3 Easy access day hikes in Central Montana
Make no mistakes about it, this is the coveted Continental Divide Trail, which runs continuously from the Canadian border to the Mexican Border, snaking it's way down the spine of the continent. However, like her Eastern counterpart (The Appalachian Trail) and her Western sister (The Pacific Crest Trail) the CDT allows for easy pick-ups in some spots for amazing day hikes. You'll find the access to the trail at the Continental Divide information sign atop Flesher Pass (Rogers Pass) on Highway 200 coming from Great Falls. Climb up the stairs and the trail starts behind the sign. It starts off with a twisty uphill climb for a subtle vista of the mountains and road below. though it doesn't offer too much in the way of wide overlook views, the few there are, are magnificent. Rather this trail is under a dense and diverse canopy of trees. When you come to the road watch for trail blazes to the right for trail re-entry. This Trail is rated easy but is worth your time to take in this stretch.
MT Helena, Helena, Montana
Let's get one thing straight, the people of Helena were blessed with this magnificent stretch of trail. It's considered a city park, but nowhere, have I yet, experienced such an extensive trail system right in a town. These trails which include the Prairie Trail (easy), Ambrose Trail (easy) 1906 trail (listed as easy, but if you are not an avid hiker this can be mediocre to challenging for the continuous climb during the 1.6 mile hike) Hogback trail (easy) and Powerline trail (Difficult) . I've taken my two sons on Ambrose trail (ages 11 and 13 at the time) and they found it a comfortable trail to hike. My hubby and I managed 1906 though the going was a bit tedious for a first hike of the year. But it's worth it the view from the summit of Mt.Helena is stunning with mountain and city views (see video at bottom of the page or add mypaperdreamz on instagram for video), We did take the Powerline trail down, if you are not an avid hiker, I would suggest you take Hogback down as Powerline is a very precarious trail with intense grades and shale/scree, rocks and wash outs. This is a great Mountain biking trail as well. To get to the Helena Trail System, GPS Reeders village. It's a bit of a drive through subdivisions. Mt. Helena is a diverse trail system of prairies, Ponderosa forests, scrub land and ridges. There is no shortage of Vistas.
If you're one of those people that enjoys a little more challenge (as in water crossings) on your hike then this little slice of history might be for you. Take US 89 south from Great Falls and take the right at Armington Jct. You'll come upon the Sluice Boxes State Park within a few miles. This end of the trail has bathroom but is otherwise primitive, logging creek entrance is primitive. This trail takes you on an easy start of 1/2- 3/4th mile jaunt via trail or old road over mostly scrub and long grasses (Alder is present no slashing needed though, trail is maintained.) You'll reach the Belt creek, Spring thaw will have the creek nearly impassable so the best time to go is mid-late summer or before the first snows. Here you will cross the creek it's wide and the further away from the rapids the easier it is to cross. Once across there are old burned out forest dpt. Cabins, which are pretty neat for the photographer types. The first portion of this hike are dotted with creek crossings, some fairly deep. You'll come upon old buildings, forests and some prairie, it's a nice diverse hike.
3 Great Grub Stops in the Heart of Montana.
Mediterranean Grill, Helena MT.
It's probably not the first thing you'd expect when you think of Montana, but this place is amazing. I remain puzzled as to how their Seafood linguine tastes as fresh as one that I would get in any of the Seaside cities that I've eaten in. Mediterranean Grill is a colorful little place, located in the "Gulch" in Helena, Kitty Corner from the Holiday Inn. Serving up some amazing meals from the Turkey, Greece, the Middle East, Egypt, Spain and Morocco. Thus far every dish I've ordered from their (Domalthes) Stuffed Grape Leaves to their Baba-Gannouj has been perfect. order a wine and sit out on the patio for the perfect end to a great day hike. Check out their menu!
Lambkins of Lincoln, Lincoln Montana
You're fresh off your CDT day hike and you're out for the food, or you're passing through on highway 200, it doesn't matter which, just make sure to stop in at Lambkins. One of my favorite things about Lambkins is the Cinnamon Roll French Toast. Like another of my top 20 restaurants Fat City Cafe in Multnomah Village, Oregon
Lambkins serves up giant cinnamon rolls that they will gladly slice and create french toast from for you. But let's not get caught up on just that. Their menu includes delicious burgers and sandwiches as well and all served by some of the friendliest staff you can imagine. finish it off with a little slice pie to go with your perfect day of hiking and hometown goodness.Check out Lambkins here.
Luz's Mexican Food, Great Falls, MT
Last but certainly not least is Luz's Mexican Food. Great Falls being my home for the last 20 years, I can tell you it's my first choice when it comes to Mexican food. (try the EnchiLUZa, you won't regret it!) The owner is incredibly friendly and the wait staff is so very attentive, if the pickiest of diners will enjoy their meal here. So finish your hike at logging creek and head up to Great Falls for this one!
NEXT UP! May Is For Montana Pt2. Central Montana, we'll touch on family fun, local history and tours!