The Route

1880's Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT.

As you ride through the city of Helena, you will roll through Last Chance Gulch and many other gulches along the way. You will see historic sites while traveling just over 92 miles and climbing over 10,000’. The Montana gravel racing course follows old mining routes, logging roads and railroad beds. Once you have left town and Last Chance Gulch, you will turn right up Grizzly Gulch. Here you will see large brick and timber kilns once used to produce lime. The lime was used in the construction of brick and stone buildings in Helena and the surrounding areas. Grizzly Gulch also produced some $5,000,000 in placer gold mines up until 1869.

Lime Kiln ruins on Grizzly Gulch, Helena, MT.

The official race start is just past the kilns were the pavement ends. This will also be the race finish line on your return to town.

Once over Grizzly Gulch you will descend Travis Creek Road for 5 miles to Lump Gulch. Lump Gulch which was named in 1864 when a large lump of gold was found by prospectors. Turning right onto Lump Gulch you will climb steadily up toward Park Lake which sits at 6,500’. Just before reaching the lake, you will turn right heading toward Chessmen Reservoir. Chessmen Reservoir supplies water to the city of Helena and is named after William Chessmen who helped develop Helena’s early water systems.

Rimini, Montana Saloon, photo by Kathy Weiser-Alexander 2008.

From the reservoir, it’s a rocky descent into Rimini. Rimini is a living ghost town and is one of the oldest mining districts in Montana. It was established in 1864 when silver lodes were discovered. At the bottom of the technical descent turn Left on Rimini Road and climb through the town on your way up towards Scott Reservoir.

Once past Scott Reservoir it’s a long fast almost 20 mile descent into the town of Basin. Along Basin Creek Road you will pass many historic gulches, like Grub Gulch, Weasel Gulch, Wood Gulch, Saul Haggerty Gulch, Lily of the West Gulch, Meyers Gulch and so many more. The road turns to pavement as you enter Basin. From here you will hang a left on Basin Street (their Main Street) and parallel I-15 east. Following the Interstate and the Boulder River you will travel on the old highway and the abandoned railroad grade to High Ore Road.

Comet, MT
Abandoned railway tunnel, Wickes, MT.

The climb up High Ore is about 5.5 miles and tops out just past the ghost town of Comet, which was established in 1876. You can still see the Mining works off to your right on the hillside as you ride through the ghost town. At the top of the climb, it’s a tricky descent towards Wickes. The downhill can be technical and the road leading to Wickes can have some pretty good sandy sections. The Wickes Road will take you past the 6,160’ abandoned Wickes train tunnel, but you probably won’t see it because you’ll be concentrating on the road ahead.

Beehive mining kiln, Wickes, MT.

Wickes was also a mining town and is known for its historic beehive kilns. The railroad also made a stop here in Wickes and as you turn left out of town and begin another climb, you will pass under a massive steel train trestle. This climb ends with a view of the Alta Mine which primarily mined lead, zinc and silver.

Headed down another rolling descent of about 11 miles you will come to the town of Clancy. Clancy was named after William Clancy, a gold prospector and was founded in 1873. Clancy became one of the largest silver camps in the area. Turning left and passing through Clancy on Main Street, you will continue on pavement to Cutoff Road. Cutoff Road will turn left and become Lump Gulch – the same Lump Gulch that you had ridden up hours earlier, only you rode the top half of the gulch. It’s about a 4 mile climb back to Travis Creek Rod. Turning right, you will ascend the final 5 miles to the top of Grizzly Gulch and then it’s all downhill to the finish!

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