Summer 2025: June 13 - July 8, 2025
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The course begins and ends in Missoula, Montana. The bike tour begins in eastern Montana and ends in Northwestern Montana. Along the approximately 700-mile cycling route, the group will explore Montana’s largest city, Billings, and communities in Central Montana, the state capitol in Helena, the Rocky Mountain Front, and Glacier National Park.

Semester Credits

Browse Course Syllabi

6 Semester Credits/9 Quarter Units:

Natural Resource Science & Management 321: Field Studies of Energy Systems in Montana (3 credits)
Energy production is among the most important and complex issues facing communities, economies, and ecosystems in the Rocky Mountain West. Students will explore first-hand a range of energy developments that will shape significant aspects of our economic, cultural, and ecological futures. Our focus is on the many possibilities for creating a sustainable energy future for Montana and the Rocky Mountain region.
Environmental Studies 395: Field Studies of Climate Change in Montana (3 credits)
Students will gain an understanding of the powerful consequences associated with climate change and see first-hand how it is altering mountain and grassland ecosystems across Montana. Montana offers a wide array of landscapes, communities and industries in which to study climate change. This course examines current and probable impacts of climate change, evaluates how farmers, ranchers, protected area managers and others are responding to climate change, and engages students directly in policy debates regarding Montana’s climate future.

Academic Credit:

All courses offered through the Wild Rockies Field Institute are accredited through the University of Montana and the School for Extended and Lifelong Learning. Each Wild Rockies Field Institute course is approved and supported by University of Montana departmental leadership and faculty.

The “Cycle the Rockies” course offers two independent courses, each worth 3 semester credits, for a total of 6 credits earned for successfully completing the program.

Quarter System Students:
For colleges and universities on the quarter system, each of the two courses is typically worth 4.5 quarter system units, for a total of 9 units upon successful completion of the program.

Block System Students:
At institutions where one course is equal to one credit, each class (e.g. CCS 391) within a WRFI course is typically equal to one credit.

Cycle the Rockies Course Description

On “Cycle the Rockies” students will experience their academic coursework first-hand as it integrates into an extended bike tour across Montana, meetings with guest speakers, and site visits. Although it’s subject to a variety of circumstances, students can expect to cycle an average of 25-30 miles a day. The group will camp at designated camp sites, on public land, and occasionally on the property of a gracious guest speaker.

Montana offers prime examples of energy production facilities, from traditional fossil fuel energy sites to exciting alternative technologies for producing power. As the group makes its way across Montana via bicycles, they will visit small towns and meet with a variety of local citizens, land managers, scientists, elected officials, farmers, recreationists, and ranchers. These guest speakers expose students to diverse perspectives on the landscapes and cultures of the area, as well as the issues around energy and climate change.

Our route begins in eastern Montana at oil refineries and a coal-fired power plant in the industrial core of Billings. Then we will pedal north and west through grasslands and island mountain ranges on the central plains, visiting energy-efficient buildings and production sites for biofuels, wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric power along the way. After meetings with energy and climate policy experts at the state capitol in Helena, we will turn north along the impressive Rocky Mountain Front to Glacier National Park. We’ll cycle over the Continental Divide, spending time with climate scientists and park managers in Glacier before ending back in Missoula with a public presentation.

In addition to the academic topics mentioned above, throughout the course students learn and cultivate the skills of bike touring, bike maintenance, and minimum impact camping.