Two of my favorite Montanan cities, Missoula and Helena have so much to offer. Missoula has a great downtown with lots to do and places to eat. Helena has the mix of a state capital, a great small city, and lots going on. Helena’s walkable pedestrian downtown area is a perfect place as well to explore and wander. This post is to help you find the best ways between the cities.
Driving from Missoula to Helena
Driving from Missoula to Helena is pretty straight forward. The most direct way takes less than two hours and mostly consists of highway driving.
From Missoula get on I-90E for about 70 miles. Take exit 174 for US-12E towards Helena. Follow US-12 for about 50 miles to Helena.
Strangely even if it feels a bit “side road”-ish. US-12 still has a high speed limit. Just be more careful with driving especially at night.
If necessary you can take an alternative route. Such as MT-200E to MT-141S to 12E. If traffic on 90 is high, then 200 is definitely a feasible alternative. It’s only about 20-30 minutes more this way.
Car Rentals in Missoula
Since Missoula is a larger city than Helena, there are many options for car rentals in the city. There’s several options from the airport such as Budget, Avis, Alamo, and Hertz. I would recommend checking Rentalcars.com or Priceline for the best prices. (I often find it better than checking the company sites directly)
There are also several in-city options with Enterprise, Dollar, Avis having locations although outside of the downtown area. You’ll likely need to Uber/taxi to these options first to rent.
Bus from Missoula to Helena
There is one bus daily from Missoula to Helena and takes roughly 8.5 hours. The reason for the long time is a 5.5 hour layover/transfer in Butte. The bus leaves from 1660 W Broadway St. in northwestern Missoula and arrives at Capital Transit in northern Helena.
The bus leaves Helena 10:20 pm and arrives in Helena at 6:55 am.
Price: $39 – $50
Due to the long layover this is not one of my preferred trips between cities.
Uber/Taxi from Missoula to Helena
Ubers from Missoula to Helena are not cheap! expect to spend $250++ for a taxi or uber between the two cities.
There are taxis that go this route as there are folks from Helena to go to the Missoula airport for instance. You can often get a discount on shuttles for more people. or hopefully split taxis with friends or other travelers. The following are some taxi companies to check out.
- Montana Shuttle: (406) 493-2345
- Huckleberry Taxi Company: (406) 369-3520
- Yellow Cab Taxi Company: (406) 543-6644
- Missoula Green Taxi: (406) 728-8294
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Driving from Helena to Missoula
Driving form Helena to Missoula is a pretty easy/straightforward affair. And thanks to the posted speed limits (75-80 MPH) most of it is highway even when its not highway.
From Helena take US-12W for about 45 miles out of Helena. Merge onto US I-90W and continue until you reach Missoula. It’s about 70 miles on I-90 until you reach Missoula.
Alternatively you can take MT-141N to MT-200W when you reach Avon. This is a way to avoid I-90 if there’s backup. It’s only about an addition 20-30 minutes.
Car Rentals in Helena
The majority of the car rental locations in Helena are located at the Helena Regional Airport (HLN). You’ll find options from Alamo, Avis, Budget, National among others. In my opinion you should check Rentalcars.com or Priceline for the best prices. I often have better experience there than the direct sites.
There’s also a location of Enterprise off airport in Helena. However, its not any closer to downtown.
Bus from Helena to Missoula
There is one bus daily from Helena to Missoula and takes roughly 8 and 1/4 hours. The reason for the long time is a 5 hour layover/transfer in Butte. The bus leaves from the Capital Transit in northern Helena and arrives west of downtown Missoula at 1660 W Broadway St.
The bus leaves Helena 11:00 pm and arrives in Missoula at 7:15 am.
Price: $39 – $50
The long layover makes this a long night for travel in comparison to driving.
Uber/Taxi from Helena to Missoula
Ubers and Taxis between Helena and Missoula is incredibly pricey! For Ubers I’ve been quoted prices from $250 or more. Expect that taxis will cost at least as much as well.
The odd thing is that I found this to be higher than similar comparative distances within Montana or other cities. Driving takes generally about 2 hours between the cities.
If this is your option I would recognize you’ll be spending a lot of money. There are services such as Montana Shuttle that offer rates from Helena to Missoula/airport. Prices run about $225 – $250 per person depending on how many people.
Check out other Helena Taxi Companies as well:
- Helena Taxi: (406) 407-2738
- Helena Towncar: (406) 437-8585
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Side Trips to Consider
- Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historical Park: A unique NHP that’s a working cattle ranch. Explore how these places work and get behind the scenes view of the history as well. A look into how such an important industry operates that many Americans never see.
- Fort Missoula: Explore the very interesting and historical buildings of Fort Missoula. The museum, established in 1975, protects and maintains historical artifacts of western Montana. The fort contains over 20 historic buildings and roughly 50,000 artifacts across 32 acres.
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