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Level: Advanced
Length: 75 mi (120.7 km)
Surface: Singletrack
Configuration: Network
Elevation: +1,680/1 ft
Total: 23 riders
 

Mountain Biking South Hills Trail System

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#63 of 264 mountain bike trails in Montana
#3,009 in the world

The South Hills Trail System in Helena, Montana begins literally at the end of almost every street on the south side of town.

This comprehensive 75-mile trail system includes a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of classic, XC/AM trail riding! Stand out trails include the Mount Helena Ridge Trail and Rodney Ridge.

This trail system is complex, with new trails being added regularly. Be sure to pick up a map to help navigate, but do note: trail signs don't always agree with the map, many trails aren't signed, and some trails don't appear on the official map, either. But as long as you're riding down the correct side of the mountain and you end up back in Helena, you're golden!

Helena also runs a free Trail Rider shuttle 5 days a week during the summer that helps cut out most of the climbing to get to these trails. Be sure to take advantage of it!

First added by Greg Heil on Aug 27, 2015. Last updated May 2, 2020. → add an update
Before you go
  • Drinking water: unknown
  • Lift service: unknown
  • Night riding: yes
  • Pump track: unknown
  • Restrooms: unknown
  • Fat bike grooming: yes
  • E-bikes allowed: unknown
  • Fee required: unknown
This trail information is user-generated. Help improve this information by suggesting a correction.
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Helena, MT
System trails (74)
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South Hills Trail System Trail map

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Jay Listoe (on Sep 6, 2019)
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Dry (on Jul 11, 2020)
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Reviews

  • SDGiant
    ***

    Nice views. Very broken up and not much flow. A lot of hikers. Not technically challenging but a nice spin if that is what you are after.

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  • Jim Cummings
    ***

    There are about 170 trails in the hills to the south of Helena. The most famous is the Mount Helena Ridge Trail for which the city provides a free shuttle.
    Nearly all are shared, two-way trails, in a nice setting with few MTB features.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing 2006 Trail:
    ***

    The 2006 Trail forms part of the best route up Ascension Mountain at Helena. Starting from the Beattie Street trailhead you would start climbing on the Prickly Pear Trail (easy), then the Easy Rider Trail (an easy 4wd track - not very steep), then the 2006 trail. From the top of the 2006 Trail it's a short ride/push to the summit of Mount Ascension for stunning views to the north over Helena.

    The 2006 Trail is steep in places - the gradient varies a lot. It's a two-way shared trail.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Mt Helena Ridge:
    ***

    Catch the free shuttle bus out of Helena. It doesn't take you to the top of the hill but it does take care of most of the gravel road. The singletrack that climbs to the top of the ridge is a masterpiece - perfectly controlled gradient most of the way up as you gain over 2000 feet - so you won't burn your gluteus maximus if you take your time!

    The track along the ridge mostly slopes down gradually- there are just a couple of small undulations. The trail is old-school cross-country style, devoid of significant technical features. (The photos of rock drops are actually off trail!) You can get up a bit of speed in places which is exhilarating. The views are nice but not breathtaking.

    All up, if you take the shuttle you'll ride about 10 miles back to town. That should leave you feeling satisfied but probably won't give you a sense of achievement.

    The Mount Helena Ride Trail is a good ride but not outstanding.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Show Me the Horse:
    ***

    This is really only a down-sloping cross-country trail that is a bit more curvy than most. It is fast but don't expect a lot of interesting technical features. It drops about 250 feet in about two miles.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Entertainment:
    ***

    The Entertainment Trail is a semi-technical two-way shared trail on the west side of Mount Ascension, Helena.

    It flows quite well so is best ridden down-slope. It is two miles long and descends about 250 metres - fairly steadily all the way. It is partly in the open but mostly in forest. It would be an ideal trail for an improving intermediate rider. The faster you go the more you need to focus. You won't find a lot of woohoo features and you won't get a lot of air, even at speed, but you will enjoy the slope and flow.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Pay Dirt:
    ***

    Short and sweet down-sloping trail with some nice rock drops. It leads down to the Beattie Street trailhead and is an excellent way to finish off a descent from Mount Ascension after Entertainment Trail and Archery Range Trail. You need advanced skills (grade 4) to enjoy it. It's less than half a mile long.

    If you're heading up the hill (Mount Ascension) from the Beattie Street car park, go up Prickly Pear rather than Pay Dirt. Prickly Pear is a nice climbing trail and leads into Easy Rider and the 2006 Trail which will take you all the way to the summit.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Prickly Pear:
    **

    The Prickly Pear Trail starts at the Beattie Street car park and sidles round the base of Mount Ascension for a little over a mile. It goes east till it meets Lime Kiln Road. Along the way it links to Easy Rider, Rocky Road and Bompart Ridge. It's a two-way shared trail popular with runners and dog walkers as it's close to town. It has lots of small undulations and give you a 100 foot climb and descent.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Easy Rider:
    *

    The Easy Rider Trail is a 4wd track on the lower northern slopes of Mount Ascension. The gradient is gentle as it sidles round a little of the mountain (hill!) near the Beattie Street trailhead. It's popular with runners and dog walkers. I goes nowhere but links to several other trails.

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  • Jim Cummings
    Reviewing Mt Ascension:
    ***

    I rode up and around Mount Ascension in quite a nice loop. All the trails up here are two-way shared trails which are generally light on technical features. They are popular with hikers and dog-walkers.

    Starting from the Beattie Street trailhead I started climbing on the Prickly Pear Trail (easy), then the Easy Rider Trail (an easy 4wd track - not very steep), then the 2006 trail (steep in places, gradient not controlled). From the top of the 2006 Trail it's a short ride/push to the summit of Mount Ascension for stunning views to the north over Helena. Then I took the Entertainment Trail which heads south for a while then swings round the western side of the mountain (actually a hill). The Entertainment Trails gets better and better as it goes. It's mostly down sloping. I loved the section through the forest in particular - semi-technical and nicely flowing. Next up was the Archery Ridge Trail (nice) and finally Pay Dirt which was a little more technical with some small rock drops.

    There is a trail called the Mount Ascension Loop which connects to the 2006 Trail and the Eddye McClure West Trail. I didn't actually ride it!

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  • Jim Cummings
    ****

    These trails have an element of technicality which is unusual for two-way shared trails. The ride up to the summit of the Eddye McClure East Trail is steady and won't stretch your chain. The ride down from the summit has lots of sharp switchbacks which will keep you focused. The challenge coming back up them is to round them without dabbing! If you get round half them you're an ace. If you get round all of them you're a legend! The ride down the eastern side of the eastern trail is a blast.

    I rate these trails grade 4, advanced, but they probably won't maim you if you only have intermediate skills and you take your time.

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  • Matthew Bonner
    Reviewing Mt Ascension:
    *****

    Great views, tough climbs through beautiful environments, and flowing descents. This trail was a joy to ride and was amazing for being so close to town.

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  • Matthew Bonner
    Reviewing Mt Helena:
    *****

    This trail is a great trail to have fun on. The first climb gets you warmed up and assures you that you've definitely earned the trail to come. The fast ridge riding makes you smile with glee, and the views keep you occupied on the short punchy ridge climbs. The excellent options down the ridge make it that much better.

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  • Matthew Bonner
    ****

    This fun trail descends along the border of an archery range, contouring along the slope. The short uphill bursts along the trail will make you want a dropper post. The trail itself is very manageable excluding one extremely technical rock section, which is easily walked.

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  • Matthew Bonner
    Reviewing Entertainment:
    *****

    This trail will make you feel like a rocket ship! The steep grade, wide switchback(s) (I can't remember if there was only one or if there was two), tacky dirt, and smoothness all contribute into making this one of my favorite Helena rides!

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  • Matthew Bonner
    Reviewing 2006 Trail:
    ****

    This singletrack winds to the top of Mount Ascension by way of low-grade switchbacks. The beauty of this trail is suprising, and it looks like fun in both directions!

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  • Matthew Bonner
    Reviewing Pail Rider:
    *****

    This trail connects the Easy Rider Trail to the 2006 Trail in a beautifully manageable way. Just let go, start spinning, and lose yourself in nature.

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  • Matthew Bonner
    Reviewing Pay Dirt:
    ***

    This trail is really more of a downhill trail due to a number of large rocky drops. This is disappointing because of its prime access to the Mount Ascension area from town. It looks like a blast going downhill though!

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