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Trail Well Traveled – 10/21

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 one lucky listener some cool goodies to help them embark on their journey!

Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir

A great hike for fall or spring bird-watching and leaf-peeping!

Roundtrip: 5 miles

Directions: From Helena, head north on I-15 to Custer Avenue and then head east for a mile until it intersects with York Road (MT Hwy 280). Take the highway east six miles to the first parking area at the Helena Valley Fishing Access Site. A second parking area lays less than a mile northeast on York Road – both are accessible to trailers, with wheelchair accessible vault toilets.


What to expect: Just the hike for the days when conditions on higher trails aren’t good for hiking or snowshoeing – the Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir features brilliant fall foliage this time of year. While not explicitly a “wilderness area”, views of the peaks in all four directions will bring back fond memories of summer journeys past.

This trail is suitable for hikers of all ages. It is nearly level, the track is easy to walk, and it’s worthwhile whether you walk a half mile or all 5 miles around the reservoir. Plan to encounter fellow hikers, mountain bikers and horses along the way.




The trail is mostly two-track dirt, with some single track dirt. It is close to the reservoir in some places and veers away through fields of grass 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 thr ough the grass.

A  good short hike for birdwatchers: Follow the trail that leaves from the end of the main parking lot clockwise. Follow a path close to the lake and past wetland areas and/or take a side trip up the hill.

Tip: View the shoreline from a different vantage point during the wintertime by walking along the frozen reservoir itself!


Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at hikewildmontana.org. 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!

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