Garnet Ghost Town
In the 1800s, after the gold in California had seemingly been tapped out, miners flocked to the Garnet Mountains of Montana hoping to strike it rich. The town of Garnet, which was developed around these mining claims, grew to 1,000 by 1898 and included homes, hotels, shops and a slew of saloons where miners could toast to a hard day’s work. However, by 1905, there was hardly any gold left and the population dwindled to 150. A tragic fire further drove away residents. And while Garnet celebrated a brief revival in 1934 due to the increase in gold prices, by the 1940s it had officially become a ghost town.
Today, Garnet's history lives on through 30 buildings that have been preserved by the Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the Garnet Preservation Association. Visitors can tour the ghost town and see structures like the J.R. Wells Hotel, F.A. Davey’s Store, and two old western saloons. The classic Montana setting also serves as a jumping off point for hikes in the Garnet Mountains and fishing trips to nearby Elk Creek.
WHAT MAKES IT GREAT
Sitting at an elevation of 6,000 feet, Garnet Ghost Town is a historic destination nestled into a forested landscape. In addition to being an exceptionally well preserved ghost town, Garnet’s convenient location to Missoula makes for an easy day trip. While it’s certainly possible to spend an entire afternoon strolling through Garnet and exploring the various abandoned homes, shops, and saloons that make up the ghost town, the area offers just as much for hikers as it does history fans.
There are ample hiking opportunities in and around Garnet, but first-time visitors will want to start by grabbing a map from the visitor’s center and heading out on one of the trails that leaves from the town itself. The Sierra Mine Loop Trail brings hikers through fields of beargrass to deserted mining claims. A turnoff for the Placer Trail allows for further exploration via a gentle route along the side of a mountain, past crumbling cabins where deer and other wildlife now make their home. For something a little more challenging, the three-mile Warren Park Trail, which starts from the parking area, leads to the cabin of a Civil War veteran and ends in a historic picnic area that he built for hikers to enjoy.
WHO IS GOING TO LOVE IT
For outdoor enthusiasts interested in learning more about Montana’s mining past, there is no better way to achieve that than by walking among the preserved structures of Garnet and seeing firsthand what life was like during the gold mining boom of the 1800s. For hikers, the well-maintained trails around Garnet showcase the area’s natural beauty in sharp contrast with the eerily beautiful ruins of mining claims. And for anglers, Elk Creek is just two miles from Garnet and is an excellent place to fish for cutthroat and rainbow trout.
Any kind of adventurer will want to visit on the third Saturday of June, when Garnet throws an annual town-wide celebration featuring live music, food and fun.
DIRECTIONS, PARKING & REGULATIONS
From Montana Route 200 about 30 miles east from Missoula, turn onto Garnet Range Road and drive for 11 miles, following signage for the ghost town. From I-90, take the exit for Drummond to Bear Gulch Road. Follow it for 7.5 miles to Cave Gulch Road Junction, drive for another four miles and park. This route should not be attempted if driving an RV or towing a trailer. If travel conditions or season restrict vehicle access to Garnet Ghost Town, the closed part of the road can be crossed by snowshoeing, cross country skiing, or snowmobiling.