Not far from Helena, the great Missouri River flows through beautiful forest and rugged canyons. This stretch of river is very popular among fisherman, but it is also a beautiful place to hike and see some wildlife. The Beaver Creek Trail (also called the Hauser Dam Trail) and the area around the dam are great spots to visit for a quick hike, to spend a day of fishing, or just to get outside and enjoy the scenery.
Getting to Hauser Dam and the Beaver Creek Trail
From Helena, make your way towards Lake Helena either via the I-15 and East Lincoln Road or Highway 287 and Lake Helena Drive. Once at Lake Helena, head north on Hauser Dam Road. The road will become dirt, but it is well maintained. It’s only about 10 minutes and less than five miles from Lake Helena to the parking area near the dam. There are pretty views of the Missouri along the way.
Just before the road hits Hauser Dam, there is a small lot off to the left side. We also saw some cars parallel parked just by the dam. There are restrooms and some informational signs here. To begin the Beaver Creek Trail, walk across the dam.
There are no fees to park and hike here. If you intend to fish, you must obtain a Montana fishing license beforehand. Click here to learn more about the various fishing permits and regulations.
Hiking the Beaver Creek Trail
Hike Type: Easy out-and-back trail. Some rocky sections
Distance: 3.6 miles (5.8 kilometers) roundtrip
Duration: 1.5-2.5 hours
Regulations: Pets are permitted. Obey parking and regulatory signs near the dam.
Once across the dam, we headed left to make our way downstream. The trail dropped down closer to the river level, giving us a view of the dam from below. There were a wide variety of birds along the shores and in the large pool below the dam.
As we walked further downstream, the trail became pretty rocky as it traversed the hillside. We were there fairly early in the morning, and there were already quite a few fishermen standing in the water below. A couple boats were also making their way up the river.
It was one of the first warm days of spring, so we made our way down to the water as well and hung out on a large rock before continuing on our way. The canyon is quite pretty with its rocky cliffs and the deep, blue water flowing through it.
The trail technically ends at a Missouri River Fishing Site at the end of Beaver Creek Road where Beaver Creek meets the Missouri. There is a parking area and restroom here. Visitors could also start the trail here instead of beginning at Hauser Dam, though accessing it via Beaver Creek Road is less common since it is much further out of the way from Helena.
If you started at Hauser Dam as we did, head back the way you came to return to the trailhead.
Notes on Hiking the Beaver Creek Trail
Hiking the Beaver Creek Trail near Hauser Dam is overall a great hiking option near Helena. We have only hiked here in the spring and late fall when the temperatures were cooler. But, we have heard and read that the bugs here in the summer can be pretty overwhelming. In the warmer months, we also want to note that snakes have been known to hang out among the rocks, so watch your step and keep an eye on your pets and children.
This is generally rated as an easy trail because it is pretty level and not long in distance. However, sections of this trail are loose rock, so use caution with your footing. Rainy or snowy conditions and rock slides can make the conditions on the trail more difficult or even unpassable.
What to Bring
Water: An essential for any hike.
Food: In case you want to refuel and enjoy the views a bit longer. If you pack a lunch, there are some nice picnic spots to stop along the Missouri River above Hauser Dam.
Layers: Even in the summers, mornings and certain days can be chilly, so it’s always good to pack or wear extra layers.
Hiking Boots: Sturdy shoes with good tread are a good idea to navigate the rocks.
Bug Spray: As mentioned, the bugs can be swarming in warmer months.
Sun Protection: Much of the trail is exposed, so bring sunglasses, a hat, and/or sunscreen.
Fishing Gear: Bring your fishing gear and license if you want to fish this popular spot.
Hiking Poles: Hiking poles may help on the rocky sections if you enjoy hiking with them.
Camera: To capture the pretty views and wildlife you may see.