10 Reasons Helena, Montana Is An Adventure Town

Woman and man fishing with beautiful scenery behind them.

Explore ten reasons why Helena is an adventure town. Montana’s capital city, Helena, rests at the very heart of the Big Sky State. Located halfway between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, Helena has a rich gold-mining history, and it’s now become known as a community of dedicated outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounded by national forests, trout-laden rivers, and broad, sweeping valleys, Helena is a world-class destination for outdoor recreation. Want to see for yourself what draws so many people to Helena?

1. Enjoy a World-Class Fly-Fishing Scene

Just north of Helena rests the mighty Missouri River, one of the most storied fly-fishing destinations in the world. Explore the river as it winds through the tiny towns of Wolf Creek, Craig, and Cascade, and rig up a rod to chase the river’s more than 6,000 trout per river mile. Anglers can expect to catch healthy brown trout, rainbow trout, and whitefish in the Missouri’s languid waters. CrossCurrents Fly Shop in Helena offers guided trips, equipment, and knowledge of the local waters to help get you started.

2. Explore Incredible Hiking

One of the best ways to savor the Big Sky State is to cruise down a hiking trail. Helena is home to the South Hills Trail System, with more than 80 miles of trails easily accessible from downtown. Start exploring at Mount Helena City Park (try the 2- to 3- hour loop from the 1906 Trail to the Summit of Mount Helena then back down Hogback Trail/Prospects Shaft Trail). Also accessible from downtown, Mount Ascension boasts a summit of 5,282 feet and is a lovely hike for a summer afternoon. Check out these suggested hikes!

3. Gear Up for World-Class Cycling

Helena is recognized as a Silver Level Ride Center by the International Mountain Biking Association, boasting 20 trail heads and over 80 miles of multi-use trails. Easily accessed from downtown, the trails take riders into the South Hills Trail System as well as all the way to the Continental Divide, allowing access to the famed Continental Divide Trail. With a variety of short and long rides for athletes of all skill levels, Helena is both a welcoming trail system for newbies and a challenge for seasoned riders. Don’t worry, we are more than a mountain bike community, discover gravel rides to family rides! From paved trails that follow Mount Helena to 90-mile gravel rides, Helena’s Montana’s bicycle destination.

Cyclist looking out and enjoying the view of rolling green hills and mountains.
Gravel ride from Downtown Helena

4. Toast the Day with Local Microbrews

In the past decade, Helena has seen a boom in the microbrewery scene, dovetailing conveniently with the area’s love for outdoor recreation. What better way to end a thrill-filled day than to cool off with a local brew and good food? Explore Blackfoot River Brewing Company, the Lewis & Clark Brewing Company, Missouri River Brewing, Copper Furrow, Speakeasy 41, and Ten Mile Creek Brewery, which brews its beer using water from local Ten Mile Creek, noting “the creek is in the beer.” Whether you prefer ales, lagers, or IPAs, Helena’s craft breweries have you covered. Our growing brewery scene recently added brews with a view, Mount Ascension Brewery in the revitalized Independent Record building.

5. Soak in Area History

When in Helena, drop by the Montana State Capitol for a self-guided tour. Built in Greek neoclassical style utilizing local sandstone and granite, the Capitol building features a copper-covered dome and several stunning paintings by famed Montana cowboy artist, Charlie Russell, that make the stop worthwhile. Download Visit Helena’s Walking App and roam downtown learning about all the fun facts of Helena’s history. Join the Foundation for Montana History on their outstanding Breweries and Brothels Tour (May – September), or one of their other high-quality history tours. The Cathedral of St. Helena, Historic Last Chance Gulch, and the Last Chance Tour Train – a one-hour narrated tour of Montana’s history, and the Great Northern Carousel (a must-stop if you’re traveling with kids).

Image of a sunset over a historic building in downtown Helena.
Historic Bluestone Building; Jacob J Creative

6. Tackle a Disc Golf Course

Ever tried Frisbee golf? Helena is known as the “birthplace of disc golf in Montana” and boasts more courses than any other place in the state. Grab a few friends and head to one of the town’s 18-hole Frisbee golf courses: South Hills, Scratch Gravel Hills, Shady Scratch, Sheep Mountain, Blue Cloud, or Huckleberry Hollow. Local outdoor stores such as The Base Camp or Capital Sports can provide info on what courses are playing well at certain times of the year.

7. Ski at Great Divide Ski Area

For winter sports enthusiasts, the Great Divide Ski Area is just north of town. Covering more than 1,600 acres, Great Divide covers three mountain peaks and valleys, offering more than 100 trails, glades, and bowls. A terrain park offers options for skiers of all skill levels, and the friendly Backyard Beginner’s Slope allows youngsters to build confidence on the mountain. Boasting Montana’s “sunniest and longest ski season,” Great Divide is a treasure without the hectic lines of larger resorts.

8. Take a Boat Tour Through the Gates of the Mountains

Just 20 miles north of Helena, the Gates of the Mountains is a series of breathtaking rock embankments and limestone cliffs alongside the Missouri River. Discovered in 1805 by the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the area was dubbed the “Gates of the Rocky Mountains” by Meriwether Lewis and, in the days since, has intrigued visitors with its stark, craggy terrain. Come aboard Montana’s longest running excursion on this 2-hour guided cruise through the Gates. Watch for local wildlife such as bighorn sheep and mountain goats while learning about the area’s rich history.

9. Discover Hidden Arts Scene of Helena

Helena is home to a thriving arts community, from performing arts; Grandstreet Theatre and Helena Symphony, to clay arts and modern art galleries through the area. Discover Helena’s biggest secret, the world renowned Archie Bray Clay Arts Guild. The guild is home to inspirational artists looking to perfect their craft, take the self-guided tour along the grounds for beautiful views and unique art. With hidden murals on Rodney Street and galleries, Helena is a destination for creatives to discover their next inspirational move!

10. Soaking in Broadwater Hot Springs

After all that adventure, are you ready for a soak? Located just 10 minutes from downtown Helena, Broadwater Hot Springs features the area’s only natural hot springs. The 25,000-square-foot spa and fitness facility features multiple pools that are open for swimming and soaking year-round. An artesian well provides natural, therapeutic water that emerges from the earth at 148 to 152 degrees. The water is mixed with natural cold springs water to provide water for soaking at 89 to 104 degrees. After working out those kinks, enjoy a meal at the Springs Taproom and Grill, which offers an innovative menu that includes Montana favorites and a few surprises, plus more nearly 20 beers on tap.

Broadwater Hot Springs; Photo Credit: Jacob J Creative

See you in Helena, Montana!