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  1. #1

    Default Montana Ghost Towns

    I recently returned from a road trip to Montana – where we visited some of western Montana's ghost towns and old mining communities. It was like taking a trip back in time to the days of the "Wild West."

    In three days we covered just over a thousand miles – it was a great opportunity to see some of the splendid natural beauty of Montana. On our way home we passed within a quarter-mile of a forest fire. We were so close we could see the flames devouring sagebrush on a nearby hillside. The magnitude of the fire was both frightening and awe inspiring. (I was so captivated by the sight that I didn't think to take a picture – very uncharacteristic of me.)

    On our photo safari we visited six locations: Garnet, Comet, Elkhorn, Bannack, Virgina City, and Nevada City. Some of the places we visited, like Garnet and Comet, were true ghost towns. They were eerily quiet, hidden deep in the mountains, and as we wandered through the ruins it seemed like we were the only living souls for miles around. Then there were the tourist traps, like Virginia City and Nevada City, which were much busier, but no less fascinating.

    In addition to all of the interesting things we saw on our trip, we also enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about Montana's history. Every place we visited had a story – real life tales of bravery, scandal, murder and mayhem. You see, when gold was first discovered in the Montana territory many mining towns sprung up seemingly overnight – and often they where abandoned just as quickly. It was in these boomtowns that the American West earned its reputation as an untamed and lawless land.

    For example, the town of Garnet had just one school…and at least 13 saloons. In Bannack, the townspeople hung their corrupt Sheriff on his own gallows for conspiring with road agents (stagecoach-robbing bandits). In Virginia City, the site of one of the country's largest placer gold strikes, vigilantes took matters into their own hands. If troublemakers found the numbers 3-7-77 written on their front door it meant they had 24 hours to get out of town (3+7+7+7 = 24) or they'd be buried in a 3 foot wide, 7 foot deep, 77 inch long grave. Interestingly enough, the numbers 3-7-77 can be seen today on the badges, patches, and car door insignia of the Montana Highway Patrol.
    Last edited by Mark Sedenquist; 02-03-2010 at 12:19 PM. Reason: Unfortunately, this member is not longer using the image service and so those photos are not accessible any longer

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Keithville, LA

    Default Awesome Pictures!

    I love looking around old towns and abandoned places. Due to the oil boom, Louisiana and Texas have lots of places like that, but the wet climate causes the buildings to rot away just as quickly as they sprang up. But every so often, if you're lucky, you'll find the remains of an old schoolhouse or other building deep in the woods, often near cemetaries or Churches that are still used.


  3. #3
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Amazing shots!

    Very nice. I love derelict and abandoned structures of our past. Abandoned and condemned buildings just have an aura of mystery about them that is too great to ignore. Ghost towns that dried up when their resource was exhausted or suffered a price drop have less mystery than random abandoned buildings. Too bad that many ghost towns and abandoned homes are 'owned' enough by someone to barricade the dickens out of them and sue trespassers, but not 'owned' enough to maintain the property or sell it.

  4. #4

    Default Taking Care of the Past

    There are several trusts and organizations in Montana that help to preserve ghost towns, perhaps that is why there are so many good ghost towns in close proximity. Three of the towns I visited, (Garnet, Bannack, and Elkhorn), are state parks and are maintained by the government. Virginia City and Nevada City aren't true ghost towns, although there are many many old (very photogenic) buildings and lots to see and do. The only ghost town I visited that wasn't a tourist trap or maintained by the government was Comet. Comet, Montana is on private land, but is open to the public. It is also one of the larger ghost towns, there probably about 30 buildings still standing - although from what I have read online, there used to be many more and what's left won't be around forever.

  5. #5
    RoadTripper Brad Guest

    Default Trinity, WA

    All the reports of a Ghost town I'd love to visit in Washington, Trinity, say that it's privately owned and locked up tight. Monte Cristo is another that I wish was accessible by vehicle.

  6. #6

    Default Not Far From Yellowstone

    Just a thought, if you are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park, there are several Montana ghost towns within a couple hours of the park. Someplace like Bannack or Virginia City/Nevada City could be a fun side trip - especially if you are coming from someplace like Seattle and you have to pass through Montana anyway.

  7. #7

    Default Coolidge, MT

    From Bannack (one of my alltime favorite places--my wife and I have a watercolor of the Hotel Meade in our bedroom), you were < an hour's drive from Coolidge, MT. It's a more recently built and abandoned town, but is extensive and fairly well-preserved.

    For those interested, Coolidge, MT is just off the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Parkway between the "towns" of Wise River and Polaris, MT. The Parkway is worth a drive, regardless.


  8. #8

    Default Thanks for the tip!

    Coolidge, huh? I will have to put that on my list for next time. I plan to go on another Ghost town trip in Montana next summer. Bannack was one of my favorite stops on the trip too - the town is very well preserved (thanks to the State of Montana) and has a great story.

    If you get the opportunity I would really recommend going up to see Comet. The drive up there is beautiful and there are are lots of interesting structures to see. It is on private land, but open to the public. Since it isn't being maintained or restored it probably won't be around much longer. According to Missoula Magazine, which published an article on Comet, "Once lauded as one of Montana’s most intact ghost towns, Comet is slowly collapsing into the surrounding grass and sagebrush..."

  9. #9


    Thanks for posting the pics and the link to your website for more photos. Is there a site out there somewhere that has the ghost towns that are open the to public listed as well as the locations? I am hoping to go to Montana next fall and would like to see some along the way.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    The Great Midwest, Illinois to be precise


    Quote Originally Posted by Arizona Brad View Post
    Very nice. I love derelict and abandoned structures of our past. Abandoned and condemned buildings just have an aura of mystery about them that is too great to ignore.
    I definitely agree with AB. I get that feeling in Glen Rio, Tx/NM. You can just about feel the ghosts.

    Keep Ghostin' Down that Two Lane Highway. --RoadDog

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