Sunday, April 23, 2006

Montana's mountain city parks

Mount Jumbo in Missoula as seen from near top of Mount Sentinel

The iconic Mount Sentinel in Missoula

I'm on top of Mount Sentinel here

Approaching the "M" in the Bridgers near Bozeman
In this “in-between” season I’m always looking for mountain activities and suggest you try some of Montana’s city “mountain parks.”
Two cities in particular come to mind ---- Helena and Missoula.
Helena has its 5,468 foot Mount Helena City Park that rises 1,300 feet above the downtown.
There are a series of trails all around the mountain and to the top. Some of them are accessible from Reeder’s Village a subdivision south of the downtown not far from the historic Reeder’s Alley on Park Avenue.
There isn’t a time that I go to Helena that I don’t spend some time on this mountain. I like the trail that goes up its northeast face wrapping under the “H” to the west and then climbing to the top up a west ridge.
At this time you’ll see the beginnings of the wildflower season, with the phlox and even some pasqueflower.
I often come down that west ridge and return by Lime Kiln Gulch where you’ll find the remains of the old kilns.
Last week I was in Missoula where there’s Mount Sentinel, accessible from the University of Montana campus, and Mount Jumbo, at the foot of the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area.
Mount Sentinel is heavily traveled, but always fun.
It is 620 feet from the campus trailhead to the “M” and 1,958 feet to its 5,158 foot top.
From either spot the views of Missoula are magnificent. I love to look down on the this vibrant city, the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, and off toward Lolo peak, from the mountain.
Looking to the north and a little below is Mount Jumbo.
I’ve tried Jumbo a couple of times. Unlike Sentinel, it is much more open, treeless and full of tall grasses. It is very attractive to an elk herd that enjoys the good eats there.
You can reach Jumbo from Hills Road, Poplar or Cherry streets.
While no mountain rises directly from Bozeman, it isn’t much of a drive north to the Bridger Canyon, where, at its mouth is the trail to the “M.” From there it isn’t much of a climb to the Bridger crest. It is a real gut cruncher to reach the “M” and above.
Helena and Missoula are blessed with their mountain parks, but don’t forget that year around you can walk the Missouri River “breaks” country right here in Great Falls along the River’s Edge Trail.

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