10 Things to do in Helena
Helena is most famous as Montana’s Capital City. The charming town also sits directly between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks making it the perfect place to rest your feet as you travel between the parks. The Helena area is home to a wide range of activities and, as with much of the Southwest Montana region, is steeped in history. While in Helena, why not add to your itinerary! Maybe a soak in a natural hot spring, a hike down one of our many trails, a visit to the mansion district, exploration of our museums or a trip to the Cathedral of St. Helena? There is no shortage of activities in the Helena Area!
1. Montana Historical Society Museum | Montana’s Museum
The Montana Historical Society Museum features both long-term and temporary exhibits. The long-term exhibits include the Mackay Gallery of Russell Art – a gallery of CM Russell’s artwork, Neither Empty Nor Unknown: Montana at the Time of Lewis and Clark, Montana Homeland, and Big Medicine – the white buffalo. Additional exhibits can be found at the museum on a rotating basis. Learn More about the Montana Historical Society.
2. Great Divide Ski Area
Great Divide Ski Area is one of three downhill skiing areas in Southwest Montana. Located in Marysville (just 30 miles northwest of Helena), this backyard ski area is a quiet mountain with great terrain for everyone from beginners to enthusiasts. The mountain, located in the Continental Divide, offers over 100 trails on three peaks and three distinct valleys.
3. Gates of the Mountains
“In many places,” wrote Meriwether Lewis, “the rocks seem ready to tumble on us… I shall call this place “gates of the mountains”.
Named by Meriwether Lewis in his journal entry on July 19, 1805, Lewis called this canyon “the most remarkable cliffs that we have yet seen”. The Lewis and Clark Expedition passed through the spectacular Missouri River Canyon, remarking on how the towering 1,200-foot high cliffs seemed to close upon them like gates. They viewed bighorn sheep along the narrow shelves and perpendicular cliffs, common wildlife seen today. The Gates of the Mountains are located 17 miles north of Helena off I-15.
4. Canyon Ferry Recreation Area
Canyon Ferry offers a variety of recreational opportunities including boating, year-round fishing for trout and walleye, camping, sightseeing, picnicking, hunting, waterskiing, nature study, and swimming. Boat access is available at all of the campsites. A number of additional public boat launch areas are located near the dam on the north end and near Townsend on the south end.
5. Last Chance Tour Train
The Last Chance Tour Train departs from the Montana Historical Society Museum during the summer and embarks on a roughly hour long tour of the Capital City. On the tour, you will learn about Montana’s incredible history and get a better feel for some of the community’s most prominent landmarks. You will find yourself cruising down the Historic Walking Mall with a view of the Guardian of the Gulch (fire tower), passing by the Cathedral of St. Helena, and even taking a look at the State Capitol Building!
The Helena Area is home to SIX wonderful craft breweries! In the town proper of Helena, you will find Lewis & Clark Brewing Company, Blackfoot River Brewing Company, Ten Mile Creek Brewing, and Copper Furrow! The Lewis and Clark Tap Room features a full menu while you will be able to find restaurants nearby the other breweries! If you head just out of town to East Helena, you will find the Missouri River Brewing Company and Karmadillos Southwestern Cafe! Maybe you are spending the day at Canyon Ferry Reservoir or even headed to the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park down Highway 287. As you drive through Townsend, you will find Canyon Ferry Brewing Company! There are also two distilleries in the area: Stonehouse and Gulch Distilling.
7. Tizer Botanic Gardens and Arboretum
Tizer Gardens is located in Jefferson City, just south of Helena, Montana. Sitting in the Elkhorn Mountains, this incredible oasis straddles Prickly Pear Creek and offers a unique Montana experience for visitors! Take a self guided tour through the gardens and explore the thousands of plants that make Tizer their home. Kids will love our fairy and gnome gardens and the tranquil landscape makes Tizer the perfect place to step out of the hustle and bustle of every day life!
8. Hot Springs (Broadwater/Boulder)
The Helena Area is home to two of our region’s six natural hot springs. Broadwater Hot Springs is located in the southwest corner of town and features recently renovated pools and a restaurant in addition to frequent live music! Boulder Hot Springs is located just outside of the community of Boulder and is the perfect retreat! Stay at the historic hotel and soak in the natural soothing waters for the perfect weekend getaway!
9. Mount Helena
Just a mile from Helena’s historic Walking Mall sits Mount Helena City Park, a local favorite for hiking and mountain biking. The parking lot at the trailhead offers a kiosk with trail information and maps.
10. Art and Theatre
If you are looking to dig deeper into the art and theatre in the area, check out some of these featured destinations!
- Grandstreet Theatre
- Holter Museum of Art
- Archie Bray Foundation
- The Myrna Loy
- Goose Bay Handblown Glass
11. Star Gazing at the Montana Learning Center
Montana has long been known as the “Big Sky State.” The wide open spaces of our region lend themselves perfectly to star viewing. As long as you aren’t in the center of town (and honestly, even if you are), chances are on a clear night you will be able to see the stars. The Montana Learning Center offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy an evening of astronomical wonder away from the city lights with group programs! Learn More.
If you choose to travel through Southwest Montana, make sure you are up-to-date on the latest travel information for the State!