The new 20K course, with a distance of 13.41 miles and a total elevation gain of 2,033 feet is not for the faint of heart. This challenging course provides runners with a round-trip tour of some of the greatest running trails in Helena’s South Hills.
The 20k starts at the intersection of Warren and Miller streets, a short walk from 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 approaches a bridge over the gulch that connects to the Aftershock Trail. Once on Aftershock, the course contours around the mid-section of Mt. Ascension for about a mile. The course takes a left turn when it intersects the 2006 Trail, and another left turn onto the Easy Rider Trail. This trail merges with the Archery Trail and coincides with the 12k course 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 trail takes several switchbacks climbing to the junction with the Pinchot Trail. The connection from Rent Money to Pinchot is straight ahead, crossing the old Rodney Ridge Trail. The Pinchot Trail winds down the slope to intersect the TR Trail. Take a left turn on the TR Trail.
After winding downhill on the TR Trail, take the right turn onto the Waterline Trail. Continue on the Waterline Trail to a sharp right turn up the Don’t Fence Me In Trail. 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.
Running: ~ 3 hours
Walking: ~ 4 hours