(HELENA) Dozens of bike riders gathered in downtown Helena Saturday, waiting to catch a ride to nearby trailheads.
Bike Helena kicked off its free Trail Rider shuttle service for the year at this weekend’s Spring Shuttle Fest. On Saturday, shuttles ran every 30 minutes from the downtown Women’s Mural, carrying riders to the Mt. Helena Ridge trailhead or a trailhead off Arrowroot Drive, leading to Mt. Ascension.
Bike Helena leaders canceled morning shuttles on Saturday, because of cold and wet weather. Leaders said they were impressed with the number of people who turned out.
“It was overwhelming, honestly, to see that many people here despite the weather,” said Andrea Opitz, executive director of the Helena Tourism Alliance, which manages Bike Helena. “They absolutely love our trail system.”
Several of the riders came from places like Bozeman, Butte and Whitefish. Opitz said they often see out-of-town riders for Shuttle Fest because Helena’s trails tend to dry out earlier than those in other Montana communities.
Capital Transit, Helena’s public bus system, operates the Trail Rider shuttle. For Shuttle Fest, Vigilante Shuttles and Tours also volunteered its shuttle to increase the number of passengers that could be served.
Opitz said about 3,700 passengers used the Trail Rider service in 2017. In 2018, that number was down slightly, which she attributed to poor weather and to the lengthy construction project on West Main Street. She said they are continuing to see a lot of interest in the service.
“We are hoping to see strong use for all users, whether they’re bikers, trail runners or hikers,” she said.
Shuttle Fest will wrap up Sunday, with shuttles scheduled to leave from the Women’s Mural every 30 minutes, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Starting next week, the Trail Rider will begin running on its regular schedule, Wednesday through Sunday. The shuttle will initially carry riders to the Mt. Helena Ridge and Arrowroot Drive trailheads. Beginning in July, it will also run from a pickup spot on Rimini Road to the Continental Divide Trail at MacDonald Pass.
You can find more information about the Trail Rider, including a link to a full schedule, at the Bike Helena website.