By: Hannah Clemenson
History Hikes and Walks continues this summer in downtown Helena, guiding locals and tourists alike through the landscape and its colorful history. These experiences are made engaging and educational by the guides that lead our hikes and walks.
Zach Coe is one of them. He’s a Helena native with a master’s degree in history from Montana State University. Zach guides the Mt. Helena History Hike and the Breweries and Brothels History Walk. He’s curious, knowledgeable, and excited to share his hometown.
“It’s just excellent to get to showcase your home,” he says, “and tell these rich stories that made it what it is today.”
Zach was volunteering as a researcher at the History Foundation in the fall of 2020, while the History Hikes and Walks program was being developed. He instantly knew he wanted to be a guide. Zach’s master’s degree in public history made him a perfect fit for the job.
Zach loves the sense of pride the hikes instill in locals, whether they’re Helena natives or from other parts of Montana. He also enjoys explaining the tourist-geared resort that was nearly built atop Mt. Helena. His personal favorite stories to share often dispel the urban legends about our stunning cathedral, some of which his grandfather used to tell him on their downtown drives.
But for Zach it’s not just about sharing the stories of Helena’s early years. As a historian, he appreciates the opportunity to deepen his own understanding of the various cultures of the people who built Helena into what we see today, such as the Chinese, Germans, African Americans, and Native Americans.
“Growing up in the Helena public school district,” he explained, “it’s pretty incredible to think that this stuff wasn’t really highlighted. When we talked about history, we looked at it on a national level, which is understandable for a school curriculum, but to learn these things I feel I didn’t get in school is really a cool part of the experience.”
Zach also enjoys when hikers speak up and supply their own versions of the stories, add details, or relate an aspect back to something in their own town or background. He encourages interaction and believes those additions enrich the experience for everyone.
Zach and the rest of our incredible guides lead the Breweries and Brothels History Walk and the Mt. Helena History Hike several times a week. They’re all excited to meet you, so we hope you’ll pick a day, put on some sunscreen, grab your water bottle, and come along. These unique, Montana-made adventures are a fabulous opportunity to stretch your legs and your perceptions of Montana’s captivating capital city. Our tours are proudly operated by Vigilante Shuttles & Tours. History Hikes & Walks continues through Labor Day. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.mthistory.org/history-hikes-walks/
White Sulphur Springs’ own Hannah Clemenson interned at the History Foundation in June of 2021. Hannah is an International Studies major with minors in Communications and History. She starts her junior year at Dominican University of California in San Rafael, California this fall. Hannah says she loves the complex history of Montana. She also has a passion for the small businesses and towns that make our state so unique. In her spare time, Hannah writes and performs traditional country music and enjoys camping and hiking with her friends and family.