Montana Ghost Towns Best Western Experience | Travel Zone by Best Western

Montana Ghost Towns

By Virginia Brown

Have you always wanted to see a genuine ghost town in person? Getting the chance to stand amongst the remains of a deserted town and its once bustling Main Street, where the shells of buildings remain, but whose inhabitants left a long time ago. If this sounds like you, then there’s a Montana ghost town with your name on it. 

Now frozen in time, long after the silver and gold rush era passed, the sheer number of ghost towns in Montana is unbelievable. So, we’ve picked our top five Montana ghost towns you need to explore, all once home to countless prospectors and fortune seekers, including two gold rush towns that impressively served as former Montana state capitals. 

Bannack Ghost Town, Montana  

We start our Montana ghost town tour in Bannack, believed to be where Montana‘s pioneering gold rush began. Back in the day, Bannack’s population peaked at 3,000 inhabitants, inhabitants likely all dreaming of striking it rich, and this influx of miners and prospectors even saw Bannack become Montana’s state capital in the early years. 

Remarkably, despite the gold reserves having been depleted decades before, the last residents of Bannack resided there until they died in 1970. Today, this abandoned city remains well preserved, and you can stroll along what remains of Main Street, still lined with its abandoned saloons, hotels, and blacksmith shop fronts. 

For those keen to explore, there are rumors that Bannack is believed to be the most haunted ghost town in Montana, so self-guided night ghost tours are popular with visitors. However, afterward, you can retreat for a comfy night’s sleep at the Best Western Paradise Inn in nearby Dillon, Montana.  

Garnet Ghost Town, Montana  

Next on our tour, we head to Garnet, Montana ghost town – one of only a few ghost towns in Montana considered to have lived through two gold rush booms. Garnet, Montana, is named after the ruby-colored gemstone found in the area and was once home to over 1,200 residents at its peak.  

In its heyday, Garnet was blessed with a low crime rate, a thriving school, and a bounty of saloons to keep the townspeople happy. However, this Montana ghost town soon saw its gold reserves dwindle, which made it too expensive to mine. Amidst the flurry of abandoned mines, further disaster struck Garnet in 1912, which destroyed many of the remaining buildings.  

With only 150 residents left, Garnet was all but an abandoned town before it rallied briefly when President Roosevelt raised the price of gold from $16 to $32 an ounce. Sadly, this mini-revival only lasted for a few years, and once again, Garnet, Montana, became one of the many ghost towns of Montana. After spending a day strolling around the remains, relax afterward with a pleasant night’s stay at the Best Western Plus Grant Creek Inn in Missoula, Montana. 

Virginia City Ghost Town, Montana  

As far as Montana ghost towns go, Virginia City was likely the largest gold rush town to suffer this cruel fate. Virginia City, Montana, was once a thriving hub of activity, boasting upwards of 10,000 residents in the mid-1860s. 

Virginia City is also our second Montana ghost town to be once designated as the state capital, holding this title between 1865 and 1875. Some of Virginia City’s famous previous residents include frontierswoman Calamity Jane and the Pony Express co-founder Jack Slade. 

Nowadays, only a handful of people reside in this almost deserted city, littered with two- and three-story empty buildings that were once bars, shops, and a brothel. Visitors to Virginia City, Montana, ghost town, can now pose for photos inside the city jail or head to the Bale of Hay Saloon, which is Montana’s ‘oldest watering hole’ before retiring for a great night’s sleep at the Best Western Paradise Inn in Dillon, Montana. 

Elkhorn Ghost Town, Montana  

Our final Montana ghost town is probably one of the most iconic deserted towns in the state, often topping most visitor’s bucket lists. If only because Elkhorn, Montana, ghost town is home to two of the most photographed derelict buildings of all the abandoned towns in Montana. 

First established during the second wave of the silver rush, this imposing ghost town is renowned for its derelict buildings – Gillian Hall and Fraternity Hall. These impressive, free-standing structures stand side by side, which, along with the local church, give the impression that they were abandoned only yesterday. 

Elkhorn’s prosperity boomed around the 1880s, however, it’s hard to believe this eerie-looking silver-mining ghost town was once home to over 2,500 people. Don’t forget your camera when you visit the most popular ghost town near Helena, Montana, and then enjoy a tranquil night’s sleep at the Best Western Premier Helena Great Northern Hotel in Helena itself. 

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