Montana’s capital city is flanked by 75 miles of singletrack that crisscross forested ridges and dip down into the city’s historic downtown district.
Helena’s easily accessed and extensive trail network presents short and long options (20+ miles) from the city’s center. Expect a hearty uphill as most routes crest the summits of nearby Mount Helena and Mount Ascension, the city’s two main hiking attractions that stand over 1,000 feet above the city streets. May through June are the best months to view Helena’s wildflowers, when the hills come alive with yellow Balsamroot, purple Forget-Me-Nots, Lupine, and Montana’s official flower, the Bitterroot. Open to non-motorized use, expect to encounter hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers sharing Helena’s popular singletrack along with area wildlife, including deer, black bear, cougar, fox, elk, and a variety of bird species. Speaking of animals, dogs are welcome on Helena’s trails, but the rules require them to be kept on leash or under voice command at all times.
Whether hiking or biking, take advantage of Helena’s free shuttle service from May through September. The free shuttle picks up five days a week at the walking mall on Last Chance Gulch and drops off at various trailheads outside the city limits, making for an easy point-to-point experience that leads to the city’s quaint breweries, restaurants, and boutique shops.
Helena’s most loved trail is the Helena Ridge Trail, a 7.9-mile traverse from the Prospector’s Gulch Trailhead just outside of town and ending at the Mount Helena Trailhead, in a downtown neighborhood. The trail winds along a wide ridge, offering sweeping views of the Helena Valley and surrounding forest. Use the free shuttle to catch a ride to the starting trailhead and take the Mount Helena Ridge Trail back to town or start at the Mount Helena Trailhead, ascend the ridge via the 1906 trail, and make it an out-and-back trip for a longer trek.
The International Mountain Bike Association designated Helena as a Silver Medal Ride Center, recognizing Helena’s extensive trail network for all skill levels. A popular intermediate-level ride is the flow trail Rent Money, accessed from the Old Shooting Range Trailhead on Davis Gulch.