Spending a day or so in a small western town can go by pretty slowly. Being a big city kid myself the bustle of a large metropolis can be an overwhelming sensory experience. This is not the case in Montana. Cities, towns, and villages are mere props in the scenery. Something to measure distance by, of which there is A LOT of. Helena, the capital of Montana, was founded as a gold camp during the Montana gold rush and established in 1864. You can tell you’re nearing the city as that little speck of oasis in the distance suddenly transforms into a cookie cutter suburbia.
Heading into town, feeling famished, we stopped at Lewis & Clark Brewery. After scarfing down some burgers and beers, Miners Gold Hefe and Prickly Pear Pale Ale, we wandered over to downtown. First stop was to drop off some post cards at the local post office. Down the street is the Historic District. Although a lot of it was burnt to the ground in the late 1800’s and subsequently rebuilt, it still maintained an air of the old west. Helena has all of the modern conveniences of a city, but you don’t come here for the luxury shopping malls and 5 star dinning.
Most people find their way here just as Lewis and clark did on their exploration of the west. Keep an eye peeled along the road for Lewis and Clark placards marking historical signs from their journey. Just north of the city is Mount Helena Park. The park encompasses Mount Helena which rises 5,468 feet. It includes trails up and around the mountain, Helena National Forest, and some even go into caves on the side of the cliffs.
Further north smack in between Yellowstone and Glacier sits Gates Of The Mountains. Here anyone can board an open air boat and cruise the Missouri River retracing Lewis and Clarks famous voyage. You’ll cruise through wooded slopes and rugged rock formations that would still be recognizable to the original expedition some 200 years before. Even if you just wander into town for the day as we did, theres plenty to discover in Helena!
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