THE WHITEFISH TRAIL
Why e-bikes, and other motorized uses, are not allowed on the Whitefish Trail
Stated simply, e-bikes are not allowed on the Whitefish Trail because e-bikes are considered motorized by the State of Montana and trails on State Land are non-motorized by law.
E-bikes are bicycles with electric motors. There are several classes of e-bikes, ranging from pedal assist to full throttle. All classes of e-bikes are considered by the State of Montana to be motorized vehicles. State of Montana Trust Lands, the 13,000-acres that surround Whitefish, have rules about where motorized uses are allowed that are managed and enforced by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). For instance, recreational motorized use is allowed on roads signed as "OPEN" by the DNRC but motorized use is not allowed on trails, off-trail, or on gated roads. This restriction on motorized uses impacts the Whitefish Trail, the majority of which is on DNRC State Trust Land.
E-bikes are not allowed on the Whitefish Trail because of the State regulations. The US Forest Service land and private land that the Whitefish Trail crosses have similar restrictions as well. To adhere to our agreements with our agency partners and private landowners, we are required to restrict motorized use of the trail, including the riding of all e-bikes.
Though it may feel as though these rules are new or have changed recently, they have been in effect at the state-level since before the Whitefish Trail was built. More attention is being put to them lately because of the rise in e-bike popularity but these have always been the rules on the Whitefish Trail since the trail opened in 2010.
There has recently been legislative discussion at the state-level to change the rules around e-bikes and how e-bikes are categorized. If you have a strong opinion about this issue, we encourage you to submit your comments to the Montana DNRC Recreation Use and Public Access Coordinator, Jessica Hoag (email below). The rules for how e-bikes are managed on the Whitefish Trail will only change if the state’s regulations for e-bikes on non-motorized trails change. Finally, we are working with partners to develop a guide to the local Flathead trails and dirt roads where e-bikes are welcome. Please stay tuned for further developments and respect the rules of the Whitefish Trail.
Additional links and contacts:
MT DNRC Access Specialist: Jessica Hoag, JHoag@mt.gov