Flathead Area Mountain Bikers proudly manages and maintains the 9 mile freeride trail network at Spencer trails in Whitefish. Since 2015, we've brought several historical, user-built trails up to safe standards while also improving their "fun factor", and have constructed several new trails and countless new technical terrain features, all thanks to grant funding, expert trail and feature design, and many dedicated volunteers.
Legitimate Trails are Built on a Foundation of...Paperwork. And With Partners.
Spencer Mountain is owned by the State of Montana, held in trust for the benefit of specific state schools and institutions. The land at Spencer benefits the 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. The 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.
In 2005, a developer became interested in acquiring Spencer from the DNRC. At the time, there was an informal network of historical, user-built trails and technical terrain features at Spencer. The DNRC had become concerned about liability and resource damage stemming from the existence of these user-built terrain features, and there was talk of Spencer closing to the public if construction of these features -- which would pop back up in some form soon after being torn down -- continued. With access at Spencer threatened, in 2005 with the goal of preserving public access at Spencer, a group of committed mountain bikers decided to form Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, (FAMB), a nonprofit which started under the name Flathead Fat Tires, the Flathead Valley’s first and only organized mountain bike organization.
The City of Whitefish, recognizing the value that this trail network would provide to the community, agreed to hold the DNRC Special Recreational Use License (SRUL), which secures public access to all of Spencer Trails through 2024. A Memorandum of Understanding between the City and FAMB delegates to FAMB the responsibility for managing and maintaining the freeride trails at Spencer, and FAMB’s obligation to pay the SRUL Fee for these trails. Longtime trail partner Whitefish Legacy Partners (WLP), which has constructed, manages and maintains the Whitefish Trail, was also instrumental in making all of this happen. WLP has a similar MOU with the City for management of segments of the Whitefish Trail at Spencer and for payment of that portion of the SRUL Fee to the DNRC. By paying this SRUL fee, FAMB and WLP are providing recreational access to the public, free of charge, on these trail corridors. The DNRC typically requires users who recreate on state trust lands to buy an annual $10 license, a requirement many recreationalists are unaware of. Technically, if you leave the trail corridor at Spencer, you are outside the SRUL area and are supposed to purchase this rec license. For more information on this requirement and to purchase your rec use license, visit the DNRC website.
How FAMB Pays for Spencer Trails
Building and maintaining trails -- especially trails like Spencer with Technical Terrain Features (TTFs) -- is expensive and time consuming. To fund initial construction and ongoing maintenance of Spencer Trails, FAMB secured three Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grants. RTP grant funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund and represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from non highway recreational fuel use: fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks. The grant program is administered by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. FAMB secured RTP grants in 2015 ($25,000), 2017 ($38,000), and 2019 ($20,000) for a total of $83,000 to fund trail and TTF construction, trailhead improvements, signage, and ongoing maintenance. Construction of some trails was initially postponed due to a timber sale at Spencer Mountain (another way in which the DNRC raises funds for state schools). This multi-year logging operation was completed in 2017, and FAMB has now completed all of its first phase trail construction at Spencer.
Sponsorship of Spencer Trails
FAMB currently pays over $5,000 a year in SRUL Fees to the DNRC, and to help defray this cost, we sell trail sponsorships each year - you may have noticed the sponsor signage at the start of each trail. If your business or you personally are interested in becoming a Spencer Sponsor, email us at email@example.com. Remember, the SRUL Fee pays for public access at Spencer, so our Spencer Sponsors have generously paid for your access to these trails. For that, we thank them and encourage you to support their businesses. Current Spencer Sponsors are given first right of refusal to renew their sponsorship each year in March. Here’s a list of our 2020-2021 Spencer Sponsors:
Sample Sponsor Sign
Success through Robust Volunteer Involvement
In conjunction with this grant funding, FAMB has a robust history of volunteer involvement, both from our Board of Directors and from the broader community. Here’s a quick snapshot of FAMB volunteer involvement at Spencer in recent years. We thank so many of you for digging in the dirt with us! We typically host several volunteer trail days at Spencer in the Spring and Fall each year. Check our Event Calendar and our Volunteer Trail Work Opportunities Pagefor more info on how you can get involved, or email our Trail Project Coordinator.
Spencer Trails are Multi-Use Trails, but No Motorized Use is Allowed
While riding at Spencer, you’ll see pedestrian trail users as well as equestrians on many of the trails and logging roads. While horse and pedestrian traffic is discouraged on some trails at Spencer, we can’t completely exclude other user groups from any trail. Please remember that mountain bikers must yield to all other user groups. You have the ability to give all mountain bikers a good name in the minds of other user groups, so please be considerate and friendly. While Spencer Trails are for non-motorized use only, you might occasionally see a DNRC or FAMB vehicle behind the gate while we perform trail inspections or trail maintenance. So please be alert.
Are E-Bikes Allowed at Spencer?
No. Currently, the DNRC does not allow e-bikes on any state trust lands. We’ll keep you posted if this changes - sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for this and other mountain biking-related updates.
How to Report a Problem at Spencer Trails
You can contact FAMB at firstname.lastname@example.org or WLP at email@example.com to report any issues. If you feel the issue requires law enforcement involvement, you can reach DNRC law enforcement by calling 1-800-TIP-MONT. If you need emergency assistance, dial 911 - there is mobile phone coverage at Spencer Trails.
The Future at Spencer is Bright
In the near future, Spencer Trails will also connect to a half-mile bike trail that is slated to be constructed by the MT DOT along Hwy 93 which will provide bike trail connectivity to the rest of the Whitefish Trail and Whitefish city paths. While there may be additional trails constructed at Spencer in the future, there aren’t any expansion plans currently in the works. Any new trail proposals would need to be reviewed by the DNRC and undergo an environmental review. That said, you may see some changes and new features on the existing trails over the next few years.
Have a photo of someone going big at Spencer? Send it with trail name, feature name (if any), rider name (if you choose), and photo credit name.
Preserving and advancing mountain bike activities in the Flathead Valley.