Elevation: 4,618 ft
GPS: 46.777, -111.638 Google Map · Climbing Area Map
Page Views: 239 total · 26/month
Shared By: Dan Bachen on Mar 10, 2019
Admins: grk10vq, Zach Wahrer

Description

This amazing canyon, northeast of Helena, is among the most interesting and scenic areas in the Big Belt Mountains. Limestone cliffs rise above the valley for hundreds to thousands of feet. The stratification of the Helena Limestone is clearly visible and the effects of geologic time have resulted in spectacular folds and faults. In the past, a road was maintained through the valley bottom, but due to washouts and maintenance costs, the USFS decommissioned it years ago, leaving a pleasant trail. As with most Montana limestone, the rock quality is variable. It ranges from bullet hard blue-gray slab to brown choss. Climbs range from traditional and bolt protected multipitch endeavors to short single pitch sport. As in most of this range, the new route potential is significant.

The Big Empty, by Ron Brunckhorst, and Central Montana Rock, by Jake Mergenthaler, are the two best resources for climbs in this area.

Established cliffs are primarily found in the mid and upper portions of the canyon. Access can be had from the lower trail head at Vigilante Campground, or from the upper end of the canyon, after a long and circuitous drive from Beaver Creek. The trail is around 3 miles from lower to upper trail head, and is well suited to mountain biking, if a shorter commute is desired. For those staying the night, a USFS campground is located at the mouth of the canyon, and dispersed camping can be found on USFS lands throughout the surrounding area. Unlike the other canyons with established climbing in the Big Belts, Trout Creek Canyon is dry for almost all of the year. The creek runs underground for the length of the Canyon and reappears just upstream of the lower trail head. This trail, and the incredible Hanging Valley Trail to the south, are both popular hikes, so expect to encounter other recreationists, especially on climbs that start next to or on the trail.

Getting There

First you need to get to York. From Helena, take Custer Ave to York Road and drive this across the Missouri to York. If coming from the east side of Canyon Ferry Reservoir, take Jimtown Road from the small "town" of Canyon Ferry. From the York Bar head east on the main road until it dead ends at the trail head.

If you want a shorter hike to the walls in the upper canyon, it is possible to drive up Beaver creek, to the head of the drainage and drop down into the head of Trout Creek. This drive is long, but scenic and will take you through some rarely seen country. As there are a few forks and turns, the route finding is best done with a Forest Service road / trail map. Generally you will go north (left) at the York Bar as per Beaver Creek. Take a right (east) at the Nelson Junction. Follow Beaver Creek Road through the canyon. When the road reaches a ranch (road is still public), you will begin to climb above the valley. Once you are in the upper meadows, take a right like you are going to the summit of Hogs Back, then eventually a left to drop down into Trout Creek. Again there are a few roads back in here, so a GPS and map are handy.

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