Trout Creek Canyon

A perfect Montana hike for the family.

This past weekend my kids and I headed up toward York, Montana to the Trout Creek Trail, near the Vigilante Campground.  This area is about a 45-minute drive from Helena and most certainly worth the beautiful drive.

Note: There is no cell phone reception in this area like many areas in Montana so please don’t count on having access.  Smile – it’s a good thing to be unplugged.

Many times throughout the summer at the Helena Tourism Alliance, we get asked by families with young children where they should go to hike.  If they’re looking for a hike close to town, we send them to something like the Deford Trail in the South Hills directly at the edge of town, about a five minute drive from the Helena Tourism Alliance office.  Sometimes, families are game for a longer drive.  In that case, we send them toward York and the Vigilante Campground to the Trout Creek Canyon Trail.  Here’s a map with specific directions to reach the Trout Creek Trail. (If you find the Vigilante Campground the trail head is right there and often times if you find directions, they’ll use the campground and the trail head interchangeably.)

On our way to Trout Creek this weekend, my boys and I got stuck in a cattle drive.  I’m sure it’s because I was born a city girl, but trying to drive through a cattle drive is quite an experience.  We passed a couple hundred head of cow all covered with burrs and bellowing out for their babies and babies bellowing for their mamas.  Of course, I had to roll down my windows and give them my best “mooo.”  My boys were certainly glad we were in the middle of nowhere so I wasn’t making a fool of myself in front of any of their friends.

When we got to the Trout Creek trailhead area we elected to go to the Vigilante Campground first and eat lunch, play in the creek and burn off excess energy induced by the Halloween candy that was consumed on the drive.  The dogs were also happy to be outside of the car so they could run, play and splash in the water.

After lunch, we began our Trout Creek hike.  It was perfect for my kids because it’s relatively flat. Flat trail = less complaining.  The trail is handicap accessible and friendly to strollers.  The Helena area has a reputation for great geocaching and the Trout Creek Trail offers three in succession to help motivate troops down the trail. Here’s the link to the the geocaches along the trail:

GC1P0VD – Vigilante-Trout Creek Trailhead Geocache

GCGEYJ – Discover Vigilante

GC12HW2 – Scout Cross-over Cache

Next Spring, I plan to go back and place more caches along the trail so that it’s a nice series of caches in a very beautiful location (after approval of course).

Of all the times I have been to Trout Creek, I have always seen the numbered markers along the trail and the entry sign near the parking area indicates that you can follow the brochure and learn about the area.  Unfortunately, the brochure has never been there.  Using some of my tourism connections, I got my hands on the Trout Creek: A History in the Making brochure and have uploaded it to our site, for everyone to download, print and enjoy.  I wish we had the brochure during our hike, but I’ll have it next time.

After hiking Trout Creek, we drove back through York, and while a York burger from the York Bar is often a must, we had recently had lunch.  If you’re looking for a unique Montana experience, I do encourage you to stop at the York Bar for a burger.  It’s okay to bring your kids in the bar during the day – it’s a family activity.

If we hadn’t already done the GeoTour Cache #31: York Overlook, we would have made time to climb the hill behind the Park, but we already had done that geocache so my boys played the park for a while.  We drove back to Helena as we watched a storm roll into the valley.  It was a beautiful, fun, relaxing day.  The perfect way to spend a beautiful fall afternoon.

-Heidi O’Brien, Helena Tourism Alliance