Background: The unique surface sensitivity and the high resolution that can be achieved with helium ion microscopy make it a competitive technique for modern materials characterization. As in other techniques that make use of a charged particle beam, channeling through the crystal structure of the bulk of the material can occur. Results: Here, we demonstrate how this bulk phenomenon affects secondary electron images that predominantly contain surface information. In addition, we will show how it can be used to obtain crystallographic information. We will discuss the origin of channeling contrast in secondary electron images, illustrate this with experiments, and develop a simple geometric model to predict channeling maxima. Conclusion: Channeling plays an important role in helium ion microscopy and has to be taken into account when trying to achieve maximum image quality in backscattered helium images as well as secondary electron images. Secondary electron images can be used to extract crystallographic information from bulk samples as well as from thin surface layers, in a straightforward manner.