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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I live in Alberta, Canada. Me and the misses want to take a 4 day road trip to MT and/or Idaho May 16-19(long weekend in Canada) for some downhill/cross country mountain bike riding. Will there be decent riding by then? I know a lot of Canadian bike parks/trails don't really get going until June. Would I be wasting my time?

We'd be tent camping and just riding all day and evening.

Any tips on where to go that time of year? Hopefully within a couple hours of the border.

Thanks

Jon
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Hi, I live in Alberta, Canada. Me and the misses want to take a 4 day road trip to MT and/or Idaho May 16-19(long weekend in Canada) for some downhill/cross country mountain bike riding. Will there be decent riding by then? I know a lot of Canadian bike parks/trails don't really get going until June. Would I be wasting my time?

We'd be tent camping and just riding all day and evening.

Any tips on where to go that time of year? Hopefully within a couple hours of the border.

Thanks

Jon
After doing some digging, it appears that Helena and Missoula will both be dry by then.

Can anyone tell me if the riding is better in Helena or Missoula? Although I might spend 2 days in each...
 

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beater
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Well, I'm not an impartial witness since I live in Helena, but I prefer the riding here, and it's closer to downown. Missoula has better nightlife, though. Click the link in my signature for loads of local information. And in the interests of fairness, here's a similar site for Missoula. We're under 2 hours apart, so you could try both cities pretty easily.

There's always the potential for moisture in May and June, but once we've dried out from the snowmelt, rainfall usually doesn't derail us more than a few hours to a day at most.
 

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Helena is an International Mountain Biking Association Bronze Level Ride Center. The only one in Montana. Frankly, the mountain biking is better in Helena.

Missoula is a college town and has better restaurants, etc. The biking there is decent, but not as well developed as Helena.

If you're going to be in Helena for a couple days, though, the Blackfoot Brewery and the downtown restaurants will keep you content.

One other consideration, as the weather warms up, Missoula attracts some really sketchy homeless types. If you are camping out near Missoula, you may need to choose your spot carefully.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I'm not too worried about restaurants or nightlife. We wakeup at sunrise and go to sleep at sunset. We bring a stove and cook. We're especially excited to go to American grocery stores. They've always got great stuff you can't get in Canada and everything is way cheaper than here.

Can you recommend a camping site in or near Helena that has showers/toilet?

Thanks
 

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A public campground with a shower...maybe some of the ones out by the lakes? There's no shower, but I would recommend Vigilante Campground out by York. About 20 miles from Helena and right along trout creek. Some good biking right by the campground, but disconnected from the municipal trail system in Helena itself. You can also camp right up on MacDonald Pass, which is 10 miles out of town and right on the continental divide trail.
 

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beater
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The shower will be the tricky part. It looks like there's an RV park by East Helena that has tent sites and showers (Buzz In RV Park), but I only see a page with a phone number and basic details on the visitmt website. No site for the park itself. You can camp at the fairgrounds on the north edge of town for $10/night but I don't think they have showers. I'd expect they have other services, though. That's the best option for riding to trails and downtown. And as mentioned above, you can camp at a number of Forest Service or Bureau of Reclamation campsites outside of town. All the developed sites will have pit toilets, at least. Vigilante is the one to choose in May, as there are 2 rides right there, and at least one, if not both, should be clear by then. Plus, York Bar is just down the road.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
That's pretty disappointing that there are no showers. I think my woman might resist this trip if that's the case. I've got to find something...
 

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rth009
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I think I saw this same conversation with another group of Canadians last year, concerning the shower that is. At our our national forest campgrounds are lucky to have a pit toilet and a picnic table, forget about a shower. On the other hand, you can camp for free in tons of excellent spots on almost any Forest Service road. Buy a a sun shower, some parachute cord, and a couple tarps.
 

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beater
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That's pretty disappointing that there are no showers. I think my woman might resist this trip if that's the case. I've got to find something...
Give the Buzz In RV park a call. The state travel website claims they have tent sites (many don't) and showers. But I'd want to hear if from them directly, since they don't have a website of their own.
 

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Our Forest Service is starved for money and lack resources to build showers at most campgrounds. Also, past incidents with vandalism have led them to avoid running plumbing at many campsites.

One option would be to camp for a couple days, then spend a night at a motel/hotel, then camp for a few more nights. The solar shower option is another good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
This will be my first time camping in the U.S. I guess I figured it would be the same as Canadian campgrounds which I find generally to be excellent with amenities.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions and tips.
 

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Generally speaking, at developed public campsites in the US you commonly have a source of water, vault toilets, and individual tables and fire rings. In national parks you may have restroom facilities with plumbing and electricity. I don't think I've ever stayed at a public campground that had showers. It's not uncommon to find them at private campgrounds, but not guaranteed, either.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Generally speaking, at developed public campsites in the US you commonly have a source of water, vault toilets, and individual tables and fire rings. In national parks you may have restroom facilities with plumbing and electricity. I don't think I've ever stayed at a public campground that had showers. It's not uncommon to find them at private campgrounds, but not guaranteed, either.
Evasive, can you recommend trails for me? Arriving Friday afternoon, departing Monday morning. Intermediate riders who can handle increased difficulty if need be. Are there any must ride trails?
 

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Not Evasive, but I strongly recommend the Helena Ridge Trail and just bumping around the South Hills Trail System. You can get a map for $5 or so from any of the local bike shops when you get here and use that to plan out your rides. I personally like to ride up Mount Ascension and then take the Entertainment Trail down. Rodney Ridge is good too, if you're still feeling like riding afterwards.
 

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Evasive, can you recommend trails for me? Arriving Friday afternoon, departing Monday morning. Intermediate riders who can handle increased difficulty if need be. Are there any must ride trails?
Yes, there are several. Unfortunately, the longer rides farther from town will still probably be snowed in, with the possible exception of Beartrap Gulch or Hanging Valley (the ones past York near the Vigilante Campground). But the South Hills can keep you entertained for a weekend without a problem.

The thing to remember is that the South Hills can be considered a series of ridges that finger out from town. You can add miles and trail segments to your ride as desired, so any ride suggestion could be added on to by going onto the next ridge. As thecreeper23 mentioned, the Mount Helena Ridge is the centerpiece of the South Hills trail system, and is a must-ride. The trailhead is about 6 miles south of town, up a gravel road. Once you get to the trailhead, it climbs another 800 feet or so, and then loses elevation gradually as it runs back north. It connects up to the Mount Helena city park, which has a bunch of trails, but honestly, it's pretty busy and not the best riding during peak hours. So, I'd recommend exiting the Ridge Trail at Show Me the Horse, which is a flowy (but old-school narrow) downhill that takes you back to the road. If you ride the Ridge twice, it's worth going all the way to the end, though. The views of the valley are pretty good. Also, when I ride the Horse, I usually ride south on the Ridge trail to get there.

Ride up the Wakina Sky road to Stairway to Heaven. This is one of our better sustained ridge rides, with pretty good views.

Climb Mount Ascension via the 2006 Trail and drop down Entertainment Trail, and then ride up the road towards Cox Lake. From there, you can climb to the top of Rodney Ridge, and come down Rent Money and drop into Orofino Gulch. From there, you could add another ridge or two, or head into town to the Blackfoot taproom.

This may be hard to take in on the screen, but makes sense with a map. There's a link to a live GIS map on the Bike Helena website (link in my signature). I also suggest stopping in The Garage on Jackson Street, and asking for ride advice. They have a huge map on the wall, and would be happy to steer you right. And stop into Bike Helena - tell Pat I sent you, and he'll probably give you a pair of socks as a souvenir. (And then go up the steps to Karmadillos for some fantastic New Mexico style BBQ fusion food.)
 

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The KOA in Missoula has showers.

Contrary to all of the pro Helena posts, Missoula has plenty of trails to keep you occupied but you should definitely ride Helena, swing through Butte and ride Homestake pass and then finish off in Missoula or the other way around......
 

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Maybe not the nicest showers, but truck stops have them.
I know the High Country Travel Plaza (Conoco) has some.
 
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