Helena, the capital city of the U.S. state of Montana, is a picturesque and historically significant place nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Known for its rich history, natural beauty, and vibrant community, Helena offers a unique blend of outdoor adventures, cultural attractions, and a welcoming atmosphere. This Helena MT itinerary will take you to see all the best parts of the beautiful city!
Table of Contents
Helena, Montana has a rich history beginning in the 1860s Gold Rush era. Gold was discovered in Helena which made a rush in the population here. At one point, Helena had the most millionaires per capita in all of the United States! This history can be seen throughout the city and in the architecture of many houses.
I have a deep connection to Helena, Montana because I was born here and have gone back to visit every year. My family is still here, and each time I visit, we craft up something fun to do. This Helena MT itinerary will take you to all of my favorite spots in the city, giving you the perfect weekend in this Rocky Mountain city.
Where to Stay in Helena, Montana
Helena, MT is a fairly small town, with just over 30,000 residents. Everything is within a 15-minute drive, so it’s best to stay as close to the center as possible. Here are my recommendations on where to stay in Helena, MT.
- DoubleTree by Hilton Helena Downtown – This 3 star hotel is central located in Last Chance Gulch, making it within walking distance to most attractions in the city center.
- Delta Hotels by Marriott – A Marriott hotel in Helena that has nice facilities and is a close drive to all the action. It’s also conveniently located between the downtown and the airport.
2-Days in Helena MT Itinerary
Helena MT Itinerary Day 1: Hike Mt. Helena, Last Chance Gulch, Tram Tour, Hot Springs
On your first day in Helena, you will hike the popular Mt. Helena, visit the main historical sites, enjoy a tram tour, and end the day at the cozy hot springs. Let’s get started!
Morning: Fire Tower Coffee/ Hike Mt. Helena
Start your Helena itinerary off with some Fire Tower coffee! This quirky coffee shop is in the heart of downtown and is not to be missed. Once inside, you’re transported into a rock n roll-themed cafe. It has loads of interesting artwork and signed guitars, and the owner is really passionate about music.
The atmosphere is great with plenty of seating.
After you’ve got your morning coffee or tea, it’s time to hike up Mt. Helena!
Mt. Helena is the closest mountain to Helena, which makes it a popular spot for locals. Although there are lots of trailheads to get up Mt. Helena, the most popular is at the end of Reeder’s Alley Village Drive.
Once here, the hike is a moderately difficult hike, but if you are not used to the 4,000 feet in elevation, it may be more challenging for you. This hike takes about 2 hours to complete following the 1906 trail. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of Helena and the surrounding mountains.
Hiking Mt. Helena is ALWAYS on my Helena to-do list. Each visit, it’s my favorite part of the trip. The 1906 trail is well maintained, there is a good chance of wildlife spotting, and the view at the top is worth the hike.
Late Morning: Last Chance Gulch Area/ Lunch at The Parrot
Once you’re finished with your hike up Mt. Helena, head back to Last Chance Gulch. By now, the shops should be open for you to explore. In this area, you will find tourist shops with souvenirs, outdoor stores, bookshops, and more. It’s a nice area to do some browsing and you might find something you like!
For lunch, head to historic The Parrot. This over 100-year-old restaurant whips up delicious house-made chocolates, vintage sodas, and world-famous chili! It also hasn’t changed much inside over its years of operation.
Grab a seat at the booth and order some tamales with chili, they’re delicious! And be sure to top it all off with some ice cream.
The Parrott can get crowded during peak lunch hours, so it’s best to go a little before or after lunchtime for less crowds.
Afternoon: Last Chance Train Tour of Helena (Helena MT Itinerary)
Just a quick walk away from The Parrott, you’ll find the Last Chance Train Tour. This one hour train tours takes you to see most of the sights in Helena while also learning about its colorful past. Because Helena was a hot spot during the gold rush, there is loads of interesting information and tidbits about the city that you can easily miss!
This train tour takes you by the Governor’s Mansion (which is also really great to go inside and tour, if you have the time), Reeder’s Alley, the Cathedral of St. Helena, and more.
To purchase tickets for this experience, you can buy them online in advance or walk up for day-of tickets. However, be mindful that on nice summer days, it can sell out, so it’s best to book in advance.
Evening: Broadwater Hot Springs (Helena MT Itinerary)
End your first day of your Helena itinerary at the Broadwater Hot Springs. After your busy day, it will be nice to relax. These hot springs are a quick 10-minute drive outside of the city right in the heart of the mountains. Once you are inside, you have access to many different types of pools that range in temperature. From cold plunges to recreational swimming temperatures and hot tubs, there is something for everyone here.
One of my favorite parts about visiting Broadwater Hot Springs at night is stargazing. Because you are just a bit outside the city, the stars light up the sky out here. There is little light pollution in Montana, so look out, you may even see the Milky Way!
Helena MT Itinerary Day 2: Gates of the Mountains/Sightseeing/ Staggering Ox
Your second day of your Helena Itinerary will be filled with a Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour, sightseeing free time, and the Staggering Ox.
Morning: Gates of the Mountains (Helena MT Itinerary)
Rise and shine! Today will be another busy and exciting day in Helena. Start your morning off with a big breakfast before you head out to the Gates of the Mountains.
The Gates of the Mountains is a popular spot for Helena locals and tourists. It’s a beautiful state park that offers guided boat tours down the famous Missouri River. The Gates of the Mountains was traversed by Lewis and Clark way back in 1805, and the guided tour will give you lots of history from this expedition and more. Here you’ll find beautiful limestone cliffs with interesting details, lots of wildlife, and a relaxing boat tour.
The Gates of the Mountains boat tour is a 2-hour boat ride, which is best to book in advance. Once again, on nice summer days, especially holidays, it can sell out.
The Gates of the Mountains is just over a 30-minute drive outside of Helena. Once you arrive, there’s a gift shop, concession stands, and lots of picnic areas to enjoy time outside. I recommend arriving early for your tour to enjoy the views and line up to get a good seat on the boat.
Besides the Gates of the Mountain Boat tour, here you will find hiking trails and fishing. I have visited the Gates of the Mountains many times, and it still remains one of my favorite activities to do in Helena, MT.
Afternoon: Montana State Capital, Cathedral of St. Helena, and Tour the Governor’s Mansion
When you arrive back in Helena, you’ll probably be hungry for lunch. Stop by Last Chance Gulch again to grab another bite to eat. There are lots of restaurants here, so take your pick.
Now, you can pick and choose what you have time for in Helena, Montana. Yesterday, your Last Chance Train Ride took you around Helena, and maybe you spotted something that interested you. This is your opportunity to have a closer look. Although there is a lot to do in Helena, here are my recommendations.
- Montana State Capital – Tour the Montana State Capital! The inside is free to enter and you can give yourself a self-guided tour. This allows you to see the chambers and learn a bit more about Montana’s history.
- Cathedral of St. Helena – During the summer months, this cathedral offers free guided walking tours. It’s best to check their website for the schedule, but its a nice place to see nonetheless.
- Governor’s Mansion – This free tour gives you an inside look at what life was like during the gold rush era in Helena. This tour specifically highlights what it’s like to be a wife or child during this time. This mansion is where all the previous governors of Montana have lived. It’s a relaxing activity and worth your time.
Evening: Staggering Ox
After you’ve seen everything you wanted in Helena, it’s time to celebrate with a famous, locally-owned, Staggering Ox sandwich.
The Staggering Ox is famous for its homemade, round bread loaves. These are known as “clubfoot” bread, and a must try here! The loaves are hallowed out to create a bread bowl and then filled with all your favorite sandwich foods like meats, cheeses, vegetables, and more!
Inside, you will find it is connected with a music bar and more than enough seating. There’s also loads of artwork displayed around the building.
Conclusion of Helena MT Itinerary
This Helena MT itinerary gives you the best of everything there is to do in Helena. Although two days is not enough time here, this itinerary shows you the best of what it has to offer.
As someone who frequently visits Helena, I have carefully curated this Helena mt itinerary to squeeze in as much as possible.
Visiting Montana soon? Read these!