After leaving Craters of the Moon we motored up to Helena, Montana to stay for the next 6 days. I had heard many interesting things about the town as well as the surrounding forests so rather than move camp every other day to different places in the national forest we decided to just stay in the Helena and use it as a base for our explorations. This decision turned out to be for the best because I kinda fell in love with the place. With a population of over 30,000 Helena would normally be too big a place for my liking but it felt… comfortable… right-sized… relaxed.
We arrived late on our first day and so without time to do any real hikes or exploratory drives we headed to Ten Mile Brewing to sample our first Helena beers. Unbeknownst to me, Ten Mile is in the heart of downtown, a beautiful mile-long stretch of historic buildings, cobbled streets, and charm of all sorts. We walked around a little before and after our drinks, relaxing after a day of travel. The beer was fantastic as well (shout out to their Lemongrass Ginger Wheat which had the cleanest taste of any wheat I’ve had) and I happily picked up some cans to go. It was an all-around A+ evening.
We returned to the downtown area a few afternoons later to see more of the historic buildings and explore the area. We learned that the gold rush starting in 1864 had led to the city being home to 50 millionaires living by the 1880s, all of them eager to flaunt their wealth and invest in their new home. Mansions sprung up as fortunes were made and public architecture as well as private was created with the intent to impress; what remains standing still does. Interspersed with these magnificent edifices of brick and stone are wonderful walkable spaces, public art, and lots of good beer. A second downtown brewery, Blackfoot Brewing, had some more tasty beer – notably their Single Malt IPA and Berry Gose – though we preferred both the libations and the slightly more relaxed atmosphere of Ten Mile.
Finally, after another afternoon hike we made a point to swing by the cavernous space of Lewis and Clark Brewing Company on the south side. It was surprisingly empty during our visit so Abbs was able to do a little frolicking in their grass while we humans sampled a few brews. Lewis and Clark is a fairly large brewery and distributes their beer across the state so we’ve both had some of their stuff before but we got to try some of the beer they don’t can which was cool — and we really just enjoyed their outdoor space and quiet location.
Despite our multiple forays into town we left feeling like there was still more to see and do in Helena. I found myself interested in the history and architecture and really didn’t get to explore that too much. Plus, there are 3 other breweries in town so I think a return trip (in which maybe I do a better job of taking photos of the town) is in order! In any case, we had a wonderful 6 days there.