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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 historic name.

1.(00.0km~00.0mi, 1516m~4974ft) START-END EAST: Ennis, jct US287 - Mt287
2.(16.6km~10.3mi, 2110m~6920ft) TOP: point of highest altitude
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.