If you’re looking for the perfect place to take the family hiking while you’re in Helena, you should check out York, Montana. About a 45-minute drive from Helena, York will offer you a great experience. We know that if you’ve traveled a long way to Helena, Montana another 45 minutes to get to York with the kids can be a little daunting, but the drive is beautiful. If you’re not used to driving on curvy canyon roads, then you’ll want to budget a little extra time so that you don’t feel rushed along the road. The shoulder of the road is often non-existent. Exact directions to York are available on the map below.
Once you get to the “town” of York, you’ll know you’re in the town because there is a bar, a fire station and a park. The park is a great place to let the kids play around. Directly across the street from the park is the York Bar. I know that in some areas of the country (and the world), you don’t bring kids into a bar, but families are welcome at the York Bar. I personally would not bring my boys there during the late evening hours, but for dinner or lunch time the York Bar is perfect.
Now, on to the hike…
If you go past York to the Vigilante Campground you will see the trailhead for Trout Creek Canyon. This tail is an old road and the perfect hike for little legs or strollers. As you go along the trail, you’ll cross a couple of bridges, pass benches and a picnic table. There are also metal numbered signs along the trail. These indicate a specific point on the Trout Creek Canyon brochure. You will likely not find the brochure at the trail head so I recommend that you print Trout Creek: A History in the Making brochure before you head out.
There is also a creek that runs through the Vigilante Campground and along some of the trail. It’s a fun place to let the kids just play.
If you’re headed to York and the Trout Creek Canyon Trail, don’t forget:
– Bug Spray
– Bottled Water
– Print the Trail Brochure (if you’re interested in learning about the area)
– Your Camera – it’s truly stunning
– A Light Jacket – even if it’s hot in town, the Canyon can be cool.
– Driving Directions (below)
See below for some pictures taken in late fall of the area and more details about the hike, including a map.
This past weekend my kids and I headed up toward York, Montana to the Trout Creek Trail, near the Vigilante Campground. This area is about a 45-minute drive from Helena and most certainly worth the beautiful drive.
Note: There is no cell phone reception in this area like many areas in Montana so please don’t count on having access. Smile – it’s a good thing to be unplugged.
Many times throughout the summer at the Helena Tourism Alliance, we get asked by families with young children where they should go to hike. If they’re looking for a hike close to town, we send them to something like the Deford Trail in the South Hills directly at the edge of town, about a five minute drive from the Helena Tourism Alliance office. Sometimes, families are game for a longer drive. In that case, we send them toward York and the Vigilante Campground to the Trout Creek Canyon Trail. Here’s a map with specific directions to reach the Trout Creek Trail. (If you find the Vigilante Campground the trail head is right there and often times if you find directions, they’ll use the campground and the trail head interchangeably.)
On our way to Trout Creek this weekend, my boys and I got stuck in a cattle drive. I’m sure it’s because I was born a city girl, but trying to drive through a cattle drive is quite an experience. We passed a couple hundred head of cow all covered with burrs and bellowing out for their babies and babies bellowing for their mamas. Of course, I had to roll down my windows and give them my best “mooo.” My boys were certainly glad we were in the middle of nowhere so I wasn’t making a fool of myself in front of any of their friends.
When we got to the Trout Creek trailhead area we elected to go to the Vigilante Campground first and eat lunch, play in the creek and burn off excess energy induced by the Halloween candy that was consumed on the drive. The dogs were also happy to be outside of the car so they could run, play and splash in the water.
After lunch, we began our Trout Creek hike. It was perfect for my kids because it’s relatively flat. Flat trail = less complaining. The trail is handicap accessible and friendly to strollers. The Helena area has a reputation for great geocaching and the Trout Creek Trail offers three in succession to help motivate troops down the trail. Here’s the link to the the geocaches along the trail:
Next Spring, I plan to go back and place more caches along the trail so that it’s a nice series of caches in a very beautiful location (after approval of course).
Of all the times I have been to Trout Creek, I have always seen the numbered markers along the trail and the entry sign near the parking area indicates that you can follow the brochure and learn about the area. Unfortunately, the brochure has never been there. Using some of my tourism connections, I got my hands on the Trout Creek: A History in the Making brochure and have uploaded it to our site, for everyone to download, print and enjoy. I wish we had the brochure during our hike, but I’ll have it next time.
After hiking Trout Creek, we drove back through York, and while a York burger from the York Bar is often a must, we had recently had lunch. If you’re looking for a unique Montana experience, I do encourage you to stop at the York Bar for a burger. It’s okay to bring your kids in the bar during the day – it’s a family activity.
If we hadn’t already done the GeoTour Cache #31: York Overlook, we would have made time to climb the hill behind the Park, but we already had done that geocache so my boys played the park for a while. We drove back to Helena as we watched a storm roll into the valley. It was a beautiful, fun, relaxing day. The perfect way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon.
-Heidi O’Brien, Helena Tourism Alliance