[trail map via A Falcon Guide, Hiking Montana]
This is an awesome hike. Mt. Helena can be hiked many different ways but I believe this is the longest. It’s a shuttle hike, that means you start in one place and end in a different. The start of the hike is at the Park City trail head back in the mountains, end is a 7.4 mile hike away to the base of Mt. Helena in Downtown Helena. So we drove in, dropped Paul’s Jeep at the base of Mt. Helena where we found lots of other cars, many people doing quick hikes up the mountain and back down, but we were going all out. Then we drove my Jeep back into the mountains, about 5 miles back (after we got lost and found our way again). We dumped my Jeep at the Park city trailhead where there was substantially fewer cars. Then we started our hike to the top of the mountain.
[need a break from the hiking? stop and take some pictures]
It was tough but we eventually made it to the first summit. I am a wuss, so I had to stop and take lots of [photo] breaks
[just a few more yards]
once we got to the ridge we were in the trees, and since we were in the trees there was less breeze and it was much warmer, also the sun finally peeked out of the clouds. I had a chance to set up the camera and auto timer onto Paul’s pack for a picture.
[BTW this was the best of 3.]
[Pine beetles have caused a lot of destruction in Montana. There are huge patches of dead trees everywhere you look, it’s really quite sad. ]
Once you are at the ridge, the hike is very easy, just trucking along, up and down little hills, to and fro. We were passed by several other hikers, bikers and runners, going both directions. At one point a runner snuck up on us and I nearly peed my pants when he passed us. I spook easily.
[lots of spectacular views]
[nothing but trail behind us]
[and trail in front]
[we’ve gone 6 miles since Park City, and there sure is a storm a brewing behind us!]
Then we start the uphill to the summit of Mt. Helena.
[about here I was done, tired, worn out and ready to just be left for the wolves]
[Paul is silly with the curved tree]
but we made it to the top, and i was ready for a nap.
[i was am so proud of myself for not giving up and being eaten by the wolves]
but you see, we aren’t done yet.
Paul’s Jeep is parked down there at the bottom of this mountain, down at city level…
we are tired and pooped, we ask some kids the quickest way down, they say it’s steep but if we can make it, it’ll only take about 15 min. So we go. mistake. So steep my knees and calves are on fire 5 min down. it took us about 25 min of pure hell. we got to the bottom and my knees gave out. I stumbled and nearly fell. We hobbled to the car, just as the rain began to pour, we were done. 3 1/2 hours from when we started. We think it was about 8 miles considering the path up to the summit and down we took.
We drove back into the mountains, picked up my Jeep, then went and got pizza and beer. We earned it.