Mount Helena, a 5,468 peak, lies within a 620 acre city park on the southwest edge of Helena, Montana. Trails branch away from the parking area providing access to all sides of the mountain. These paths lead visitors to wonderful views from the summit of Mount Helena 1,300 feet above the city. The park remains open all year, there are no visitor fees, and dogs are welcome as long as they are kept on a leash.
To access Mount Helena City Park, drive south of downtown on Park Avenue and follow the city park sign through Reeders Village subdivision to the parking area. Hikers and mountain bikers flock to Mount Helena on weekends so the lot fills up quickly. Study the map and information provided near the entrance to help you decide how you would like to explore the park. To get a good overall view of the park along a nice 4-mile loop, take the 1906 Trail up to the summit of Mount Helena and descend the steep Hogback Trail to the Prospector Shafts Trail which will lead you back to the parking area. Along this route, hikers travel through meadows skirting the foot of the mountain up into pine forested slopes, past limestone cliffs and a cave called Devil’s Kitchen, and, of course, to the spectacular views from the summit. Scan the northern horizon for a great view of the Sleeping Giant land formation. For a more challenging climb up, follow this loop in reverse.
Looking for a more extensive hike? The Mount Helena City Park trails connect to the Mount Helena Ridge Trail leading into the neighboring lands of Helena National Forest. Accessed from the 1906 Trail, Backside Trail, or Prairie Trail, the Mount Helena Ridge Trail travels along a forested ridge to the Park City Trailhead 5 miles beyond the city park boundary.
While visiting Mount Helena City Park last fall, I witnessed the significant damage caused by mountain pine beetle infestation, transforming the forested mountain slopes from green to reddish brown. The damage seemed particularly evident along the Prospector Shafts Trail. The city is working to mitigate the damage caused by the pine beetles with hopes of future forest restoration. Still, Mount Helena remains a beautiful place to explore and a good place to stretch your legs when visiting or passing through our capital city.