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Featured City Helena

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Originally founded as Last Chance Gulch. While researching these county facts, I discovered the story of how Helena became the name of the county seat of Lewis and Clark County. It is probably the most mis-pronounced city in Montana.

According to Wikipedia:

Some thought the name "Last Chance" too crass. On October 30, 1864, a group of at least seven self-appointed men met to name the town, authorize the layout of the streets, and elect commissioners. The first suggestion was "Tomah," a word the committee thought had connections to the local Indian people. Other nominations included Pumpkinville and Squashtown (as the meeting was held the day before Halloween). Other suggestions were to name the community after various Minnesota towns, such as Winona and Rochester, as a number of settlers had come from Minnesota. Finally, a Scotsman, John Summerville, proposed Helena, which he pronounced /həˈliːnə/ hə-LEE-nə, in honor of Helena Township, Scott County, Minnesota. This immediately caused an uproar from the former Confederates in the room, who insisted upon the pronunciation /ˈhɛlɪnə/ HEL-i-nə, after Helena, Arkansas, a town on the Mississippi River. While the name "Helena" won, the pronunciation varied until approximately 1882 when the /ˈhɛlɪnə/ HEL-i-nə pronunciation became dominant. Later tales of the naming of Helena claimed the name came from the island of St. Helena, where Napoleon was exiled, or was that of a miner's sweetheart.

Helena by any other name would still have become extremely wealthy as a result of the gold rush. By 1888, approximately 50 millionaires inhabited the area, more per capita than in any city in the world.

Helena became the state capitol in 1889 and its history is extremely diverse and involved, from the gold rush to, diversity to, The Guardian of the Gulch watch tower, to the thriving “red light district” to the emergence of prominent, elaborate Victorian architecture and the list goes on. There is way too much to mention here but if someone is interested in Montana, it is worthwhile to look into the history of Helena.

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Homes for sale in Helena, MT

Helena Montana

What is there to expect when you live in a city with a rich history and stunning natural beauty like Helena, Montana? Majestic scenes of rolling mountains, calm lakes, and open fields, as well as a life of comfort, modern convenience, and pure, tranquil bliss.

As the state with the third-lowest population density, Montana is expectedly quiet and peaceful, enveloped by verdant forests and serene scenes. There are more than 75 nature trails in the Treasure State, and the acres of green spaces make it possible for residents and visitors to enjoy a range of outdoor activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, and even skiing during the winter months. Regardless of the season, each corner of this state boasts a stunning panorama.
Helena, the state capital, fully embodies this distinct suburban lifestyle, flourishing as a city with close-knit community ties and a laid-back vibe rooted in an appreciation for nature.

Are you considering purchasing homes for sale in Helena, MT? You’ll be glad to know that Helena, MT is a wonderful prime address for growth, relaxation, and a nature-centered lifestyle.


Lakefront homes in Montana

Helena, MT is situated in Lewis and Clark County near the western-central part of the state. Surrounded by diverse natural features, the city resides in a valley embraced by the Big Belt Mountains to the east and the smaller North Hills to the northeast. The Missouri River flows just west of the city. Although Helena doesn’t share a direct border with another state, it is an integral part of Montana’s broader landscape, renowned for its mountains, rivers, and vast open spaces.

While Helena functions as both a city and a county – a consolidated city-county – it lacks separate communities within its boundaries, unlike larger metropolitan areas with distinct neighborhoods. However, it has various districts, each with its distinct charm. Notable areas include the historic Downtown District, the Capitol Complex, and residential neighborhoods like the Upper West Side, East Helena, and the Mansion District. The city is further enhanced by natural surroundings such as the Big Belt Mountains to the east and the Missouri River to the west.

Brief history

Helena, Montana, was established on October 30, 1864 as a mining camp during the Montana Gold Rush. Its swift growth and significance led to its designation as the territorial capital in 1875. Over the years, Helena has transformed into the capital city of the state of Montana, showcasing a rich history deeply rooted in the mining and exploration activities of the late 19th century.

In the late 1800s, at the peak of the Gold Rush, Montana experienced a boom when a group of Georgian miners discovered gold along the area that is now Last Chance Gulch. News about the discovery got out, drawing thousands of miners to the region in the hopes of striking it rich.

Amid the potential of finding gold and the subsequent influx of people, Helena thrived. Today, even after the Gold Rush fever has long subsided, Helena managed to evolve into one of the best cities to live in Montana, as well as an urban center with a strong economic backbone.

Basic facts

  • Helena is considered a medium-sized city and the sixth-largest urban center in Montana with a population of almost 34,000, according to U.S. Census estimates.
  • While the biggest chunk of the population (24.4%) is composed of those aged 35 to 54, following this group closely is the one composed of those aged 65 and up (20.4%). This is evidence that Helena is drawing in a growing population of retirees, thanks to its low crime rate, low population density, and convenient accessibility to key city services and centers.
  • Given its well-planned network of roads that crisscross the city, as well as shaded walks going through parks, commercial establishments, and residences, Helena, MT is considered a walker’s paradise by, garnering a Walk Score index of 95. This means any errands residents have for the day could be accomplished on foot. But should they want to go from Point A to B within the city quicker, there’s Capital Transit, the sole public transport in Helena, with buses offering curb-to-curb service.
  • There’s little to no traffic in Helena! The virtual lack of honking cars and humming motors contributes to a more tranquil environment.
  • Thriving industries in Helena include education and healthcare (21.6%), public administration (19.3%), and retail trade (10.1%). Job opportunities in these sectors have been attracting many young professionals to this city.
  • Not many know that way beneath Downtown Helena, there’s a hidden natural hot spring that contributes to the mild temps residents of the city enjoy.
  • Ever heard of disc golf? There is actually such a sport, and it was born in Helena. The city has two courses and there are even more on the outskirts.


Helena has a continental climate, meaning summers are hot and winters are cold. Even in the middle of summer, thunderstorms may occur. The temperature could go as high as 85°F and as low as 14°F – still quite manageable and even enjoyable for those who want to make the most out of visiting Helena’s parks, lakes, and rivers for outdoor activities. In the winter, Helena expects around 40 inches of snow, contributing to the influx of tourists who want to enjoy the nearby slopes for skiing and other winter activities.


Log Cabin Loft

Helena promises the ideal lifestyle, particularly to those seeking a more quiet and slow-paced way of living. Young professionals, couples, and growing families who are looking for an alternative to the hustle and bustle of the city are drawn to this gateway to the magnificent Rockies.

Housing market overview and general trends

The Helena, MT real estate market offers a variety of housing options, including single-family homes, townhouses, small apartment buildings, apartment complexes, and mobile homes. The majority of residents own single-family homes (54.3%), followed by small apartment buildings and apartment complexes. Most homes have 2 to 4 bedrooms, although there are also more compact studios and grander luxury homes with 5 or more bedrooms.

The housing market in Helena, MT has been relatively stable in the past few years, with steady home values that have been unbothered by recent upheavals in the economy. The city is ripe for real estate investments, given its rising popularity as an all-season tourist hotspot. With its hot and cold springs during hotter months and wonderful ski slopes during winter, tourists are sure to be on the lookout for short-term rentals during their vacation getaway. Meanwhile, those who want to take a break with their families in a literal cabin in the mountains will find exactly what they want among many of the houses for sale in Helena, Montana.

Architectural styles

As you explore the Helena community, you’ll be charmed by the look and feel of the neighborhoods, boasting a delightful mix of historical structures (built in 1939 and older) and modern homes.

In the Mansion District and the Upper West Side, many 19th-century luxury mansions showcase ornate detailing and architecture. Take a stroll back in time with homes that exemplify the Victorian style prevalent during that era, including Italianate, Queen Anne, and Revival designs.

The Upper West Side, while not as extravagant as the Mansion District, carries its own charm as a posh community. Here, you’ll discover charming cottages on tree-lined boulevards, creating a preferred address for many homeowners with families. Its proximity to other essential town attractions, especially the downtown area, adds to its appeal.

Downtown, on the other hand, embodies a more dynamic, trendy vibe within the county, where “Old West meets modernity.” You’ll find scenes like saloons adorned with neon lights and trendy boutiques housed in classic 19th-century buildings.

Helena, Montana, is composed of several communities, each contributing to the distinct personality and culture of the city. Here are some of the most popular ones.


This section of Helena houses the city’s renowned Mansion District, characterized by ornate mansions and classic Victorian homes. The South Central neighborhood is also part of the Upper West Side, separated by Park Avenue. The downtown area, the most popular, features shopping and dining hotspots, as well as cultural attractions like The Holter Museum of Art and the Lewis & Clark Library.


Perfect for families, the Upper East Side offers expansive lots and breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains. Close to nature trails and Mount Ascension, it is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Landmarks include the historic Montana State Capitol building, St. Peter’s Health, and the South Hills Disc Golf Course.


Home to Carroll College, a private liberal arts college, the Lower West Side offers more affordable housing options and rental properties. Numerous businesses cater to the needs of the community, and notable landmarks include Centennial Trail and Park, Spring Meadow Lake, Waukesha Park, and Barney Park.


Rich in history, South Central boasts a mix of shopping, dining, and historical sites. The Cathedral of Saint Helena, Downtown, Last Chance Gulch, the Helena Civic Center, and Firetower Park are among the attractions. The downtown area is the heart of the community, featuring popular dining, shopping, and entertainment venues, as well as the farmers market, Lewis and Clark County Public Library, the Cinemark movie theater, and various parks.


Preferred by many families, the Northwest district is home to the Sunhaven Subdivision. It is close to two high schools, Ryan Park, and Northgate Park. The Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds and the softball field serve as centers of fun for kids who enjoy sports and biking around the city.


Downtown Helena

While Helena serves as a quiet residential haven and the capital of Montana, its cost of living is relatively high, with individuals spending an average of $1,813 a month. However, the employment opportunities help offset the higher cost of living, with a projected 24.5% increase in jobs in the future. The abundance of amenities that make life comfortable and convenient in the area, as well as the potential for lucrative investment into the local industries, also translates to the unparalleled quality of life in Helena – which more than makes up for the high cost of living here.

Listed below are more of the things you are sure to enjoy when you buy Helena, MT real estate.


If you’re looking to shop for unique local finds and knickknacks, Downtown is the best place to start. This is where you’ll find its historic Main Street, also known as Last Chance Gulch, where you may immerse yourself in Helena’s culture by exploring quaint coffee shops, charming boutiques, and a variety of food trucks in the area.

Some local stores in Last Chance Gulch include

  • Imagine Designs, Jewelry & Gifts. Create your own custom jewelry using 3D technology.
  • fourOsix. This retail store brings heart to the community with merchandise that promote arts and music.
  • Jailhouse Gallery. Explore the works of local creative talents in this art space.
  • Capital Sports. This shop provides quality gear and apparel for outdoor activities, catering to all your sports requirements and more.
  • Funky Trunk. If you’re looking for something cute and kooky, this store is a celebration of fun styles with new and vintage clothing, art, and accessories.


The dining experience is always personal and heartfelt in Helena. Indulge in the best local fare and savor the most filling comfort food in these must-visit restaurants and bars

  • Schooners Restaurant and Bar. A dining destination for special occasions, this restaurant near the Yacht Basin Marina specializes in ribeye steaks and offers a panoramic view of Canyon Ferry Lake.
  • The Hardware Café. This casual, family-friendly spot serves amazing breakfast and lunch meals. Their brisket and eggs are highly recommended.
  • Big Bull Bar and Grill. Catering to hearty appetites, this establishment is renowned for its burgers, including the bison burger, served with a generous heap of fries and chips.
  • Lazy I Beerworks. When here, kick back, relax, and enjoy a sip of their specially brewed beers.
  • For delicious handcrafted brews and spirits, you can also check out The Ten Mile Creek Brewery, the Rialto, Blackfoot River Brewing, and the Windbag Saloon.
  • Marysville House Historic Restaurant. After a day of skiing, hiking, or fishing at nearby Stemplee Pass and the Great Divide Ski Area, Marysville offers a delicious respite, featuring classics such as steaks, burgers, and seafood.
  • Avon Family Café. While this cozy food spot serves an array of delicious comfort food, many come here for daily sweet treats like cinnamon rolls and baklava.

Outdoor recreation

Helena is a stunning destination boasting wonderful nature views – encompassing mountains, valleys, lakes, parks, and numerous trails. Whatever your passion may be – fishing, skiing, camping, hiking, etc. – Helena caters to all your active pursuits.

Indulge in your favorite outdoor activity in these Helena destinations:

  • Missouri River. Experience the thrill of fly fishing in this mighty river, known for Montana trout, midges, mayflies, and other fish species.
  • Canyon Ferry, Holter, and Hauser. These three lakes offer excellent opportunities for fishing, boating, and sailing. Canyon Ferry, in particular, features a stunning beach. You could also rent paddleboards at the marina.
  • Great Divide Ski Area. In the winter, take advantage of the snow-covered slopes with a variety of challenging inclines. Engage in night-skiing activities or explore cross-country ski trails via snowmobile or snowshoeing.
  • Nature parks and trails. Helena boasts over 80 miles of trails, making it easy to explore the surroundings. Start your adventure by hiking or biking on one of the trails within the South Hills Trail System.
  • Mount Helena. A prominent peak located just southwest of Downtown Helena, Mount Helena is a popular hiking destination with various trails catering to different skill levels.
  • Gates of the Mountains. Embark on a scenic boat tour on the Missouri River, retracing the journey of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The name originates from the impressive limestone cliffs resembling giant gates along the river.

Other notable attractions

Montana State Capitol

  • Mansion District. Revel in the beautiful Victorian-era architecture of the structures in the district, some dating back to the early 19th century.
  • Cathedral of St. Helena. Completed in 1924, this Roman Catholic cathedral features a Gothic Revival style with beautiful stained-glass windows, intricate woodwork, and a stunning interior.
  • Montana Historical Society Museum. Explore various aspects of Montana’s past in this museum, including themes on Native American history, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, mining, and pioneer life.
  • Montana State Capitol. Serving as the seat of the state’s government, the Montana State Capitol is an architectural landmark that was completed in 1902. Its intricately styled copper dome is the highlight of the building’s Neoclassical design. Visitors may take part in the building’s guided tours to delve into its rich history.
  • Holter Museum of Art. Discover the works of local artists and experience moving live performances and movie screenings held every week at this vibrant museum.
  • Reeder’s Alley. Last Chance Gulch isn’t the only historic district in Helena. A remnant of the city’s Wild West days, this section of Helena was named after the man who built the structures in the Alley in the 1870s: brick and stone mason Louis Reeder.


There’s no better place in the Western region for buying or investing in real estate than in Helena, MT. However, even in the most beautiful of places, it always pays to be guided in your real estate journey by a local Realtor who could assist you in making informed decisions. In Helena, MT, that would be leading Realtor Vinda Milless and her team at West Montana Homes, Inc.

Connect with the team and turn your dream Montana lifestyle into a reality! Just call 406.777.0710 or send an email here.

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