Hike Mt. Helena Ridge Trail to Mt. Helena City Park, or stick to loops closer to Park City to avoid the often crowded trailheads near downtown Helena (photo by Dan Oldenburg)
Author: Keely Damara, Communications Coordinator at Montana Wilderness Association
Accessing and enjoying public lands have become more essential than ever before for the wellbeing of our communities, families, and ourselves.
As Montana enters phase two of Governor Steve Bullock’s reopening plan and tourists begin to flock to the state, physical distancing will continue to be of the utmost importance to keep our communities healthy. Gov. Bullock’s phase-two guidelines include asking individuals to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people where physical distancing isn’t feasible and encouraging vulnerable Montanans to stay home as much as possible.
For those planning to hit their favorite trails this fall, these physical distancing guidelines may be hard to adhere to while traversing heavily trafficked trails. Montana Wilderness Association (MWA) wants to help.
Hike Wild Montana, our online hiking guide, features more than 350 trails across the state, which provides options that can help Montanans stay safe, avoid crowded trails and trailheads, and discover trails less traveled.
Hikewildmontana.org is now easier to use than ever before, with new features that make finding the perfect trail a breeze and accessible. The guide includes a virtual map that highlights Wilderness areas and wilderness study area boundaries, provides quick trail details (such as hike length and elevation gain), and direct links to agency websites about each trail with details on Covid-19 facility closures and restrictions.
MWA Executive Director Ben Gabriel says that the new and improved hikewildmontana.org will help Montanans connect with public lands, from Chalk Buttes in the far southeast corner of the state to the Purcell Mountains in the far northwest.
“We’re grateful for our access to wild public lands here in Montana, especially now,” says Gabriel. “Hike Wild Montana’s new features will make it easier for Montanans to safely explore the lands we love.”
Photo: Hike to a beautiful waterfall in the Elkhorn Mountains on this easy half-day hike (photo by R Kent).
Launched in 2016, Hike Wild Montana is the state’s first statewide online hiking guide with trail information crowdsourced from hikers across the state. In addition to allowing users to search trails, read recent trail reports, and discover local businesses nearby, MWA encourages hikers to submit their favorite trails and share trip reports with the community as well.
MWA is committed to connecting people to the landscapes we’re working to protect through our hiking guide, our Wilderness Walks program, and our trail stewardship program. Since 2012, more than a thousand MWA volunteers have maintained and improved some 350 miles of trails.
“Getting boots on the ground to help keep public trails across the state accessible is an important part of MWA’s conservation work,” says Gabriel. “Connecting people to Montana’s storied landscapes, as Hike Wild Montana does, is also integral to cultivating long-lasting support and reverence for Montana’s wild public lands.”
Hikewildmontana.org is free to use and is the perfect tool for planning your day on the trail and getting outside. Sign up for the new Hike Wild Montana Newsletter to receive hike recommendations, how-to videos, trip tips, volunteer trail stewardship opportunities, and much more delivered right to your inbox.