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Trail Well Traveled – 9/28

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!

This weekend, enjoy a family-friendly stop at an ecologically diverse canyon at the end of the Big Belts near Helena.

Round Trip: 6 miles

Total Elevation Gain: 600 feet

Directions: From Missoula, head east on I-90 and then exit at Garrison Junction onto Highway 12 east to Helena. There, you’ll take I-15 north to East Custer Avenue, where you’ll depart the interstate and head east again.

After about a mile, head north on Highway 280/York Road through the Lakeside resort area, over Hauser Lake and through the community of York. The final four miles will be gravel; you’ll find the trailhead adjacent to the Vigilante Campground.

What to expect: This family-friendly, accessible hike showcases a myriad of delightful natural features. There’s opportunity for a satisfying adventure whether you go one mile or three miles to the end. The first mile is a wide, graveled, accessible interpretive trail. To access the interpretive information, save or print a brochure online. Brochures are not stocked at the trailhead. Information about geocaches is available on the Helena Tourism Alliance website.

Trout Creek is intermittent and typically disappears underground a short distance from the trailhead. The best places to access the creek are at the bridge to the Vigilante Campground or at the trailhead. Stream crossings are generally dry in summer.

There is a picnic table and a bench at one mile. The towering cliff walls shade the canyon, making it a cool refuge compared with surrounding areas.

Natural highlights include Madison Limestone cliffs, caves, birds, wildflowers and the one-flowered Kelseya shrub. Kelseya uniflora can easily be spotted on the limestone cliff walls along the middle third of the hike. It appears to be a sage-colored moss or perhaps a flattened head of broccoli, yet it belongs to the rose family. It blooms in the spring.

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 9:45 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!

-Zeke Campfield

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