MT 287 summit(u) Ennis - Virginia City
Generally speaking you have to climb a high point to get a
far, unobstructed view of the landscape. The Madison
Valley is not a place like that, thanks to the virtual
absence of tree or bush that could possibly obscure the
magnificent, ragged skyline and the sweeping, almost neon
green valley floor. The summit on Mt287 between Ennis and
Virginia City is 1800 ft higher than the valley floor and
arguably offers a still better view than the valley. This
is not a huge pass, but it is bigger than many named
passes in Montana, and it is located on an old historic
gold rush road. So it is surprising that this crossing
over the Greenhorn Range was never designated with a
START-END EAST: Ennis, jct US287 - Mt287
2.(16.6km~10.3mi, 2110m~6920ft) TOP: point of
3.(22.5km~14.0mi, 1776m~5827ft) Virginia City
4.(37.1km~23.1mi, 1565m~5135ft) Alder
From East. Ennis is the only major settlement in the
Madison Valley. It offers all services, if you want to go
fishing, go on a bird hunt, reload your guns or eat an
overprized meal. As for bicycle parts this is not the place.
The traffic leaving town can be a bit intimidating in the
beginning. There is no shoulder of any kind, and in Montana
this can actually be a good thing. The reason is that
virtually all shoulders are rumble stripped, though the
agregiousness in destroying the shoulder as a usable bike path
varies. However, here there is no question if the shoulder is
ridable or not - there is no shoulder - and consequently
motorists cannot get aggravated if you don't ride on it.
After the first straight away and a 90 degree turn west, the
road heads straight up the green hills, and traffic seems to
thin out, maybe because it's now travelling at varying speeds.
The Madison Range on the opposite side takes on a new
perspective as you come closer to the level of the peaks. A
view point along the way labels many of the peaks. The great
view continues a while longer and the road keeps on climbing,
even though now not as steeply. Even after the Madison Range
becomes nothing more than a hazy, narrow silhouette above the
sage brush blowing in the wind, the road keeps on climbing.
Soon after the rounded summit the more forested Ruby Range on
the west side comes into view.
From West. (also described upwards). One could argue
that the very bottom of this road is at Twin Bridges. However
there really is very little climbing until you pass through
the first Montana gold rush town of Alder. A whole series of
old west towns give this approach a special interest, some of
it authentic, and some of it resurrected as the Old Vigilante
Gift Shop or the Outlaw Cafe. Nevada City has an old train
depot and vintage railroad coaches parked in front. On the
east side of town an ornamented old mansion exudes an
atmosphere of pleasing decay as it rots away between old car
wrecks and no trespassing signs. Virginia City is slightly
more tourist commercialized, but beneath all is real history,
and it still feels more authentic than Ennis during fly
fishing festival. The climb starts in earnest east of Virginia
City. A climbing lane starts here and disappears again
quickly, as a steep slope leads through sage brush hills to
the summit. There is also no shoulder, but traffic is really
not that bad for this to become a problem.
An out and back ride from Sheridan <> Virginia City
<> Mt287 summit(u) <> Ennis measured 68 miles with
4000ft of climbing in 5:2 hours on a windy, cool, late August
day (Vetta 100A r2:10.8.20).
Montana Gold Rush (<Raynolds
Pass|) Even though this little summit is rarely mentioned
when it comes to the history of Montana's gold rush, it was
traversed by many miners. The Old Virginia City Road runs runs
south of the modern highway on the east side of the pass. In
1863/64 when gold was found here, some of the gold seekers
came from Jackson Hole, traversing Teton
Pass, Raynolds Pass,
descending the Madison to Enis, and then turned into the hills
over this unnamed summit to reach Alder Creek. Virginia City
became territorial capitol from 1865 to 75.
The Ruby river was called the Passamari by the Shoshoni.
The name "Stinking Water" was used by a Denver
editor who wrote about the Montana Gold Rush, worrying it
would act as a draw on Denver's population. The name stuck
with the miners. Later it was mistakenly renamed the Ruby
River, running through Ruby Valley, even though the rocks
found were actually garnets.