Between the Parks
Step back in time to the frontier days by exploring Montana’s many ghost towns. On this five-day trip from Glacier National Park to Yellowstone National Park, wander through forgotten towns to get a taste of Montana’s rich past.
The Route: West Glacier > U.S. 2/MT-35/MT-83 > Seeley Lake > MT-83/MT-200/MT-141/Hwy 271/I-90/MT-1 > Philipsburg > MT-1/I-90/I-15 > Dillon > MT-41/MT-287 > Virginia City > U.S. 287/U.S. 191 > West Yellowstone
Total Distance: approximately 460 miles
From West Glacier, start your journey down MT-83. Stop in the charming town of Bigfork to catch some views of Flathead Lake. Continue south on MT-83 to enter the Seeley-Swan Valley created by the Mission and Swan Mountains. This valley has plenty of recreation on its many lakes including: Swan Lake, Holland Lake, Seeley Lake, Placid Lake, and Salmon Lake State Park. After a day on the lake, stop at your first ghost town, Garnet Ghost Town.
Take a day in Philipsburg for a little adventure. Mine for Montana sapphires. Grab some treats from the Sweet Palace. And stop at the Philipsburg Brewing Company. Near Philipsburg stop at Granite Ghost Town State Park.
Continue on the Anaconda to see a show at the art deco Washoe Theater. Continue down the highway for a stop at Fairmont Hot Springs, which boasts two indoor, two outdoor pools, and a wicked waterslide.
Cruise down the Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway. Stop at Coolidge Ghost Town. Make a stop at Crystal Park and search for quartz crystals on the decomposed granite. For another soak, stop at Elkhorn Hot Springs. In the winter, be sure to spend a whole day skiing at Maverick Mountain. Continue down the road for a stop at the historic Bannack State Park with over 60 preserved structures.
Stop at Nevada City, a stagecoach stop in the 1860s. Continue just down the road to the vibrant Virginia City to experience what this ghost town was like during the gold rush. Attend the Brewery Follies or the Grand Victorian Balls during the summer months. To really get into the spirit, rent a costume and join in on the fun.
Continue on U.S. 287 to Cliff and Wade Lakes. Here, rent a canoe or kayak for a scenic paddle (rentals available from Wade Lake Resort). From there, continue on U.S. 287 toward West Yellowstone, your gateway to Yellowstone National Park. For a souvenir, stop at the historic Eagle Store.