With a total elevation gain of nearly 2,421 feet, this 12.37-mile course is not for the faint of heart. With less than a half mile of a dirt road, this challenging course provides runners with a round-trip tour of some of the greatest running trails in Helena’s South Hills with a panoramic view of Mount Helena and Mount Ascension from the Top of the World. This NEW 20K course is added to celebrate the 20 years that the Don’t Fence Me In Trail Run has been taking place in Helena. The course follows sections of the 30K and 12K. This is a self sufficient race, meaning that you must understand the course description and be able to navigate without relying on a volunteer course guard to point you in the right direction.
The 20k starts at the intersection of Warren and Miller streets, a short walk from the event packet pick up and porta-porties behind the Lewis & Clark Library past the S.S. Helena Memorial and through the tunnel under Cruse Avenue. The course begins by running south up Warren to Pine Street, turns left on Pine for a few blocks and right on Davis Street. It picks up the Deford Trail and makes the second left turn onto the Eagle Scout Trail. After negotiating the switchbacks, the course continues east and makes a right turn onto the Pale Rider Trail, continues across the Easy Rider Trail and uphill onto the 2006 Trail. After several switchbacks, the course takes the left fork onto the Mt. Ascension Loop Trail (aka Porter), and then a right turn (up the ridge) when the trail hits the Mt. Ascension ridgeline.
This is the Entertainment Trail and it climbs steeply to the summit and proceeds along the ridge across another intermediate summit, down a short switchback section onto a very old Jeep road and into some trees. The trail angles to the right away from the Jeep road, traverses a slope through some trees and meadows. It comes to an intersection where the course takes the soft right downhill. This newly constructed portion of trail makes a sharp right turn and then a left onto the old trail. This trail is a fast downhill (be sure to stay left and use the rerouted section for your safety) to the intersection with the Archery Range Trail. The course keeps left at the junction and continues down some switchbacks to Davis Gulch Road.
After a sharp right turn onto the Davis Gulch Road, a trail appears down the embankment to the left. The trail skirts the outside of the fence enclosing the old shooting range (parking lot and trailhead) and begins a climb up some gentle switchbacks to Rodney Meadow. In the meadow, the course stays straight ahead past two right turns. Continue past the TR Trail for about 50 yards to a left turn onto the Roger Fuchs Trail. Stay on Roger Fuchs for about 50 yards to a right turn onto the Rent Money/Rodney Ridge Trail. This trails takes several switchbacks climbing to the junction with the Pinchot Trail, where you’ll stay left to get to the Top of the World. This junction where Rent Money meets Pinchot trail is where the 20K takes its own course and disconnects from the 30K course. There will be signage, but know to stay left to remain on Rodney Ridge Trail. After the left, the trail makes its way up the rocky ridge line to summit the Top of the World. A trail appears to the far left where the descent to Cox Lake begins. This trail ends between a few houses that are along Arrastra Gulch where the first aid station will be located. Follow the dirt road of Arrastra Gulch west to Oro Fino Gulch Road where the Waterline picks up on the right.
Continue on the Waterline Trail to a sharp right turn up the Don’t Fence Me In Trail at the Waterline Aid Station. This trail takes the course through some long switchbacks to the top of the ridge and then drops back down toward Davis Gulch to pick up the Rodney Ridge Trail and a series of switchbacks first down and then sharply uphill.
Enjoy a fine panoramic view of Helena at the top of this climb before descending to the Rodney Ridge trailhead. After passing through the gate, the course keeps left onto Sparta Street. Just before the intersection with Clancy Street, the course veers left onto the city maintenance road. It then climbs up and over a small ridge on a winding trail that descends toward Dale Harris Park. After crossing Cruse, the route turns left and before continuing to the right along Park Avenue to the finish near the Lewis & Clark Public Library.
Course guards and signage will be at key points, but not every intersection; know the course!
Running: ~ 2.5 hours
Walking: ~ 3.5 hours