One of Helena’s greatest assets are its open lands, forests, and mountains. They bring many scenic, recreational, and natural marvels to Helena and allow the city to intermingle with the wildlands in a unique way. The city of Helena currently owns and manages over 1738 acres of open and undeveloped parkland, including the Mount Ascension Park and Mount Helena City Park.
Mount Helena City Park at its peak is 5,468 feet above sea level and about 1,300 feet above the Last Chance Gulch Mall. There is a parking lot with information kiosk available at the trailhead. There are many trails on Mount Helena…including the following:
1906 TRAIL This well designed trail has offered the easiest and most direct route to the top of the mountain for over 70 years. It follows the base of the limestone cliffs for a while, and passes the Devil’s Kitchen.
THE PRAIRIE TRAIL This trail was named for the beautiful prairie wildflowers that bloom along its length, and it is perhaps the best place to see the cliffs and to enjoy the park’s remarkably varied north-slope landscapes. The colors here are always beautiful, but especially when the wildflowers are in bloom and near sunset or sunrise.
THE BACKSIDE TRAIL An interesting trail passing through a typically open and grassy woodland of ponderosa pine. You’ll notice that the pines at the trail’s western end have a little fire-blackening at the base of their trunks. Quick burning grass fires are a frequent visitor to such woodlands, and the pines are well adapted to thrive in spite of it.
THE HOGBACK TRAIL A rather rough and rocky trail that leads from the peak of the mountain southward along the exposed Hogback Ridge. It is a lot more fun to go down this trail than to go up, but it offers spectacular views in all directions, and the closest thing to a wind-swept alpine experience to be had on our little mountain.
THE PROSPECTOR SHAFTS TRAIL Named for the prospector shafts about half-way along its length. This is a long and very interesting trail that winds through a wide variety of landscapes, and which makes a lot of unexpected twists and turns. A fine way to explore the recently acquired southeast quarter of the park.
THE WEST END TRAIL This is the most remote part of the park. The trail leads through a beautiful little meadow in the saddle between Mount Helena itself and the next prominent bump along the ridge. It is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon.
THE RIDGE TRAIL This scenic trail is perfect for hiking and biking. The entire trail is approximately 13.2 miles and runs from the parking lot at Mount Helena City Park up to Park City and back. During the summer months (June-September) Downtown Helena businesses, HATS, and the Business Improvement District sponsor Trolley to Trails. Trolley to Trails is a free shuttle from Women’s Mural up Grizzly Gulch, where riders can get off the trolley and enjoy a day of hiking or biking Helena’s Ridge Trail every Saturday and Sunday during the summer months. The morning pick-up times at Women’s Mural, located on Broadway and Last Chance Gulch are 8:00 a.m., 8:40 a.m., and 9:20 a.m. Depending on the trail taken, hikers and bikers will complete approximately half of the total Ridge Trail loop with the Trolley to Trails system. A bike rack is provided. No pets allowed on the trolley.
Trail information courtesy of the Montana Official State Travel Site.
Check out the Crosswest Adventures episode featuring Mountain Biking in Helena! For more information on mountain biking in Helena, visit the Helena Tourism Alliance website at www.helenamt.com or Bike Helena at www.bikehelena.com