Places to Visit: Helena, Montana

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Helena, Montana

Helena is the midpoint between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks which are about 180 miles in either direction and only 130 miles northwest of Big Sky, MT.

  • Helena is a scenic 130 miles drive northwest from Big Sky.
  • Because of its colorful history, Helena is home to many historical and interesting attractions.
  • Whether you want to stay close to town or are seeking adventures in the surrounding areas, Helena has much to offer.


Born as a gold rush boom town, Helena, now the capital of Montana, has remained true to its history. Today visitors search the area for both gold and sapphires. Helena also has 42 city parks and a handful of recreation areas in the immediate area.

In addition to its historical past and present, Helena is today a successful town that focuses on politics, education, culture, and recreation.


Helena is a center point of the western Montana, sitting east of Missoula, north of Bozeman and Big Sky, and northwest of Billings, Montana.


As the state capital of Montana, Helena has a wide variety of visitors including politicians, business executives, visitors to locals, and tourists. Each visitor can pick from a wide assortment of lodging facilities to include bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels, guest ranches, vacation homes, condominiums and more.

Places to eat include fast food drive-ins, causal cafes and elegant dining.

Health care facilities include St. Peter's Hospital, Fort Harrison Veterans Hospital, and Shodair Hospital.

There are also many banks, service stations, shops, grocery stores and plenty of opportunities for shopping.


Because of its colorful history, Helena is home to many historical and interesting attractions.

Fort Harrison Museum
Two centuries of military experiences in Montana are displayed in a museum complex at Fort Harrison near Helena.

Holter Museum
Contemporary art museum in Helena, featuring exhibitions of work by internationally known artists.

Last Chance Gulch
Helena’s main street is named Last Chance Gulch and lies close to the winding path of the original gulch through the historic downtown district. It is lined with interesting and unique shops and architecture.

Original Governor’s Mansion
Montana's Original Governor's Mansion (OGM) is an historic house museum located at 304 North Ewing Street near downtown Helena. Entrepreneur William Chessman built the Mansion as a private residence in 1888. The three-story Queen Anne-style structure was acquired by the State of Montana in 1913 to serve as its first official governor's residence.

Reeder’s Alley
Reeder's Alley is situated in the southwest corner of downtown Helena. The buildings in Reeder's Alley are designated as an historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places with the National Park Service. The buildings offer insights into the lives of miners, the Chinese influence, building techniques of the time, and life of the common men and women who came to Helena seeking their fortune.

State Historical Society Museum
Montana's Museum collects, preserves, and interprets fine art, historical, archaeological, and ethnological artifacts that pertain to Montana and its adjoining geographic region.


Whether you want to stay close to town or are seeking adventures in the surrounding areas, Helena has much to offer.

City Parks
Some larger and more popular city parks include Mount Helena City Park with 630 acres of trails, Memorial Park which has a swimming pool and ice skate rink, and Fire Tower and Ryan Parks. Spring Meadow Lake State Park is well known for its Centennial Park Trail.

Elkhorn Wildlife Management Area and Blackfoot Meadows are also in the greater Helena area. The Bob Marshal Wilderness Complex runs from Helena to Glacier National Park in northern Montana, offering over 1800 miles of trails.

Commercial Boat Tours
Boat tours that follow the same route that Lewis and Clark took in the early 1800s are also available and will make you feel as if you were back in the Old West.

Helena also hosts festivals of different varieties at different times of the year. Summers bring rodeos and jazz performances, while the winters bring Dog-sled races and micro-brew festivals.

You won't want to forget your fishing rod--sections of the Missouri River just below the Hauser Dam are known to bring in brown trout weighing over 15 lbs. Helena lakes also bear one of the biggest populations of genetically pure west slope cutthroat trout.

Nearby trials for hiking and backpacking include the Continental Divide Trail, and the Blackfoot Meadows. You can also hike up Mount Helena that overlooks town from 5,460 feet.

Another unique activity found in Helena is the opportunity to hunt for gold and sapphires in the same fashion as the early settlers. Official mining companies will take you out to streams and retail mines to help you strike it rich.

Water Sports
If water sports are your true passion, you’ll find Helena's 4 lakes entertaining. Hauser, Helena, Holter, and Canyon Ferry Lakes all offer the best in boating, fly-fishing, canoeing, windsurfing, and swimming.

Winter Sports
Helena, MT is not only a summer destination, but also a winter destination. Enjoy both ice and fly fishing for rainbow, brook, brown, bull, and Yellowstone and west slope cutthroat trout.

There are three popular snowmobiling areas with groomed trails: Marysville's trail system is 45 miles long, Sunshine's 120, and Minnehaha-Rimini's 45.

Great Divide Mountain sits twenty miles from town and can challenge any level skier when she is covered with snow. MacDonald Pass is a great location for cross-country skiing.

Getting Here

If Big Sky is your base for your vacation, it is easy to make a day trip or a weekend excursion to Helena. Simply head north on US 191 to I-90. At I 90 head west toward Butte, MT to exit 274. Then head north again along US 287 through Townsend and on to Helena.

This is a scenic drive through mountains covered with pine forests. Be on the look out for wildlife along the way.

For those who prefer to fly, Helena has a small regional airport that is 2.5 miles from the city center. With consistently stable weather and modern facilities, Helena Regional Airport is the most reliable departure/arrival point in Montana.