If you have not yet seen PART 1 – be sure to visit THIS PAGE first!
Devils Elbow Campground
Lets begin this post with an overview of Devils Elbow Campground. Naturally the name caught my attention, and I liked the campground even more when I discovered they were “big rig” friendly AND FREE after October 12th! So, off to another series of days where I could experience “self-sustained” or “off-grid” living courtesy of my solar panels and inverter.
Devil’s Elbow is a BLM campground with wide open spaces and a good boat launch area – one which I used for my kayak daily, and sometimes twice each day! My campsite overlooked the water, but you would not be inclined to walk directly to the water from my site (unless you walked a path down to the boat launch about 200 ft. away).
As with most BLM campgrounds, there are no full hookup sites (except for the camphost sites). There are water hydrants scattered about the park for campers, but by the time of my arrival, they were off for the winter. Even though my stay was in mid-October, days still approached 70F and nights were at or above freezing.
My solar panels were of increasingly less help though as the sun did not clear the ridge to the east til 9am and was too low to be of any real value after 5pm. After my stay at Devils Elbow, the panels have been stored for the winter. I will next put them back in service in the spring.
As with the other campgrounds surrounding Helena, Devils Elbow is remote yet very accessible – located less than one hour from downtown Helena, and able to provide a solid 3g phone signal.
Here are some photos of Devils Canyon Campground and the adjacent waters. Below the photo slide show, enjoy a video kayaking along the Devils Canyon waters, and then you’ll find a real treat – a dash cam trip from Devils Canyon Campground to the York Bar and then onto Vigilante Campground.
I made a brief video while I was on the water at Devils Elbow…
Devils Elbow Campground is literally minutes from the National Forest and an interesting town called York. York is perhaps best known for the York Bar and its burgers (no fries)! A few miles up the road from York is a NFS Campground called “Vigilante Campground” – the name alone enticed me to make the brief drive and visit. What follows are two “dash cam” videos that detail the drive. When I arrived at Vigilante Campground, I found a campground best suited to rigs under 30 ft., that could enjoy camping in a narrow, heavily forested valley – with no access to cell service. If you’re interested in learning more about the dash cam I made these videos with, click HERE. I apologize for the “over modulation” of Springsteen’s Backstreets in the first video, frankly I simply had the volume cranked (and if you listen carefully, you’ll hear me singing along with Bruce!). I will say the song inspired me to drive as aggressively as possible through the forest leading to York! It does make for some spectacular footage, along with the fall foliage!
Devils Elbow to York…
York to Vigilante Campground…
Knowing how most states capitol cities are (at least back east), I had low expectations for Helena. After all, what is there to say about Trenton, NJ and Albany, NY?! Anyway, Helena turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Steve’s Cafe is a very worthwhile place for breakfast or lunch as is Murrays on Last Chance Gulch. Last Chance Gulch itself is a “slice of urban life” in what is otherwise a fairly rural town. Most of Helena is spread out and filled with middle income families.
Last Chance Gulch
Last Chance Gulch is a most interesting “outdoor mall” as described by the Helena Chamber of Commerce. I found it to be a slice of urban America that (to me) most resembles W4th St. in “The Village” in is. There are two coffee shops worth a visit – and to spend some time. The Firetower is a great “non-chain” alternative to Starbucks, and the Mercantile – likewise a Starbucks alternative, also has an eclectic mix of merchandise – everything from modern travel mugs to vintage tins and much more. The Mercantile additionally has lots of hidden spots where one can enjoy a coffee, engage in conversation or work online through your computer.
Enjoy a walk through the Last Chance Gulch…
Additional Camping Opportunities
In a future post, I will highlight a few more campgrounds a bit north from Helena. They are also worthy contenders for your time to spend more quality time along the headwaters of the Missouri River. Overall, as I have stated, Helena is a place I will most definitely return to and of all the campgrounds I’m likely to revisit, it will be Court Sheriff.