This comes up often enough that I figure it's worth creating an information thread.
Helena is now a Bronze-level IMBA Ride Center, with about 80 miles of singletrack in the South Hills immediately adjacent to town. The trails range from buff to rocky, with occasional rubble. The hills rise roughly 1,000 feet above town. Our season generally runs from mid-late March through the end of November. As of a year or two ago, the official trail inventory looked more or less like this:
That image isn't up-to-date or intended for navigation, but rather to give a sense of the extent and location of the trail network. The City has a map of the South Hills trail network on their website. Also, the Prickly Pear Land Trust publishes a South Hills trail map. It's a quality map printed on waterproof paper, and the proceeds help them bring new areas into the open lands inventory. I recommend stopping into any of Helena's outdoor stores to buy one.
Don't descend the 1906 and Powerline Trails on Mount Helena. Beyond that, none of the trails have designated uses or directions. They are multi-use, so please bear than in mind when descending around a blind turn. We're fortunate to not have much user conflict here, and courteous and friendly mountain bikers help with that a lot.
Most of the trailheads have some parking, but it's limited. One exception to this is the Old Shooting Range parking lot on Davis Street between Rodney Ridge and Mount Ascension. On evenings and weekends, the easiest place to park is on the south side of downtown. There are a number of options near the county library. Some of the on-street parking is permit-only during work hours, but there is a public lot across from the library, and close to the Blackfoot Brewing taproom. The old Federal Building has an enormous parking lot (thanks Urban Renewal ) and there is also plenty of parking along South Park Avenue next to it. From this spot, you have easy access to basically the whole of the network. Here's a screencap from Bing Maps:
As of 2013, there is a website for pretty much all of this information. Bikehelena.com has lots of information on Helena's trails and amenities. Links to their website and Facebook. The website includes lots of useful information, more than I'll put into this post, and it's actively updated. It includes suggested rides (with descriptions), lists of scheduled group rides, places to eat/drink, places to stay, etc. I highly recommend checking that page if you're planning a visit. I also highly recommend eating at Karmadillos: tasty southwestern food with a nice deck overlooking downtown and Reeder's Alley.
On weekends, there is a shuttle service from downtown to the most popular trailhead, the Mount Helena Ridge. Without the shuttle, it's an easy 6 mile ride up a gravel road. The shuttle leaves from the Women's Mural at Broadway and the Walking Mall on a regular schedule: 8:00, 8:40 and 9:20. It's possible to double-dip, catching the first and the last. The shuttle will also be running on Friday nights through the 2013 season. Up-to-date details on the Helena Trail Runner and details on its weeknight operation can again be found at Bikehelena.com.
There are three bike shops in town. The Garage and Great Divide Cyclery are next door to each other, downtown on Jackson Street. Big Sky Cycling & Fitness is on the northern end of downtown, on North Last Chance Gulch next door to the Bagel Company.
One thing Helena doesn't have much of is camping. There are several USFS campgrounds ~30 minutes away. These include Park Lake to the south, Vigilante Campground near York, camping in Tenmile Creek by Rimini, and Cromwell-Dixon on the Continental Divide.
Mount Helena Ridge Trail
View from Mount Helena summit
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Thread: Helena, Montana Info