Mountain Biking Helena
by Will Harmon (Falcon Guides)
© Will Harmon/Falcon Guides. All Rights Reserved.
My wife and I were in from Colorado, where needless to say, the MTB trails don't suck. The coolest thing about this ride off the bat was it's like an 8 minute ride from the center of downtown. So after getting a caffeine fix at the Firetower Coffe House on Last Chance Gulch (love that street name), we hit it. Soon we were headed up a forest road and up Mt. Helena.
It's a nice ride up to the trailhead, Helena's so beautiful and there are some nice historic buildings and homes as well as some artifacts from the iron mining/smelting days up the hill on the approach.
There are lots of choices trailwise, and you can adjust depending on time available. We turned right into a trail very shortly up the road (I believe it was called Grizzly Gulch) that was in a gully (the sign said "Mary's Lake" I believe).
I am a bit more hardcore than my wife, so after overcoming her protests about the steady climb into the trailhead, we just cranked in low gear for about 40 minutes. And just like I had heard, we ended up walking our bikes toward the end of the climb - and don't get discouraged about this - it's right at the crest of the trail. You're gonna WANT to get to the top at this point. Soon, you're mostly coasting down beautiful wooded trail, with a couple of tricky switchbacks - it's really great.
About 1/2 the way down, we encountered areas where the trail opened up to scenic overlooks, and we stopped at each one to survey the largely pristine valley around the left side of Mt. Helena. Having the peak rocks proudly jutting above you while you look out is very cool. There were some stretches toward the end where I was really fluying and a couple of nice triumphal jumps before emerging literally into peoples' back yards and side streets that pour a bit below downtown.
Cap that all off with a couple o' pints of wheat beer and you've got yourself a PERFECT 90-minute or less MTB experience - a good heart-pump, some nice views, and some wide-open downhill trails!
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