We came to Helper in 2012 for the Helper Arts & Music Festival and fell in love with the town. Back then Helper didn’t have much going on outside the festival and the light parade in the winter, but we saw so much potential. The historic downtown buildings are set against the backdrop of mountains, called book cliffs, under the sentry of Balance Rock.
The festival that brought us here started in 1995 when several artists who had purchased buildings on Main Street to use as studios and for workshops came up with the idea. In vacant buildings they created phantom galleries where art was displayed to liven up the town. As the years passed, some of the artists who came for workshops stayed. The art community is strong and growing in Helper. 2019 was the 25th anniversary of the Helper Arts, Music & Film Festival (film started in 2016).
There were other visits to Helper. We came for the Christmas Light Parade (Helper is Utah’s official Christmas town), for a craft fair in the park, for a photography class, and of course the yearly festival. We wanted to learn more about the town and the people who live here.
After the many trips we decided Helper needed an RV park. The existing lodging situation wasn’t ideal for visitors wishing to take advantage of the happenings in Helper or area attractions. We wanted a place to stay, close to town, with amenities. While we have a travel trailer, we were aware there wasn’t a place with the amenities we wanted and space for larger rigs with pullouts, tow vehicles and ATV’s in all of Carbon County.
Today the town has many galleries, studios, and shops open to the public. On the First Friday of every month, year-round, the town hosts a gallery stroll unlike any other. There is a costume contest, activities for children, an offbeat theme, street vendors, and all out fun. For example, one First Friday had a theme of outlaw. Butch Cassidy robbed the Pleasant Valley Railroad payroll on April 12, 1904 in the town of Castle Gate. The robbers spent the night in Helper the night before. The steps they climbed to get the gold is housed in the Western Mining and Railroad Museum. Another First Friday had bed races down Main Street, an activity the miners did back in the early 1900's. Each month is something different, silly and just plain fun for the whole family.
Helper is home to the Rio Theater. The façade of the building was saved but the rest is new. The theater hosts a variety of events including the film festival. February 2019 was the first Butch Cassidy Film Festival. This annual festival showcases films of any genre with the backdrop of the American West. Movies from the February festival also show during the Arts and Music Festival in August of each year. These events bring lots of people to town. MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY.
There are two restaurants in town, Balance Rock and Marsha’s Sammich Shop, with a third under construction and two more in the planning stages. Happiness Within is the coffee shop with local art on the walls. R&A Market is at the south end of town (walking distance to the RV Park) with an awesome meat counter. Two miles south is the Carbon County Country Club which has excellent golfing and fine dining and is open to the public. Another good dining choice is Groggs Pinnacle Brewing Company, half way between Helper and Price.
Helper has a colorful history as a railroad town in coal country. The town at one point had 13 bars and 10 brothels. The last brothel closed in the mid 1980’s. During the heyday of the town in the 1920’s 27 languages were spoken on Main Street and the diverse businesses of that time reflected the population.
The Western Mining and Railroad Museum tells the stories of life in Helper and the surrounding area beautifully with new installations in the works including an n-scale model railroad depicting the town. At the other end of town Carbon Motor Cycle Museum just opened. The owner of the museum also fashioned the town’s bookends; two gas stations. The Conoco at the south end of town is restored while the Sinclair at the north end of town is a replica with an “impound lot” full of vintage trucks. Both gas stations have been meticulously restored to 1940's era and are wonderful photo opportunities. Another great selfie is with The World’s Tallest Coal Miner in front of the Helper Auditorium. Other photo opportunities include the old signs, new neon signs, and several murals around town. Every day we see people taking photos all over our town.
Helper has one bar now, The Regis Club, with pool tables, dart boards, and wonderful stories from the owner, a lifelong resident of Helper.
Other businesses in town include post office, book store, liquor store, barber shop, beauty salon, gas station, bowling alley, hardware store, ice cream shop, dentist office, and medical clinic.
Helper is still an active railroad town where helper engines hook on to coal trains to help them reach the mountain summit. That is where Helper got its name – from the helper engines. Approximately 10 trains come through town each day including Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Union Pacific, and BNSF. Helper is a stop for the California Zephyr which affords an opportunity for scenic day trips into Colorado. If you arrive via train, we will pick you up and drop you off at the Amtrak Station
Downtown Helper has the railroad on one side and the Price River on the other, with Highway 6 beyond that. The city of Helper along with stakeholders, are close to completing the Price River Restoration Project which was started several years ago. When completed, the river will be floatable from the north end of town down to Castle Gate RV Park, about four miles. The river is the swimming pool of the RV Park. We have a splash pad conveniently located near the family style bathrooms with showers in the registration building.
The river restoration project also includes improving habitat for fish which will be stocked once the work is done. Another fishing opportunity in town is Gigliotti’s Pond at the north end of town. Helper is near two reservoirs – Scofield and Huntington. The latest fishing report listing all the fishing holes and advice on bait and tackle can be found by clicking here.
The River Walk starts behind the Western Mining and Railroad Museum and goes for several miles to where it ends near Martin Road. There is a swinging bridge, an old chimney, a labyrinth, a beach, and an option to take a very tall flight of stairs for added exercise along the way.
Carbon and Emery counties have hundreds of miles of trails for ATV’s, OHV’s and UTV’s, mountain biking, and hiking and they can all be accessed directly from the park. The beauty of this area is enhanced by the clean air as we have with no inversions or ozone like along the Wasatch Front. If you are looking solitude instead of crowds, come here to get out!
We have many day trip itineraries including dinosaurs, petroglyphs, railroad, ghost towns, mining, birding, fishing, and shooting. Speaking of shooting, Carbon County has North Springs Shooting Range a world class shooting range less than a 30 minute drive away. The park will facilitate ATV rentals for those who want to explore the back country.
Two of our favorite day trips are dinosaurs and petroglyphs. The hunt for dinosaurs starts at the USU Eastern Prehistoric Museum in Price, UT and continues at the Cleveland Dinosaur Quarry. The hunt for petroglyphs take you to Nine Mile Canyon. We partner with R&A Market to provide a boxed lunch, packed in a cooler, and ready to go. We also partner with area tour guides for those who want deeper understanding of the area and would like a guided tour.
Castle Gate RV Park has pull-through and back-in sites up to 100 feet long and 45 feet wide. Every site has a picnic table and most have a campfire ring as well. We have deluxe cabins with kitchen and showers, and we have tent sites. We have a camp store, laundry, pavilion, splash pad, horseshoes, playground, river access, fishing, tubing, and you can ride your ATV directly from our park to several different trails.