Welcome to Helena
Explore Montana history, hit the trails or enjoy a beer in the state’s capital on your way from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park
Take a stroll down Last Chance Gulch–Helena’s downtown walking mall–on a summer afternoon and you’ll hear the chords of live music floating up into the blue Montana sky. Locals and visitors alike are enjoying the summer weather alongside a beer. Kids are licking ice cream cones and dogs are waiting patiently to clean up any drips. Mountain bikers come off the trails and park their bikes next to the brewery. It’s a community space where you’ll instantly feel welcome.
It’s also a place that’s rich in history–after all, this is Montana’s capital. In the 1800s, it also earned itself a spot among the list of the richest places on Earth thanks to the $3.6 billion worth of gold that was mined in the area.
Join the Foundation for Montana History for the “Breweries and Brothels” walking tour where you’ll learn the history of Helena, its brewing scene and the red-light districts that used to dot town. The tour reveals a fascinating history lying just below the surface. You’ll also get to visit several of the town’s microbreweries. Reserve your tickets at MTHistory.org. Another fun way to get a peek at the city’s history is on the Last Chance Tour Train, an open-air ride through the mansion district of town.
Thirty minutes north of Helena, you can go even further back in time to see where Lewis and Clark entered Montana on their journey to the Missouri River’s headwaters at Gates of the Mountains. A great way to explore this beautiful part of the river is on a boat tour which departs from the Gates of the Mountains Marina. Tours occur several times a day.
In Helena, locals like to say there’s a trail at the end of every street and a brewery at the end of every ride.
While every town is prone to some hyperbole, Helena truly offers an extraordinary range of mountain biking for beginners all the way to experts. There are 80 miles of trails accessible from the downtown area and more than 400 miles of trails in the greater Helena area. Bring your own bike or rent one at Big Sky Cycling to get out and explore.
Hit up the Mount Helena Ridge trail that leads to Show Me the Horse trail, a 6-mile, moderate ride that drops you into Grizzly Gulch right near Last Chance Gulch. You’ll be perfectly poised for happy hour.
If hiking is your preferred way to take in the scenery, take the 1906 Trail up the 5,468-foot-high Mount Helena, which sits in Mount Helena City Park. It’s the second largest city park in the country at 620 acres, right behind New York City’s Central Park.
After taking in the town’s history or spending the day on the trails, head to Ten Mile Creek Brewery. Take your beer out to the patio to enjoy live music or grab something to eat at one of the food trucks the brewery hosts. The Hawthorn is right next door if you’re more in the mood for a glass of wine and The Parrot Confectionery, in business since 1922, is on the other side. It serves ice cream, floats, homemade sodas and a mouthwatering selection of candy.
If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to be sure to schedule a visit to Exploration Works. This children’s museum has a ton of hands-on STEM exhibits to promote learning through play. Fuel up on the famous huckleberry stuffed French toast at Steve’s Cafe beforehand.
Learn more at HelenaMT.com.