Garnet Back Country Byway

Old ghost towns give us a glimpse of gold miners’ dreams of striking it rich and saloon girls’ hopes for better days. They also show how hard the miners worked to find the ore and get it out of the ground. Today, Montana has a great collection of 60 ghost towns, because the heart of Montana was one of the most productive mining regions in then world. The prospectors who discovered the first gold in Helena tried to keep it quiet to avoid a rush. But then, as with all booms, there are busts, leaving us with landscapes from another era. The Garnet Back Country Byway takes you to one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the state.  Named for the semi-precious ruby-colored stones found in the area, the surrounding mountains were also rich in gold-bearing quartz. Miners first collected gold by panning, then by using rockers and sluice boxes to capture free-floating gold. The 12-mile backcountry journey through the Garnet Mountain Range climbs 2,000 feet into the evergreen forest and delivers outstanding panoramas of the Blackfoot River Valley, the Swan Range, the Mission Mountains, and the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Garnet boomed in 1895 thanks to a processing mill and miners pouring into a haphazardly laid out community. When the town went bust, they left so fast the town became a time capsule with more than 20 historic buildings. It is not the only ghost town in the area. The Last Chance Gulch in Helena became a Historic District and Elkhorn State Park, Marysville, and Coloma are nearby. For ghost town aficionados, you can also visit Virginia City and Nevada City, further afield.

Ghost Towns A'Plenty

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