Helena Area State Parks

The Helena area is home to three very different state parks, all of which showcase different aspects of what makes the state parks system so fantastic. Black Sandy puts water recreation front and center, offering one of the few public points of access for Hauser Lake. Spring Meadow Lake is a popular day option for swimming and picnicking just a few minutes from Helena. The remaining buildings of Elkhorn, deep in the Elkhorn mountains, make a photogenic destination for enthusiasts of Montana’s mining history and ghost towns.

Black Sandy

Half an hour north of Helena, Black Sandy has for a long time served as one of the few recreation areas on Hauser Lake. The park includes an boat ramp, courtesy docks, restrooms, campsites. The park is extremely popular with boaters headed for a relaxing day on the water,and with fishers hoping to catch some of Hauser’s famous trout and kokanee salmon. Open year-round, the park’s 29 camping sites offer electrical hookups during the summer, and is popular with bikers and hikers as well as water sports enthusiasts

Spring Meadow

Spring Meadow Lake, on west side of Helena, is the perfect place to spend a summer afternoon. The small like is ideal for swimming, and mix of sandy and grassy beaches make the park a perfect lace to sunbathe and picnic. Many a birthday part and anniversary have been celebrated under the park’s picnic shelters and pavilion (which you can book online). The lake is quite small, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who has learned to canoe and kayak on it, and the 0.8 mile long walking trail around the lake is a great option for birdwatchers looking for a brief morning stroll.


Montana’s smallest state park, Elkhorn Ghost Town State park consists of two buildings set on less than 1 acre of land. Despite the small size of the park, and the fact that it is 19 miles (about half an hour) of winding country roads outside of Boulder, those two buildings are among the most photographed buildings in the state. Fraternity Hall represents a fascinating fusion of Greek Revival and gold camp architecture. Made entirely of wood, the hall features a neo-classical balcony and pillars, along with a false front common among western buildings. Quite a few old buildings on private land fill out the rest of the ghost town, a few have been refurbished and house the town’s less-than-a-dozen permanent residents.