Hiking is as close as Mt. Helena, the city’s 620-acre park on the west side of Last Chance Gulch. Seven trails wind up and across the mountainside; some ascend to Mt. Helena’s 5,468-foot peak, and others dawdle in meadows. To reach the park, follow the ravine behind Reeder’s Alley on foot or drive to the top of Adams Street behind the mansion district.
A good diversion for hot kids is Spring Meadow Lake State Park (406/495-3270, $5 non–Montana residents), a small lake just west of Helena off Euclid Avenue. A trail rings the lake, but the real attractions are the beaches lined with swimmers and anglers in summer.
Great Divide Snowsports (406/449-3746, www.skigd.com), 22 miles northwest of Helena near Marysville, is a ski and snowboard hill with 1,503 feet of vertical drop, five double chairlifts, about 140 trails, and reasonable rates. Adults ski for $29 weekends, $19 weekdays; seniors pay $20, and children’s rates run $14–24. The season runs from mid-December to early April. In summer the ski area offers horseback rides (Wed.–Sun. June–Aug.).
The municipal swimming pool (1203 N. Last Chance Gulch, 406/447-1559) is at Memorial Park. There are tennis courts at the park behind the Civic Center (Neill St. at Park Ave.) and at Barney Park (Cleveland St. and Hudson St.). Both parks also have picnic facilities and playgrounds.
Holter, Hauser, and Canyon Ferry Lakes in the vicinity of Helena provide excellent fishing, boating, and even windsurfing.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition