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  1. #1
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    Helena, Montana Info

    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.

    Helena's trail map is now available online at Trailforks.

    As of a year or two ago, the official trail inventory looked more or less like this:

    Helena, Montana Info-helenasnapshot.jpg

    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:

    Helena, Montana Info-downtownhelena.jpg

    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.

    Happy riding-

    Helena, Montana Info-img_3657.jpg
    Mount Helena Ridge Trail

    Helena, Montana Info-mounthview.jpg
    View from Mount Helena summit
    Last edited by evasive; 10-02-2014 at 08:32 AM. Reason: added an updated map link
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

  2. #2
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    wow, I had no idea. thanks for the post.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, just what I was looking for. The trail system has changed since I lived there in the late 90's.
    Are we putting air in the tires today?

  4. #4
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    Re: Helena, Montana Info

    Nice work. Love my town!


    View from Ascension
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  5. #5
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    A recent blog post from a Helena visitor. Click.

    Nice write-up with some good photos.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

  6. #6
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    Sticky this moderator!

  7. #7
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    IMBA Ride Center

    Here's a feather in our cap: Helena is now a Bronze-level IMBA ride center. Come check us out!
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

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    Yep. Helena is fun. My favorite time to visit is spring and fall. Just went a week ago and had a blast riding new-to-me trails. Always get humbled there trying to get through the nasty rock sections. Rode on Rodney Ridge-Rent Money and Stairway to Heaven-Highway to Hell. Then ambled into the Brewery. We took off for both rides from the truck that never moved from the Brewery parking lot. Pretty sweet.
    I don't know what trail we're on, but at least it's getting dark

  9. #9
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    The 2014 Trail Rider season starts this Wednesday (6/4). The Trail Rider is sponsored by Downtown Helena and Bike Helena, and provides a free shuttle from downtown out to popular trailheads. This year, the shuttle will run twice on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings, and three times Saturday and Sunday mornings. Details on departures and destinations are available on the Bike Helena page. Weekend mornings will go to the Mount Helena Ridge, but the weeknights will vary.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

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    My lady and I took a mountain biking trip to Helena a few weeks ago, down from Canada.

    1. What's a "gulch"? Everything was named gulch ie "Grizzley bear gulch". We had never heard that term before.

    2. The riding was fun. We hit all the big spots. Would like to try again in the summer when the shuttle is up and running as it can take a while and be pretty punishing to get to the top of a ridge (especially early in the season while out of shape)

    3. The lack of camping options is mind boggling for such a nice outdoor setting.

    4. It doesn't appear that there are any bears around, my lady especially enjoyed this feature. Riding in Canada, it seems that there is always a bear around the corner, or at least the possibility of one.

    5. Helena is a cool town, with a real downtown.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johnny199r View Post
    1. What's a "gulch"? Everything was named gulch ie "Grizzley bear gulch". We had never heard that term before.
    It's a term for a small valley, and widely used in Montana. They're all over the map.

    Glad you had a good time! Personally, I think the spot up Davis Gulch (see?) would make a better campsite than an archery range, but that's not going to change. There are a few black bears here and there - I've come across them on the trail and seen scat near my place, but not very often.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

  12. #12
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    Rimini Rd has a developed campground and many primitive spots as well. It is about 5 miles west of town on hwy 12, then left on Rimini Rd for about 10 minute drive.
    Canyon Ferry and York have both developed and primitive camping, but now you're talking 20 min to an hour drive. There are other areas, too, but again we're talking 30+ min drive from town. It does suck that we don't have even closer camping.
    I've come across a black bear once while biking in the Elkhorns south of town. There are usually reports of black bear and mountain lion sightings in the south hills trails, but luckily not by me!

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  13. #13
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    As mentioned in another thread about a specific trip, you can camp for a small fee at the County Fairgrounds, too. That's on the north edge of town, and the most convenient option.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

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    Wow! Rode Helena a couple of weeks ago and was impressed. Tons of trails from town, lots of varied terrain, and even a shuttle to the top. We stayed in a motel due to the lack of camping but dug having a hot shower every day. We will be back for sure!

  15. #15
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    Read about Helena in Decline

    Decline Magazine visited Helena this summer. Read about it here.

    There's also an article on The Garage, my bike shop of choice.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

  16. #16
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    Bike Magazine visits Helena

    A little more media love, this time from Bike Magazine. Link.
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

  17. #17
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    Helena, Montana Info

    Another profile/trip report, with some riding, lodging, and dining suggestions.

    http://www.outtheremonthly.com/bike-...iking-capital/
    "Back off, man. I'm a scientist." - Dr. Peter Venkman

    Riding in Helena? Everything you need to know, right here.

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