There were a few things that I definitely wanted to do on our road trip to Banff National Park in Alberta, CAN. One was rock climb somewhere new, and the other was to break out the mountain bikes as often as possible on the way. It didn’t take long to get our tires onto some dirt. On day two of the trip, after leaving West Yellowstone heading north through Big Sky, MT, we made a stop in Montana’s Capitol of Helena.
Our stop, in this city with tons of mountain biking trails accessible right from town, was no coincidence. We researched on TrailForks all the best mountain biking towns we’d drive near on our route, and this one was a no-brainer. Just look at that trail density in the photo above! Just like Park City!
We parked right downtown and headed up the street towards the hillside. Trailforks indicated there were plenty of trails of all ratings along the southern edge of town on Mount Helena. We pedaled our butts off getting through the neighborhood to the trailhead. But once we got onto the dirt, we were home free. Plus, dogs are legally allowed off leash 100ft from the trailhead! This is a huge bonus! Gregor, like most dogs, tends to ride much better next to us off leash.
We started off on Ambrose Trail, hoping to follow a few trails that skirted alongside the slope rather that having to do a lot of climbing up and down it. But as luck would have it, there were 3x as many trails as the map indicated. Unmarked and unnamed trails regularly broke off the main ones, leaving us confused and struggling to find the easiest path to follow. We had no idea if fork in the trails would have us descending towards town, or climbing up to the summit. This meant I was constantly breaking out the phone to see which trail we were on or close to. Something I don’t mind when I’m by myself, but does become annoying when you’re riding with someone else and constantly stopping the momentum.
Eventually, we found a trail and stuck to it. Up and down the trail flowed over the topography. Quick descents into drainages, followed by short climbs over the ridges. The trail was 100% singletrack by definition, keeping tight and just enough overgrown to keep things interesting. The dirt mixed with rocks and roots to challenge all skill levels. And made for an epic evening of riding.
Even though we only cruised around for about 4 miles, I could tell this place was an unbelievable place to ride mountain bikes. There are so many trails we obviously didn’t get to ride, and one day I hope to get back there and try some more. But that’s still not the best part. Nearly every trail can funnel you back down towards the downtown, making a cold beer, post-ride, even more accessible. And that’s exactly what we did.
Helena is a rad place, a big city as far as western mountain towns go, and should definitely be on your list if you’re passing through Montana!