When we refer to Montana by its nickname, “The Treasure State,” you may think of all the beauty and wonder that makes this place extraordinary. However, the nickname originates from Montana’s history as a state with rich mineral reserves. In 1852, gold was discovered here. This revelation not only led to Montana’s nickname but to an immediate boom in mining, which became an economic stronghold in the region. The Montana state flag even depicts a scene reflecting pioneer activities, including mining and farming and the motto “Oro Y Plata,” which means gold and silver in Spanish.

Garnet’s relatively short-lived boom in the late 1800s is a history buff’s paradise today. Photo: HoneyTrek

HISTORY

Pioneers moved west following the gold rush, and mining towns began popping up throughout the state. But as the minerals diminished, the towns did too. This “boom and bust” phenomenon left once-thriving mining towns abandoned—seemingly overnight. Today, these ghost towns offer a unique glimpse of homesteader life in the Old West. Step back in time to a place where miners dreamed of riches and better days.

Garnet’s buildings date back to the late 1800s when mining was booming and the town boasted 1,000 residents.

Montana’s best-preserved ghost town is right here in Glacier Country. Garnet Ghost Town was named one of America’s Coolest Ghost Towns by Travel + Leisure. Just 30 miles east of Missoula in the Garnet Mountain Range, Garnet was named for the semi-precious ruby-colored stone found in the area.

Garnet has been named one of the coolest and best-preserved ghost towns in America.

Garnet’s buildings date back to the late 1800s when mining was booming and the town boasted 1,000 residents. By the end of the 19th century, Garnet’s population was large enough to warrant four stores, four hotels, two barber shops, a butcher shop, a candy store and a whopping 13 saloons. But the gold dwindled over time, and in 1912 a fire destroyed much of the area. By the 1940s, Garnet was a ghost town. Thirty historic buildings remain today—including cabins, a saloon and part of a hotel—all offering a fascinating look at what life was like during the Montana gold rush.

RECREATION

Garnet Ghost Town is open year-round but only accessible by wheeled vehicles May 1 through December 15. Take your time walking through the ghost town and exploring the buildings and artifacts, and afterward, take advantage of the surrounding area, which is a treasure trove of outdoor fun. Spring through fall area activities include hiking, biking, off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails and fishing. Multiple hiking trails begin at the Garnet parking lot and traverse through picturesque, steep timbered drainages, climbing to nearly 7,000 feet. Keep an eye out for huckleberries, a coveted, delicious fruit that grows in this area. You’ll also find more than 30 miles of backcountry trails for mountain biking and OHV use. If you’re keen on catching rainbows—trout that is—bring your fly rod. Elk Creek, just 2 miles northeast of Garnet Ghost Town, is flush with brook, cutthroat and rainbow trout and empties into the Blackfoot River nearby—the perfect setting for an idyllic angling adventure.

The Garnet Mountains offer recreational opportunities galore.

In the winter, Garnet can be accessed by cross-country ski, snowmobile and snowshoe only. The trail system encompasses 51 km of Garnet National Winter Recreation Trails through the peaceful Garnet Range. Some of the trails are groomed frequently, while others are not. Bonus: Book a unique winter wonderland stay and rent one of the two on-site cabins, which are only available in the winter. Visit garnetghosttown.org or call the BLM Missoula Field Office at 406.329.3914 for directions and information.

Please note: We ask that all our visitors and residents Recreate Responsibly by being mindful of the following: know before you go; plan ahead; play it safe; leave no trace; tread lightly; and help build an inclusive outdoors.

June 10, 2024

Related: Blackfoot Corridor, Fall Fun, Family Fun, Film, Fishing, Garnet Ghost Town, Greenough, Montana, Museums, Outdoor Fun, Snowmobiling, Snowshoeing, Summer Fun, Vacation

Comments

Klarene Rich
I would live here year around

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