The views don’t end there. To the east, the copper dome of the capitol glints in the morning sun, and, nearer, the two spires of the Cathedral of St. Helena stand above the rooftops and leafless trees.
I’ve always been in awe of the cathedral’s spectacular Gothic architecture, and on a quiet day you can sometimes hear the bells from up here. But it’s the way sunlight passes through the 59 stained glass windows that really inspires.
“The inside is the hidden gem,” says Louis Glouge, of the Helena Diocese. “It overtakes you.”
From the Cathedral, I trace the winding route of Last Chance Gulch, one of the city’s most famous reminders of its placer mining days. The stream that ran through what is now downtown Helena—and fed so many miners’ dreams—was diverted underground in the mid-1800s to serve the city’s water supply. Today, the underground river remains. Historians call it the “hidden river of gold.”