Helena to Anaconda
When Montana became a state in 1889, there were two communities in the running to become the state capital: Helena and Anaconda. As you well know, Helena was destined to become the Capital City while Anaconda remained a valuable asset to the region in its smelting capacity. The Anaconda area drew thousands for the riches of copper while Helena’s claim to fame was a gold rush. Both towns had the makings to quickly become ghost towns, simple memories of their glory days, but something was different. This itinerary will lead you from Helena to Anaconda and provide a glimpse of why these communities were, and continue to be, so important to Montana’s economy.
The Capital City was founded by four prospectors who gave it one last chance to strike it rich. Luckily for Helena, this endeavor was successful and sealed its fate to become a central hub of the state. Today’s itinerary will give you just a taste of Helena, with opportunity to dig deeper into the history, stroll with the locals, and catch a show. The Gates of the Mountains Wilderness provides visitors with recreational opportunity in addition to the chance to dive into the history dating back to the Native Americans who called the land home, the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and the Mann Gulch Fire of 1949. After spending your morning on the Missouri, drive into Helena and explore the local hot spot, the Helena Walking Mall. Top the day off with a visit to the Myrna Loy Center where you will find a variety of film screenings and live performances.
“In many places,” wrote Meriwether Lewis, “the rocks seem ready to tumble on us... I shall call this place ‘gates of the mountains.’” During the summer months, tours are offered throughout the week through the Gates. The 105-minute cruise starts in the marina, just three miles east of I-15, between Helena and Wolf Creek.
The Myrna Loy stands to inspire the creative spirits of Montana by presenting culturally significant films and performances, supporting local and regional artists, and fostering a lifelong love of the arts. The Myrna brings both live and screened performances to the Helena community. There is always something going on!
It’s time for a road trip! As you take off from Helena, stop by Steve’s Cafe or Murray’s Cafe for a delicious breakfast. Then consider a detour to either the Holter Museum of Art or the Archie Bray Foundation to get a feel for the local art scene. The road will then lead you toward Missoula, but we will make our next stop off of exit 154 in the charming town of Drummond, Montana. This is a great opportunity to fill up your tank, and if you hit town around lunch time, we highly recommend swinging by Parkers’ Restaurant. Once you’re all fueled up, head down scenic Montana Highway 1 toward Philipsburg. Nestled in the mountains just outside of town, you will find the ghost town of Granite which stands today as one of Montana’s State Parks. Finish up the day by exploring the shops of Philipsburg’s Main Street.
At Parkers’ Restaurant, patrons will be met with genuine Montana hospitality. As you settle in amidst classic burger joint decor, you will be handed a three-ring binder with over 135 different burgers to choose from. Dine with the locals and enjoy some of Montana’s best beef. Open Tuesday through Saturday.
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 towns 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.
Give in to your sweet tooth at the Sweet Palace, the grandest candy emporium in the American West, featuring chocolates, fresh fudge, homemade buttery caramels, and 72 flavors of salt water taffy. There are over 1100 selections of candies from all over the world and those made right in the store. We look forward to serving you!
As you make your way from Philipsburg toward Anaconda, you won’t want to pull your eyes away from the breathtaking views in the Pintler Mountains. Georgetown Lake, Crystal Park, and Coolidge Ghost Town are all waiting to be explored and only slightly off the beaten path. Once you make your way into Anaconda, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to grab a beer at Smelter City Brewing! And that might just be the fuel you need to continue into the afternoon, exploring the Copper Village Museum and Lost Creek State Park! No genuine Montana experience is complete without a trip to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, located just 15-miles southeast of Anaconda. Regardless of the season, a soak in the natural springs will never be a disappointment.
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort provides visitors with a genuine Montana experience. The resort offers an 18-hole golf course, two on-site restaurants, a lounge, conference center, a water slide, and of course natural hot springs in both indoor and outdoor pools. A soak in the natural springs is the perfect close to any Montana day.
Lost Creek State Park rests just outside of Anaconda, providing a unique oasis and perfect place to get out and stretch your legs. The park features a waterfall, grey limestone cliffs and pink granite formations rising 1,200 feet above the canyon’s floor, watchable wildlife, walking paths, and camping opportunities.
The Copper Village Museum & Arts Center calls Anaconda’s former city hall home. While enjoying the museum, visitors have reported cold spots, disembodied footsteps, moving objects, and opening and closing doors. Some believe that the ghosts of a prisoner and fireman walk the halls of the building.