A bike ride with a view on the South Hills Trail System
Touring points of interest on the Last Chance Tour Train
Taking in the scenery on a Missouri River cruise
Statues and gardens outside Montana’s historic capitol
A classic Montana “Big Sky” sunset over Stemple Pass
The Guardian of the Gulch, a historic fire tower overlooking the city
Shopping and entertainment at Helena’s Walking Mall
Paddleboarding in Spring Meadow Lake State Park
The Queen Anne-style Original Governor’s Mansion
A recreation hub with deep western roots
Historic Helena Landmarks
Helena was founded as a mining camp during the Montana gold rush and officially established in 1864. The town quickly blossomed into a trading hub for gold, and both millionaires and hopefuls made their homes along the gulch. From the modest miners’ quarters in historic Reeder’s Alley to the grand mansion district in the Mount Helena foothills, the city’s architecture reflects its early settlers.
Other points of interest include the Montana State Capitol Building, the Cathedral of St. Helena and the “Guardian of the Gulch,” Helena’s Old Fire Tower. The official city landmark has overseen Helena since the late 1800s, after fires tore through the town’s wooden buildings. Guided and self-guided tours are available at historic sites across the area. Take the Last Chance Tour Train to see the sights from an open-air train car.
Four seasons and a diverse landscape make Helena a haven for recreation all year long – from snowshoeing in winter to stand-up paddleboarding in summer. Helena’s old prospector paths lend themselves to world-class hiking and biking. More than 129 kilometers of multi-use trails stem from the city, feeding a total of 644 kilometers of trails in the area.
The varied terrain and impressive scenery have earned Helena a silver-level rating from the International Mountain Bicycling Association. For an unforgettable mountain biking experience, ride your way through the South Hills Trail System. Accessible from several of Helena’s southside streets, the network encompasses more than 120 kilometers of cross-country terrain. For an easier outing, try the Waterline Trail Loop in Mount Helena City Park. The scenic, 4-kilometer route is popular with joggers, mountain bikers and birdwatchers. Visit in June to see Montana wildflowers in bloom.
Arts and Culture
Helena’s historic streets connect a thriving downtown where independent businesses offer authentic local experiences. The city’s Walking Mall is a charming place to eat, shop and enjoy art and music outdoors. A manmade creek runs along the promenade, paying tribute to the gold rush that started it all.
The arts are alive at destinations like Montana’s State Museum and the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bray, as it’s known locally, is an educational institution and a gathering place for ceramic artists. It provides free access to fine art just a few kilometers from downtown. A full calendar of festivals and events ensures entertainment all year long. In July, Helena’s annual Symphony Under the Stars unites community and classical music, while the Last Chance Stampede & Fair celebrates Montana’s Western culture.
Helena is a Continental Divide Trail Gateway Community, providing stewardship and preservation for the famous trail that runs from Banff to Mexico.
Photo: Mat Wilder
Helena is home to historic structures like the Pioneer Cabin, built in 1864, and the Morelli Bridge, Montana’s oldest working timber bridge.
Photo: Jacob McEachern
Founded as a mining community, Helena quickly blossomed as a trading hub for gold. Some of those trading routes are now trails in this internationally acclaimed mountain bike area.