Ghost Itinerary: Virginia City to Garnet Ghost Town
Montana became a territory in 1864; two short years later, the territorial capital moved from Bannack to Virginia City. There is no question that this rough town is home to a number of spirits. Even better, they host a full summer calendar of living history and live performances. Southwest Montana was built by the Gold Rush and as a result, there are countless Ghost Towns to explore. This itinerary will lead you through jaw dropping scenery. As you make your way from one ghost town to the next, don’t miss an opportunity to take part in the wide variety of outdoor recreation our region offers.
Call it a night in Ennis (maybe even stop by the Water of the Gods) before you make your way to Virginia City for a history filled day. Virginia City was the second territorial capital of Montana, and offers living history weekends all summer long! Explore the different buildings, take a tour, stop by one of the businesses, and then make your way up to Boot Hill before leaving town. Nevada City is just down the road, either take the train or drive the 2 miles to continue your exploration of the area! Finish off the day with a craft beer from Ruby Valley Brewery in Sheridan!
Virginia City offers one of the most fascinating stories of any town in Southwest Montana. At one time the most important city in the Territory and little more than a ghost town at another, today Virginia City provides one of the most well preserved and approachable glimpses into Montana's gold rush days.
Nevada City is located along the Vigilante Trail, and serves as an open-air museum with 108 buildings, only 14 of which are part of the original town site. The majority of the buildings found in Nevada City are transplants from across the west, bringing their own history to the area for visitors to explore.
Gold was first discovered at Alder Gulch in 1863 by Bill Fairweather and his crew. The gulch was named after the incredible alder trees that lined the banks of the river. This was the site of the largest placer gold strike in world history, producing $10,000,000 in its first year of operation. This strike brought hundreds to the area.
Bannack, the first territorial capital of Montana, is settled along Grasshopper Creek only a 20 minute drive from Dillon. This ghost town is one of Montana’s most popular State Parks, and provides visitors with an opportunity to explore the town’s infamous characters such as Henry Plummer, the Road Agents, and others. As you make your way toward Philipsburg, spend the afternoon rockhounding at Crystal park and then explore Coolidge Ghost Town, remnants of a silver mining strike.
Bannack marks the site of Montana’s first major gold strike in 1862. Located along Grasshopper Creek, this registered historic landmark provides visitors with ample opportunity to explore. The State Park offers a campground, daily tours, events, living history and a visitor center.
Quartz crystals are scattered liberally through the decomposed granite of the unique 220-acre site that's been reserved by the Forest Service for the popular hobby of rockhounding. Grab your shovel, a few friends, and set out for an afternoon of discovery.
As early as 1919, the community of Coolidge had begun to thrive and at this time work was beginning on the mine tunnel. By the time tunnel and operation were ready to go, the economy took a downturn and silver prices plummeted. Losing control, tenants quickly moved on leaving Coolidge nothing more than a memory.
It might be the last day on the tour, but there is ample opportunity to continue exploring Big Sky Country. Philipsburg is one of those charming small towns that every native Montanan and visitor can appreciate. Enjoy the quaint downtown or explore the recreational opportunities the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest provides. Before you leave the area, stroll through Granite State Park, another of the area’s many ghost towns. Hitting the road again, we highly recommend making a stop in Drummond for one of the 135 burgers offered at Parkers’ Restaurant. Finish off your ghostly adventure at Garnet Ghost Town on the way to Missoula!
Surrounded by the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest, and settled along the Pintler Veteran’s Memorial Scenic Byway, Philipsburg embodies everything a charming small town should be. A colorful main street is lined with unique shops, restaurants, a candy shop, and of course a brewery.
Granite was the richest silver mine on earth, yielding $40,000,000. At its peak, the area was home to over 3,000 miners. Unlike many of the other ghost town’s found scattered across Montana, many of the structures in Granite are made of red brick, creating a unique preservation. In the Silver Panic of 1893, the mine was left deserted.
Garnet Ghost Town is the most intact ghost town Montana has to offer. As with any boom town, the inhabitants were primarily interested in the structure built beneath the earth’s surface to extract its riches. In turn, the buildings were built with haste and lacked a solid foundation. Uncover Montana’s rich mining history with a visit to Garnet.