Trip Planner:   USA  /  Montana  /  Helena  /  MacDonald Pass

MacDonald Pass, Helena

4.5
#4 of 9 in Parks in Helena
MacDonald Pass, el.6312ft, (also known as McDonald Pass) is a mountain pass on the continental divide west of Helena, Montana that is traversed by U.S. Route 12. The pass is one of three passes (MacDonald, Mullan and Priest) used in the 1870s-80s for travel between Helena and Deer Lodge, Montana over the continental divide.HistoryIn 1864, when the Montana Territory was established, the territorial legislative assembly had limited funds to build roads in the territory, so toll roads were authorized to shift funding to private operators. The MacDonald road originated as part of a toll road authorized by Territorial Governor Green Clay Smith and built in 1867 by French Canadian Constant Guyot. Guyot ran a hay ranch along the Little Blackfoot River just east of Elliston, Montana. At the time the road was known as the "The Frenchwoman's Road" because it was managed by Guyot's wife who operated a hostel at the west end of the road near Dog Creek. The hostel could sleep 30 men and Madame Guyot charged $2 for staying overnight and $1 per meal.In August 1868, Madame Guyot was found murdered and robbed of $6,000 in gold dust in the hostel. Although Deer Lodge County posted a $500 reward, no one was ever brought to justice for the murder. Constant Guyot, a drunkard and known to mistreat his wife, was considered a prime suspect but was never charged with the crime. According to local folklore, Guyot admitted murdering his wife after he left the region. Travelers believed the hostel was haunted with the ghost of Madame Guyot. Shortly after the murder, Elijah M. "Lige" Dunphy, a local sawmill owner, bought the rights to the toll road and hired a Canadian emigrant, Alexander "Red" MacDonald, to manage the road. MacDonald contracted with a stage line, Gilmer, Salisbury and Company to use the road while supplying meals and lodging to travelers at the hostel. In 1876-77, MacDonald turned over management of the road to Valentine Priest who later in 1879 built a competing road over Priest Pass. MacDonald acquired full ownership of the road from Dunphy in 1879. In 1885, because of declining use, MacDonald sold all his interests in the toll road.
Our Helena trip itinerary builder app makes visiting MacDonald Pass and other Helena attractions simple, and helps you make a travel plan personal to you.
Source
Create an itinerary including MacDonald Pass
map
Places to stay near MacDonald Pass
MacDonald Pass Reviews
Rate this attraction
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating
TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.0
46 reviews
Google
5.0
TripAdvisor
  • drive up to the top is quite an adventure but truly worth it. the views are distant and beautiful. but take a coat - very cold  more »
  • This stretch of road was really a nice drive. Plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the view of the gorgeous valley.  more »
  • Stopped at the scenic lookout spot on the east side of the pass....very fine review of the area provided by the State on site and, even on a somewhat smokey day, the view was superb.  more »

Plan your trip to Helena

  • Get a personalized plan

    A complete day-by-day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it

    Refine your plan. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Book it

    Choose from the best hotels
    and activities. Up to 50% off
  • Manage it

    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.

Plans to MacDonald Pass by other users

3 days in Helena BY A USER FROM BRAZIL June, popular PREFERENCES: June ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 2 days in Helena BY A USER FROM CANADA April, kids, relaxing, shopping, hidden gems PREFERENCES: April, kids, relaxing, shopping ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Medium 16 days in Montana BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES June, outdoors, beaches, wildlife, hidden gems PREFERENCES: June, outdoors, beaches, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Medium 11 days in Helena BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES May, teens, culture, outdoors, historic sites, wildlife, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: May, teens, culture, outdoors, historic sites, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 12 days in Idaho, Helena & The Dalles BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, historic sites, wildlife, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: August, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, historic sites, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 31 days in Montana BY A USER FROM DENMARK October, kids, popular PREFERENCES: October, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in Helena BY A USER FROM CANADA June, popular PREFERENCES: June ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 22 days in United States BY A USER FROM NETHERLANDS April, outdoors, romantic, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife, popular PREFERENCES: April, outdoors, romantic, historic sites, museums, shopping, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 15 days in Montana BY A USER FROM CANADA May, popular PREFERENCES: May ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 22 days in Montana BY A USER FROM ISLE OF MAN July, teens, kids, popular PREFERENCES: July, teens, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in Helena BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES July, outdoors, romantic, wildlife, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: July, outdoors, romantic, wildlife ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 22 days in United States, Banff National Park & Vancouver BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES June, popular PREFERENCES: June ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium
View more plans