at Spencer – Spencer is State land and everyone has an equal right to be out there. When you’re out at Spencer, expect to come across hikers, dogs and horses. When you do, be polite! When encountering a horse, talk to the rider and yield to the horse. Horses spook easily so it is best to dismount your bike on the downhill side of the trail. When in doubt, ask the rider of the horse. *Please note: Spencer is closed to motorized use.*
Preserving and advancing mountain bike activities in the Flathead Valley.