This post is sponsored by Visit Helena.
Nestled in the heart of Montana, Helena is an underrated gem that offers the perfect blend of outdoor adventure and culinary delights.
Known for its prime location surrounded by natural beauty and a burgeoning food scene, Helena is the ideal destination for a weekend getaway or a staycation.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to make the most of your time in this charming town, with a carefully curated itinerary that combines outdoor activities and delicious dining experiences.
- 1 Day 1: Exploring the Great Outdoors
- 2 Morning: Paddleboarding on Canyon Ferry Lake
- 3 Afternoon: Highlander Bar and Grill at Norwegian Wood Ranch
- 4 Evening: Shopping and Dinner
- 5 Nightcap: Mount Ascension Brewing Company
- 6 Helena Accommodations
- 7 Day 2: Exploring Helena’s Hiking Trails and Culinary Scene
- 8 Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel
- 9 Mid-Morning: Hike up Mount Helena on the 1906 Trail
- 10 Afternoon: Lunch at Mediterranean Grill and Big Dipper Ice Cream
- 11 Safety Precautions
- 12 Accessibility Information
- 13 More To Do in Helena, Montana
Day 1: Exploring the Great Outdoors
Morning: Paddleboarding on Canyon Ferry Lake
Hellgate Campground is your starting point for a relaxing morning of paddleboarding on Canyon Ferry Lake. The calm waters and scenic surroundings make it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced paddleboarders.
If you’re looking for more options, you can also explore paddleboarding opportunities at Hauser Lake (with water access at Lakeside on Hauser and Clark’s Bay Day Use Area) or Riverside Campground on Canyon Ferry Lake.
Afternoon: Highlander Bar and Grill at Norwegian Wood Ranch
After working up an appetite on the lake, head to the Highlander Bar and Grill at Norwegian Wood Ranch for a well-deserved drink or snack. This rustic and cozy spot offers a range of delicious options, from burgers to fresh salads, and is a great place to relax and soak in the Montana atmosphere.
Evening: Shopping and Dinner
Take some time to explore the historic Last Chance Gulch for shopping, where you’ll find a variety of boutiques, art galleries, and unique shops. It’s the perfect place to pick up souvenirs or mementos of your visit.
For dinner, make your way to The Hopper Kitchen, a local favorite known for its inventive American cuisine and craft beer selection. The restaurant’s welcoming ambiance and diverse menu make it a top choice for a satisfying dinner.
Nightcap: Mount Ascension Brewing Company
Wrap up your first day in Helena with a visit to the Mount Ascension Brewing Company, where you can unwind on their balcony while sipping on locally crafted beer. The brewery often features seasonal brews and a welcoming community atmosphere, making it a great place to end your evening. And you can’t beat the view!
We rested our heads at the comfortable Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern.
Day 2: Exploring Helena’s Hiking Trails and Culinary Scene
Morning: Breakfast at the Hotel
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at your hotel to fuel up for a day of hiking and exploration.
Mid-Morning: Hike up Mount Helena on the 1906 Trail
Embark on a hiking adventure up Mount Helena via the 1906 Trail. The trail offers stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscapes. It’s a moderate hike that’s suitable for most skill levels, and the vistas at the summit are worth every step. It’s about 3 miles round trip.
More Hiking Options in Helena
If you’re up for more hiking adventures, Helena offers several other trails worth exploring:
- Mount Ascension Trail: This trail offers a different perspective of Helena and is known for its wildflowers during the spring and summer.
- Spring Meadow Lake State Park: A family-friendly option with gentle trails around the lake, perfect for birdwatching and picnicking. While you are there, visit Montana WILD Education Center – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Park’s visitor center.
- Gates of the Mountains: Located just outside Helena, this area boasts picturesque hikes and boat tours along the Missouri River.
Afternoon: Lunch at Mediterranean Grill and Big Dipper Ice Cream
Recharge with a delicious Mediterranean meal at Mediterranean Grill, where you can savor dishes like falafel, gyros, and baklava. Afterward, satisfy your sweet tooth with a visit to Big Dipper Ice Cream, known for its delectable homemade ice cream in a variety of tempting flavors. If we are in Helena, we visit Big Dipper!
When embarking on outdoor adventures in Helena, it’s essential to prioritize safety to ensure a fun and incident-free experience. Here are some safety precautions to keep in mind:
- Check Weather Conditions: Before heading out for outdoor activities, especially hiking or paddleboarding, check the local weather forecast. Be prepared for changing weather conditions and pack accordingly.
- Wear Appropriate Gear: Depending on the activity, wear suitable clothing and footwear. For hiking, sturdy hiking boots are recommended, and for paddleboarding, wear a personal flotation device (PFD) at all times.
- Hydration and Nutrition: Carry an adequate supply of water and snacks, particularly for longer hikes. Staying hydrated and well-nourished is crucial, especially in the Montana sun.
- Trail Etiquette: Follow trail etiquette, such as yielding to uphill hikers, keeping dogs on leashes (if required), and disposing of trash properly. Leave no trace to help preserve the natural beauty of the area.
- Emergency Contacts: Inform someone of your whereabouts and estimated return time, especially if you’re heading into remote areas. In case of emergencies, having a charged cell phone and knowing the local emergency contact numbers is essential.
- Wildlife Awareness: Helena is home to various wildlife species. Be aware of your surroundings and keep a safe distance from any animals you encounter. Never feed wildlife.
- Know Your Limits: Choose activities and trails that match your skill level and physical fitness. Pushing yourself too hard can lead to accidents or injuries.
- Trail Closures and Alerts: Check for any trail closures, fire bans, or alerts before you set out. Local ranger stations or websites often provide up-to-date information.
By following these safety precautions, you can enjoy your outdoor adventures in Helena with peace of mind, knowing that you’ve taken steps to ensure your safety.
Helena strives to be inclusive and accessible to all visitors, including those with disabilities. Here’s some important accessibility information to make your visit more comfortable:
- Wheelchair Accessibility: Many of Helena’s public areas, including parks and downtown streets, are wheelchair accessible. Most of the popular hiking trails offer accessible paths, and there are accessible picnic areas at parks like Spring Meadow Lake State Park. The Mount Helena Accessible Trail is about 0.5 miles one-way and starts at the same trailhead as the 1906 Trail to Mount Helena.
- Hotel Accommodations: Most hotels in Helena have accessible rooms with features like widened doorways, roll-in showers, and grab bars. When booking your stay, request an accessible room if needed.
- Tourist Information: The Helena Visitor Information Center is committed to providing accessible resources and information to all visitors. Staff members are available to assist with inquiries related to accessibility.
- Outdoor Access: The Mount Helena trails have some accessible sections and viewpoints. Additionally, Riverside on Canyon Ferry Lake has accessible amenities for water-based activities. The Vault toilets at Hellgate Campground boat ramp are accessible.
- Service Animals: Visitors with disabilities are welcome to bring their service animals to most places in Helena. Ensure your service animal is properly identified and leashed.
Helena strives to be an inclusive destination where everyone can enjoy its natural beauty and vibrant culture.
Helena, Montana, offers a delightful blend of outdoor recreation and culinary experiences, making it an ideal destination for a weekend getaway or staycation.
Whether you’re paddling on serene lakes, hiking through picturesque landscapes, or indulging in mouthwatering meals, Helena has something to satisfy every traveler’s appetite for adventure and delicious cuisine. Get ready to savor the best of Helena on your next weekend escape!