Trail Tips

Prickly Pear Land Trust believes that spending time on the trails, along Tenmile Creek and in the South Hills, is one of the most rewarding things one can do in Helena. That’s why we have spent over two decades protecting open space and building and maintaining trails for you to enjoy. To ensure that Helena, Montana’s multi-use trails remain a safe and fun atmosphere, we have come up with a few guidelines for what to do, and not to do, on the trails. Follow these trail tips for good trail practice and the best ways to share our trail treasure with ALL hikers, bikers, trail runners, dog walkers, bird watchers, and trail lovers!

Trail Tip #1

In all conditions, stay on the established trail. Going around icy or muddy spots widens the trail and kills surrounding plants. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting muddy, traction devices like micro-spikes in icy conditions, or go “bearfoot” and use your claws to stay on trail! Shoes can dry out, but it only takes a couple of footsteps or bike tires traveling over wet grasses to damage plants and widen the trail.

Trail Tip #2

There is no poo fairy! Please take time to pack out your pet’s waste. We promise that it does not biodegrade as quickly as anyone hopes. While you’re at it, pack out two! Even the most diligent dog owner may accidentally let one slip by.

Trail Tip #3:

While recreating on Helena’s multi-use trails, keep one ear free of headphones. It is important to listen for what’s around the corner or someone asking to pass you.

Trail Tip #4:

Twists, turns, and switchbacks make for a fun trail system, but it also means there are blind corners in Helena’s 70+ miles of dirt track. Please be cautious and slow down. All are welcome on our trails and you never know what is around the corner – a parent with a baby on board, a trail runner with earbuds, bird watchers, kids on bikes, someone recovering from surgery unable to jump out of the way, a man on stilts, a lion tamer – ya just never know!

Trail Tip #5:

Bikers must always yield to hikers, horses, trail runners, dogs, deer—everything. The best yielders come to a complete stop, keep their bike tires on the edge of the trail, and lean to the side with a foot down, allowing the other trail user to pass. Sometimes hikers step off the trail and wave bikers past, especially when yielding to uphill bikers who are huffin’ and puffin’ to get up the hill, but this is the hiker’s choice. Bikers should always be prepared to yield, and pass slowly if allowed.

Trail Tip #6:

As with all public lands, it is important for everyone to leave our trails better than we find them. Pack out all garbage, food, equipment, doggie waste, and even weeds if you pull them. Happy trails are clean trails!

Trail Tip #7:

Everyone travels the trails at their own pace, whether hiking, trail running, or biking. When travelling the same direction, ask to pass and pass by slowly. Slower travelers be courteous and step aside to allow others by. In both cases, communicate, smile, and be friendly.

Trail Tip #8:

Not all of Helena’s trails are steep and rugged. There are a handful of miles that are designed flatter and wider to allow everyone to get outside. All can enjoy these trails, but faster trail users should practice extra caution on these accessible trails so all can feel safe and comfortable while having fun. Check out PPLT’s Tenmile Creek Park!

Trail Tip #9:

There’s more than one way to slow down, and there’s more than one way to experience the trails. When biking near other trail-users, extend common courtesies: slow down, communicate, and be friendly.

Trail Tip #10:

The trails are a great place for your furry friend to feel free. Be sure to have them under voice control, especially when wildlife is around. Follow on-leash rules at trailheads and parking lots and be sure that your buddy is friendly to all people and their four-legged trail partners.

Trail Tip #11:

Riding bikes downhill can be a lot of fun, but always keep the safety of others in mind. Ride in control to avoid close calls with other trail users, know your limits, and exercise caution. Happy trails!

PPLT developed the trail etiquette campaign in partnership with:

Prickly Pear Land Trust developed the trail etiquette campaign in partnership with Visit Helena, United States Forest Service, and Helena Parks and Recreation. All illustrations were completed by local artist and PPLT member, Mel Griffin.


Prickly Pear Land Trust reserves the rights to all illustrations.