If you're exploring Montana's National Parks, Helena offers the perfect half-way destination.
Helena is 178 miles from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park and 187 miles from the eastern beginning of Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park, making us the perfect location to overnight. If you visit both Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, you are in for a rare opportunity to experience the real Montana.
Traveling this route, you can enjoy fabulous scenery and immerse yourself in some of Montana's most special heritage places. Here are some tips as to what to see and do along the way and while you're in Helena.
For a sample route itinerary, click here.
Yellowstone National Park to Helena, Montana
Begin your unforgettable journey from geysers to glaciers at West Yellowstone.
Take U.S. 191 North for about 9 miles to U.S. 287. Traveling north on this well-maintained route, you'll pass beautiful Hebgen Lake. A few more miles up the highway is Quake Lake and the Madison Canyon Earthquake Area, the site of the 1959 disaster and stunning remnants of Mother Nature's awesome power.
Heading north you will travel into the quintessential western town of Ennis. Ennis is a great lodging option if you are looking for outside-the-park lodging. Known for it's world-class fishing, Ennis boasts a variety of guides and outfitter services.
A short fourteen-mile detour at Ennis takes you to Virginia City National Historic Landmark where you'll discover the West's most intact gold-rush era mining town. Under state and private ownership, the 1860s buildings preserve the West as it was, and still is.
Another couple of miles farther is the unique town of Nevada City. Once Virginia City's rival sister, now it is home to scores of historic homes and buildings rescued from places across the state.
After visiting Ennis or Virginia City, it's on to Norris Hot Springs. Dubbed the Water of the Gods, it won't take you but a second to figure out why. Norris Hot Springs is one of the most nostalgic, relaxing hot springs in the state. Families are welcome at Norris and it does have food options - most are organic, Montana-grown and delicious.
Follow US 287 through Harrison. Shortly after Harrison, take 359 to Cardwell. You'll continue on 359 until Cardwell, where you will parallel I-90 on Highway 2 shortly then take HWY 69 North to Boulder, Montana.
At Cardwell, there's 9-mile detour along Highway 2 that will bring you Lewis & Clark Caverns, a Montana State Park. The route is VERY well signed so don't worry about finding your way to the Caverns. The short drive along the Jefferson River is beautiful - but heck, it's Montana - what drive is not beautiful?!
The Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park is open year-round. Cave tours are available from May 1 to September 30. Caves can only be accessed via guided tours which are two-hours long and leave approximately every half hour.
After Lewis & Clark Caverns, you'll take HWY 69 to Boulder. You'll be traveling through some beautiful ranch country and could very likely be delayed a few minutes for a cattle drive - we promise you that this type of traffic jam is a lot less stressful than anything you may encounter in a big city! That being said, don't worry, HWY 69 is a very well-maintained two lane, paved highway. Upon entering Boulder, you'll find Boulder Hot Springs on the just off of 69. Boulder offers a hot and cold indoor plunge and a great outdoor pool for the family.
After going through the town of Boulder, it's a straight shot north on I-15 to Helena, Montana where our 21 hotels await you. Helena offers over 75 miles of single-track trails for biking and hiking and is a designated International Mountain Biking Ride Center. There are free shuttles to the trailheads Wednesday through Sunday throughout the summer.
There's a ton going on in Montana's capital city of Helena - check out our events calendar. Chances are you'll find there's something fun going on while you're here visiting. Here's a quick list of Helena must-dos: visit the Montana Historical Society Museum, take a tour of the Capitol Building, hop on the Last Chance Tours Train, get outside and stroll the Walking Mall in Downtown Helena where an ice cream cone from the Big Dipper or an old-fashioned soda from the Parrot Confectionery will most certainly be in order. Visit one of lakes surrounding Helena, with Spring Meadow Lake State Park being the closest. Helena is small with a population of under 30,000, but we have some great assets that help us offer big-city amenities.
Be sure to book your Helena room - if you book via our web site at this link and use promotional code "Park2Park" you will receive a National Park Day Hiking Guide.
Helena, Montana to Glacier National Park
On the road again, heading north on I-15, you'll pass the dramatic Gates of the Mountains. At this point, it's time to get out of the car. A Gates of the Mountains Boat Tour could possibly be the highlight of your vacation! The scenery is truly awe-inspiring, and paired with the journal entries of Lewis & Clark, you'll never forget the journey of watching the gates open before your eyes.
Just past the tiny town of Wolf Creek, pick up U.S. 287 again. Head north to Augusta, a gateway to the Rocky Mountain Front. Although this thoroughly western cowtown is small, it's known for its great western hospitality. There are several restaurants throughout town. Of note: most bars in these small western towns are also restaurants and children/families are welcome to dine in them.
Back on the road again, between the highway and the immense Bob Marshall Wilderness to the west, prairie grasses and cattle ranches spread out beneath the Big Sky. At Choteau, take in the Old Trail Museum. Off the beaten path, twelve miles west, is the far-famed Egg Mountain, the most important Cretaceous period discovery site in the world. It was here that paleontologists made remarkable finds changing scientific views of dinosaur biology. An interpretive sign between mile posts 57 and 58 on U.S. Highway 287 provides travelers information about Egg Mountain.
Pick up U.S. 89 north to Bynum. There, you can discover hands-on paleontological adventures at the Two Medicine Dinosaur Center. That means you can dig! Call ahead to book your experience or simply stop in to view the dinos and all their interesting exhibits.
Continuing north on U.S. 89, you'll enter the 1.5 million-acre Blackfeet Reservation, home to 7,000 members of the Blackfeet Nation. At Browning, before you reach your destination, stop and visit the Museum of the Plains Indian. This comprehensive collection of art and artifacts traces the history of the Blackfeet and other tribes of the Northern Plains. The museum gift shop features Native American arts and crafts.
From Browning, choose U.S. 2 into East Glacier or continue on U.S. 89 to St. Mary. Either way, you'll be glad you took the time to explore some of Montana's best kept secrets!
Helena is Halfway!
Montana - it's a big state! Where is the best place to visit? Helena invites you to Find Your Montana Here.
Helena offers you a chance to explore the outdoors without the crowds of the National Parks.
What are you interested in? All the links below will help you Find Your Montana. Access the best hiking trails, bike the best downhill, have the kids get dirty, dine at local restaurants, enjoy a craft beer made with Montana barley.
Helena Mountain Biking
Helena is an International Mountain Biking Association Silver Level Ride Center.
Our free Trail Rider shuttle, unparalleled trail access and single track featuring tacky hero dirt can't be beat!
Find out more at bikehelena.com!
From the waters of the Might Missouri to the shores of the Blackfoot River. Check out the Angler's Guide to Helena.
Helena Micro Brews
Helena, Montana has four awesome micro-breweries, a distillery and an awesome wine bar. We invite you to say "Cheers!" to vacation.