One of the three race options offered at the annual Don't Fence Me In event supporting the efforts of the non-profit Prickly Pear Land Trust, the 12K Run (or walk, if you'd prefer) fits the "just right" category for participants wanting something more substantial than the 5K but a little less daunting than the 30K. Starting and ending in the historic Last Chance Gulch area, the 12K course trades pavement for forested trails after a half mile and adds about 1,400 feet of elevation gain to your run before a dizzying switchback descent back to civilization.
The course will be flagged and crossing guards will be present at key points but not at every intersection. Please know the course!
As is the case with most trails, rocks, branches and roots comprise part of the challenge. Have fun but remain safely alert!
This and all other Don't Fence Me In events begin at the intersection of Warren and Miller streets. heading north on the pedestrian mall from the race registration booth, keep to the right past the S.S. Helena Memorial (a really BIG anchor) and go through the tunnel beneath Cruse Avenue and up a short hill to Warren Street.
The 12K course begins by running south (up) Warren Street for three blocks, turning left on Pine Street for three blocks and right on Davis Street. The course connects with Lower De Ford Trail
(known locally as the Wood Chip Trail) on the left side of Davis Street and follows the second left turn onto Eagle Scout Trail
. After negotiating the switchbacks, the course continues east to make a right turn on the Archery Range Trail
at the Porcupine Flats Aid Station. Past the actual Archery Range, it swings uphill and over a small ridge, then down some switchbacks to Davis Gulch Road. After a sharp right turn onto the Davis Gulch Road, a trail leads down the embankment to the left and the Davis Gulch Aid Station.
The trail skirts the outside of the fence enclosing the old shooting range and begins a climb up gentle switchbacks to Rodney Meadow. From the meadow, the course follows the TR Trail
for a short climb up to the ridge. The TR Trail
drops downhill and swings farther south before making a sharp right turn down a steeper pitch onto the Waterline Trail. Continue on the Waterline Trail to a sharp right turn up the Don't Fence Me In Trail at the Waterline Aid Station. This trail takes the course through some long switchbacks to the top of the ridge and then drops back down toward Davis Gulch to pick up the Rodney Ridge Trail and a series of switchbacks first down and then sharply uphill.
Enjoy a fine panoramic view of Helena at the top of this climb before descending to the Rodney Ridge trailhead. After passing through the gate, the course keeps left onto Sparta Street. Just before the intersection with Clancy Street, the course veers left onto the city maintenance road. It then climbs up and over a small ridge on a winding trail that descends toward Dale Harris Park. After crossing Cruse, the route turns left and before continuing to the right along Park Avenue to the finish near the Lewis & Clark Public Library.
The Don't Fence Me In events have been supporting the conservation and trail development efforts of the non-profit Prickly Pear Land Trust since 2000. If you're looking for a quick stroll or an even bigger challenge than the 12K, please check out the 5K and 30K courses here on Trail Run Project or at the link above.