Helena’s South Hills Trails are among the most treasured attributes of life in Helena. The proximity of this extensive trail network to downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods is truly unique. With over 65 miles of trails in the foothills around town, there is plenty of room for bikers, hikers, runners, dog-walkers, and even horseback riders to find their own favorite route. These trails provide citizens and visitors alike with an opportunity to head out for an hour or an entire day on trails that range from wide, gravel roads to rocky, technical trails.
The South Hills Trails are located on a mix of property ownership and land management. In general, the trails closest to town are located on City of Helena Open Lands property, which includes Mt. Helena City Park. The City of Helena manages about 1,700 acres of Open Lands, primarily for wildlife habitat and recreation. Prickly Pear Land Trust has been hired by the city for the past 13 years to maintain existing trails and build new trails on city property. In addition, PPLT has begun the process of collecting valuable usage data throughout the trail system by counting the number of hikers and bikers that utilize the trails. In order to gather this information PPLT employs TRAFx Trail Counters.
An interesting fact: At over 700 acres in size, Mt. Helena City Park is the among largest city parks in the United States.
The trails further up in the hills are located on U.S. Forest Service lands and form a component of the extensive Forest Service trails network that extends unbroken from edge of Helena to the Continental Divide. Trails on Forest Service property in the South Hills are open for use by hikers, bikers, and horseback riders, but are closed to motorized travel. Prickly Pear Land Trust has been contracted by the Forest Service to coordinate trail management activities in the South Hills and on the Continental Divide Trail.