Best Hikes in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest (MT)

Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Overview

Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is located in central Montana in the Rocky Mountains. This forest is one of the oldest forest preserves in the U.S. and was named in honor of the members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which passed through the forest between 1804 and 1806. In 2015, the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the Helena National Forest were combined into one forest, the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. The forest shares its borders with Flathead National Forest to the west and Glacier National Park to the north. The best hikes in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest and there descriptions can be found below.

Nearest Metro AreaHelena, MT
Area Size2,846,606 acres
EstablishedFebruary 22, 1897
Hiking Trails2,600 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest

(*** = best hikes in Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest)

Continental Divide Trail to the Chinese Wall*** – 62-65 miles one-way
Chinese Wall from below, Photo by Apple646398

For the adventure seeker visiting Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, this multi-day hike should be right at the top of your list. Chinese Wall is a 1000′ high cliff of limestone that stretches unbroken for 12 miles between Haystack Mountain and Larch Hill Pass in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Begin your journey from the South Fork Sun Trailhead near the Benchmark Campground. A return trip can be made after reaching the Wall or you can venture on to South Fork Teton Trailhead at Headquarters Pass if you’re able to set up a one-way car shuttle.

Crow Creek Falls Trail*** – 6.0 miles out and back
Crow Creek and Falls, Photo by Montanabw

Family-friendly hike that begins near Vigilante Campground and ends at Forest Service Road 138. The trail offers spectacular viewing opportunities through the limestone canyon. Water carved through the limestone millions of years ago to leave behind the towering rock formations.

Dearborn River Trail #206 – 7.0 miles out and back
Dearborn River, Photo by USFWS Mountain Prairie

Easy and enjoyable jaunt alongside the Dearborn River on its way to Devil’s Glen where the river has carved beautiful rock formations. You do not reach national forest land for about 1.5 miles after leaving the trailhead as the trail first passes through private land. The trail continues on for several more miles before ending near Scapegoat Mountain. However, the 3.5-4 mile mark makes for a good spot to return to the trailhead.

Our Lake Trail*** – 6.2 miles out and back
Old Baldy, Our Lake, Photo by Sam Beebe

This trail slopes steadily upward to Our Lake with 2 waterfalls along the way as well. The short distance makes this a good option for most any hiker though snow is likely until early summer. Hikers can start from the South Fork Teton Trailhead before heading up the switchbacks to the lake which sits between Rocky Mountain and Old Baldy.

Trout Creek Canyon Trail – 6.0 miles out and back
Big Belt Mountains, Photo by GPA Photo Archive

Easy family-friendly hike that features rock formations with towering walls the entire way. The hike begins near the Vigilante Campground before embarking on the relatively flat trail through the canyon. The diverse landscape of the Big Belt Mountains, created over billions of years, displays some of nature’s finest handiwork.

Featured Image: Beaver Creek Road View, Photo by Forest Service Northern Region

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2 Responses

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