Mount Helena

Kicking off our Christmas holiday road trip, Zosia Zgolak and I stopped in Helena, Montana on 21 December 2019 for a quick hike up the Montana state capital's namesake mountain.  Located in a park on the southwest edge of the city, Mount Helena is very popular with local hikers, runners and dog-walkers.  Trails of varying lengths crisscross the mountain and provide a variety of ways to reach the summit.  Mount Helena was not originally on my "to-do" radar before the start of our road trip, but its convenient location and easy access gave us a good excuse to break up the long drive and stretch our legs a bit.

From downtown Helena, head southwest along Park Avenue and turn right onto Reeder's Village Drive which makes a loop with Carriage Lane.  At the north end of the loop, turn onto the continuation of Reeder's Village Drive which makes a bend to the left before ending at the trailhead parking lot.

Zosia and I chose to ascend Mount Helena via the Powerline Trail which is the steepest but most direct route to the summit.  On this day, the trails were quite icy, and Zosia quickly donned her cleats to give herself better traction.  I do not own cleats but managed well enough with just my trekking poles and light hiking shoes.  Most major trail intersections are signed which makes navigation fairly easy, but a few unofficial spur trails may potentially cause confusion.  Despite the shortness of the ascent, the Powerline Trail is a pretty stiff climb with a steady gradient of over 20 percent almost all the way up.

As Zosia and I reached the summit of Mount Helena, we met a couple and their very friendly dog.  The couple were visiting from Washington D.C., but the man was originally from Helena.  In fact, he had just proposed to his girlfriend at the summit, and after saying "yes", she could not contain her excitement and had to share the news with a couple of total strangers--Zosia and me!  We congratulated the couple on their momentous occasion and then proceeded to exchange summit photography chores with them.

For our descent, Zosia and I took a slightly different route back to the parking lot, and despite some challenges with the icy conditions, we managed to get down without any spills or route-finding issues.
Cleats recommended in winter! Zosia starts climbing up the icy trail.
I wonder why it's called the Powerline Trail... The Powerline Trail is the steeper but more direct route to the summit of Mount Helena.
Some scrambling can be had if you're really desperate! Zosia passes some interesting rock outcrops not far below the summit.
A guy just proposed to his girlfriend at the summit! Zosia approaches the top of Mount Helena.
Doggy heaven! Sonny and Zosia share the summit of Mount Helena (1668 metres) with a very friendly dog.
Looks like a great place to live. The top of Mount Helena has a commanding view of its namesake city which is also the state capital of Montana.
Might come back here someday with skis... Some unnamed ridges to the southwest appear to have some potential for ski touring.
It's a more strenuous climb than you think! Total Distance:  3.1 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  1 hour 22 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  357 metres

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