Butte is a mining town, known as the Richest Hill on Earth. The first major gold strike in the area took place in 1862, yet gold was not the crowning mineral of Butte. No, Butte’s story is one of copper, smelting, and kings. In 1881 the Anaconda Copper Mine was purchased by Marcus Daly, and by 1915, the mine was the largest producer of copper in the world. This itinerary will lead you through Butte, America allowing you to dive into the rich and diverse cultural history of Southwest Montana. Immigrants came from all over to strike it rich in the area and their influence can still be seen today. Once you have finished exploring Butte, take some time to explore the Southwest Montana region and the incredible impact mining had on the area
Historic Uptown Butte promises to provide a full day of exploration. Kick off the day at the Copper King Mansion. WA Clark built this 34-room mansion, completing construction in 1888. Guided tours are available between 10am and 4pm throughout the summer and tours can be arranged by calling ahead during the off season. The next recommended stop is the Mai Wah Society. The mining boom of the 19th century drew thousands of immigrants to Butte, including a significant Chinese population. The Mai Wah Society and Museum preserves and promotes the Asian heritage of Butte. As you start to consider grabbing a bite to eat, consider Sparky’s Garage, a local favorite, or maybe a traditional Butte Pasty. Finish your day off by swinging over to the micro-distillery, Headframe Spirits, where you can enjoy the tasting room or arrange a tour of the facility and dig deeper into the distilling process.
This adorable Bed & Breakfast located in the heart of Butte, was originally the home of Copper Baron W. A. Clark. Construction began on this 34-room Victorian mansion in 1884 and was completed in 1888. Visitors can stay in the mansion, or swing by for a guided tour throughout the summer.
Coming as a surprise to many, Montana is rich in Chinese history. Many Chinese immigrants made their way to Butte to mine the “Richest Hill on Earth,” and many of these miners made Montana their permanent home. The Mai Wah Society in Butte serves to interpret, collect, and educate visitors on the Asian history of the area.
With a day of digging into Butte’s culture and exploring some local favorites under your belt, it’s time to dive into the deep and rich mining history of the region. As we mentioned, Copper was King in Butte. It is what drew people to town and what brought immense fortune to the elite. The first stop today is the Berkeley Pit. While this is somewhat of an eye-sore on the beautiful natural landscape, it was this open-pit mine that truly kept Butte on the map. Follow this up with a trip to the World Museum of Mining. You’ve probably noticed the Headframes littering the hillside. These giants mark the incredibly engineered shafts or entrances to the mines. The World Museum of Mining is actually settled on the Orphan Girl Mine and allows visitors the opportunity to explore the mine tunnels. Finally, head up to Montana Tech’s campus and take time to understand the geology and minerals that brought fortune to the region at the Mineral Museum.
The Berkeley Pit was started in 1955 and served as a large truck-operated open-pit copper mine until 1982. It was this mine that enabled Butte to claim the title The Richest Hill on Earth. Visitors can view the mine from a platform looking down. The Viewing Stand is open from March through November.
Headframes litter the landscape of Butte. The “Orphan Girl” headframe is located in the World Museum of Mining and provides an opportunity to visitors to further explore the mining history of the area—underground. Join us for a tour of the mine, and explore the 66 exhibits found in the museum.
Butte’s rich mining and geological history make it the perfect place to offer visitors further opportunity to become acquainted with the geology that made Butte the Richest Hill on Earth. The mineral museum is settled on the Montana Tech campus and displays over 1,300 specimens from around the world.
Each of Southwest Montana’s communities provide unparalleled access to the outdoors, that is just the nature of the Treasure State I suppose. Wherever you go in Southwest Montana, you will find hiking trails, campgrounds, water recreation, areas to explore on ATV or snowmobile, ski hills, nordic ski areas, horseback friendly terrain, and glimpses into the past. Around Butte, consider adding Thompson Park to the itinerary. This park offers picnic areas and ample trails which are great for hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and skiing. If you are up for a bit of a drive, explore scenic Highway 1 in the Pintler Mountains and head up for a day on Georgetown Lake, a Montana favorite! Or maybe you are interested in a guided ATV tour through the Pipestone area. Whatever you choose to do, we promise you won’t regret a day out under Montana’s big sky.
The historic Milwaukee Railroad serves as the park’s backbone with 25 miles of trails meandering through the area. This park is perfect for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, nordic skiing, snowshoeing and fat biking! With an 18-hole disc golf course and picnic areas, Thompson Park makes for the perfect day under the big sky.
Nestled between the scenic Pintler Mountains, the Sapphire Range, and the Flint Creek Range, Georgetown Lake is a gorgeous location for camping, boating, fishing, and more. The lake is the perfect weekend getaway, and well worth a detour on any Montana road trip. Enjoy the scenery, recreation, and big Montana skies.