Rodney Ridge … Mountain Biking Helena’s South Hills
I have named the 4th and final segment of this ride Rodney Ridge, as the ride starts at the top of the ridge and finishes on Davis Road (the bottom). Cox Lake is the 3rd part of a four part ride through the South Hills of Helena, Montana. To view the 2nd leg please select Emmett's Trail. To see the 1st segment please select My South Hills Adventure.
Pulling myself back to the present I went to look for the Rodney Ridge Trailhead, which was easy to find at the end of Lupine Street. A 200 foot climb brought me up on top of the mountain where the Rodney Ridge Trail turns into the Rent Money Trail, the place I had been two days earlier when my guide (Timmy Wiseman) and I met a couple of ladies hiking.
South Hills Paradise … Interactive Map.
- The blue “P” marks the Holiday Inn.
- Click GPX for a track of this ride.
Have you biked on Rodney Ridge before? What did you think of it? How about sharing your thoughts on our Visitor Stories page?
Just like my previous visit I took off down the rocky first hill … down the backbone of Rodney Ridge.
But unlike before … I turned off onto the Pinchot Trail (instead of continuing to ride the rest of the Rent Money Trail).
This trail starts out weaving sharply through tightly packed trees. I had to stop a couple of times to make sure my handle bars would fit between. Farther down the hill the turns got longer and the trees thinned, allowing for more speed. But as usually happens, the increase in speed causes the trail to end too soon! The Pinchot Trail stops when it runs smack dab into the T.R. Trail.
I turned right … and to my surprise, the T.R. trail runs downhill to the giant meadow and junction #12, where several paths intersect. By looking at the map I figured I would have to ride uphill on the T.R. trail to get back to the top of Rodney Ridge (which actually flattens out temporarily into a meadow).
I took the Rodney Ridge Trail looking to get to the Don’t Fence Me In Trail, one that Timmy had told me about on our ride two days earlier. I took the first left (like the map showed) which took me up a steep hill to look out over Helena. But the trail seemed to end there, unless I was supposed to follow the faint double track that drifted off to the left. At that point I was pretty sure I was in the wrong place, lost in paradise yet again. So I took the doubletrack, which turned around and went right back down the hill to junction #12.
So, I started down Rodney Ridge again, didn’t take the first left, and quickly came to the sign for Don’t Fence Me In. This trail climbed up a steep hill to look out over Helena, just like the other one … but it clearly turned left at the top and traversed the steep face on the west side of the hill, switchbacking frequently before dead ending at the Waterline Trail.
Of all the trails I rode in the Helena South Hills Area, the Don’t Fence Me In Trail had the most exposure and was the most challenging to maneuver. Any mistake there would result in a serious penalty.
I took the Waterline Trail all the way north until it ended between a huge water tank and the top of the Acropolis, a huge dome of rock hovering right over downtown Helena. The Waterline Trail is almost perfectly level and parallels Oro Fino Gulch Road, except it undulates into and out of all the minor creek beds coming off the hill to the east. In a couple of places, the trail makers had to split large boulders to allow passage on the steep parts of the hill.
Please Note** Two weeks later I learned (from the Bike Helena Facebook page) I was trespassing when I rode that piece of the Waterline Trail from Don’t Fence Me In to Acropolis Rock.
I don’t like to trespass (it shows a lack of respect for the owners) but I think they should do a better job of notifying people. By taking a closer look at my map I can now see no trail marked for that section. I found it a beautiful piece of singletrack … hopefully it will eventually become a part of the trail system.
Acropolis Rock is so high and so close to the downtown area, I think I could have thrown a baseball and hit several of the larger buildings. I noticed a trail going down the face of the rock but, with only a half hour or so left to ride (I had to get my bike back to the shop before they closed so they could get it ready for shipping) I had already decided my last trail would be the one called Little Moab … for I had biked Moab a couple of times and wanted to see if the trail actually resembled the rides in the real Moab.
So, I rode east down the Acropolis (a very gradual descent as opposed to going down the face), crossed a couple of streets, and rode up Davis Street, the same as I had done with Timmy.
So, I got behind him and we climbed a whole lot of switchbacks to get to junction #14, where Little Moab was to the left and Easy Rider (the trail Will was going to take) stayed straight. I thanked Will for showing me the way to the trail and for all he was doing to build up mountain biking in Helena, then we parted.
Little Moab was a pretty neat trail, as it descended the whole way and crossed some sandstone (slickrock) slabs. The trail ended cutting right alongside someone’s house. A lady was out in the yard watering some flowers as I whizzed by her. I felt a little funny but figured she must be used to it.
I pedaled back to the hotel, shut off my GPS to complete the ride, then coasted to the Garage (bike shop) where I left my bike to be shipped back home.
As I walked back to the Holiday Inn I had some time to reflect on the day. What a day of riding! What interesting people! Getting lost 3 times! I certainly enjoyed being Lost in Paradise!
The following information was collected by my Garmin 800 Edge … taking readings every second. Feel free to upload the track to your GPS unit by clicking the View Details at the bottom and then Export in the top menu bar.
Where To Go From Here
Select South Hills … the 1st leg of this ride.
Select Emmett’s Trail … the 2nd part of this South Hills ride.
Select Cox Lake … the 3rd part of a four part ride.
Rodney Ridge … the 4th and final piece of this ride.
Select Helena Mountain Biking for an overview of rides in this area..