Montana ghost towns

Montana Ghost Town

Autumn seems a fitting time to visit a ghost town – after all, Halloween is said to be when the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead is thinnest.

Bannack Ghost Town, the school / lodge.

With that cheery thought in mind, may we recommend a trip to two outstanding Montana Ghost Towns: Bannack Ghost Town and Garnet Ghost Town. Bannack is a bit of a drive from our Missoula Montana bed and breakfast (about 3 hours) but it’s worth it. Garnet is much closer, just an hour east of here. Both drives are lovely, particularly in the fall.

Garnet Ghost Town

Garnet Ghost Town

Garnet Ghost Town

We are fortunate that our bed and breakfast in Missoula MT is close to Garnet, which is considered to be one of the best-preserved Montana ghost towns. It is somewhat of a unique place, with a very different history than frontier gold-mining towns such as Virginia City and Bannack (both of which were lawless, somewhat dangerous places in their heyday). Garnet was settled at the end of the 19th century and had a population of 1,000 hard-working men, women and children in 1898. Folks came to Garnet for gold, but found that it took a certain industrious spirit to access that gold. The hard-rock mines required equipment, and in order to have equipment, the men who mined the gold needed to make a serious investment. They intended to stay, and they built a town to house their wives and children. At its peak, the school in Garnet taught more than fifty children.

Today, Garnet is a peaceful place. Families departed when the mineral deposits became too scarce to support them, but they left behind a main street filled with shops, their school, and many homes. To walk among these is to walk in the footsteps of the men and women who settled the west. Garnet Ghost Town is a tribute to this important part of American history – something we feel strongly about, which is why we support the Garnet Ghost Town Preservation Society. We hope you will find time to visit Garnet while you are staying at our Missoula bed and breakfast; it makes a lovely day trip in the fall, when foliage is colorful and the air is crisp and clean.

Montana Ghost Towns

Ghost towns exist in every culture, but some of the most interesting ones are right here in Montana, not far from our Missoula lodging. We are fortunate that the Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife took over management of the dying town of Bannack and the surrounding area in the 1950s. Thanks to their foresight, Bannack State Park preserves an important part of the state’s history.

Prospector John White founded the town of Bannack in 1862 after discovering gold in Grasshopper Creek. Folks rushed to the area as news of the gold spread, hoping to secure their own claim. So many people came that Bannack was named the first Territorial Capital of Montana, although it held on to that title for only a year. Although the huge reserves of gold that folks hoped to find continued to elude the prospectors, a hardy few doggedly remained in the area, experimented with various mining techniques, and managed to make a living. In the 1930’s, however, the population began to steadily dwindle. Now a state park, Bannack today is visited by people from all over the country and the world. Over sixty structures remain standing, most of which can be explored. Spend a day exploring the old town, and get a taste for what it was like to come to this wild and beautiful place in the 1860s, with dreams of gold in the heart.

Come May, the park is open daily from 8am until dusk, and after Memorial Day the hours are extended until 9pm. The informative Visitor Center is open weekends. The park makes a great day trip from our Missoula Mt bed and breakfast – pack a picnic and have fun.

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