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Trail Well Traveled – 1/26

Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!

Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give you some helpful details and tips to get on your way!

Alright, so this week’s destination may not boast the most picturesque name. And it’s not what you’d call challenging, nor is it in our backyard. But if you’re looking to get out of town, take a walk, bring the kids – it might just break up your January a little!

Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir

Roundtrip: 5 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 80 feet

Directions: From Missoula, venture east on I-90 to the Garrison Junction and then continue east on Highway 12 through Helena to the Lake Helena Drive/Tulip Street exit on the east side of town.

Take Lake Helena Drive north all the way to its intersection with York Road (Montana Highway 280), and then turn east again another six miles to the parking area. The trailhead is at the Helena Valley Fishing Access Site. It is well-marked with a Fishing Access Site sign. A second parking area can be accessed less than a mile northeast on York Road.

What to expect: Just the hike for the days when conditions on higher trails aren’t good for hiking or snowshoeing, this Helena Valley location is not an actual wilderness area; however, it boasts great views of the peaks in all directions, it’s level track is suitable for hikers of all ages, and it’s especially fun to walk on the frozen reservoir during the winter and see the shoreline from a different vantage.

The trail is mostly two-track dirt – close to the reservoir in some places and veering away through the fields in others. Hikers can see residential development at some points; at others, only wide open spaces and bucolic pastures and hayfields. Many side trails created by humans and animals access the shoreline.

From the main parking lot, walk across the dam until the road ends. Follow the track counterclockwise around the lake. When you get to the parking lot at the north end (just after crossing the feeder canal), cross to the other (south) side of the fence at the south end of the parking lot and follow a path through the grass.

Note: Birdwatchers might enjoy traveling clockwise along the trail that leaves from the end of the main parking lot. Follow a path close to the lake and past wetland areas and/or take a side trip up the hill.

Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:50 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!

Big thanks to Rangitsch Bros RV for sponsoring the Trail Well Traveled. Proudly serving Missoula for over 56 years, whatever camper best suits your needs Rangitsch Bros has got it!

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