Hunting for abandoned places in Montana? You’re in the right place. Below are 12 of my favorite abandoned places throughout the state.
Abandoned Places In Montana
1. Chromium Mill
The East Side Mine from Red Lodge’s past mining heyday is sometimes confused for a chrome concentration mill constructed in the early 1940s and operated for less than a year. Materials were needed for the construction of weapons and battleships as the United States prepared to enter another world war in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Chrome was in high demand because of its applications in steel and iron products. The US Vanadium Corporation chose to build a chrome concentration plant on the site of the town’s former East Side Mine to meet this demand. The mill opened in early 1942 and began processing chromite found near the iconic “Mae West Curve” on the Beartooth Highway.
Up to 450 tons of chrome concentrate could be processed each day at the mill. It produced roughly 11,689 tonnes between the months of March and November 1942. The mill was abandoned for about a decade until it was destroyed by fire in 1951, with the exception of the concrete foundations, which still exist today.
The ancient mill’s foundations have become a kind of canvas for local graffiti artists, and they can still be seen from downtown Red Lodge.
2. Granite Ghost Town State Park
The town of Granite, also called “Montana’s Silver Queen” in the late 1800s, was the state’s largest silver mining camp. It was founded in 1884 as a company town for the Granite Mountain Mining Company, and at its peak, it had 3,000 residents. Granite’s mine produced approximately $300,000 in silver per year in its heyday—about $10 million in today’s money. The town contained saloons and hotels at the time, as well as a baseball field, a roller-skating rink, a hospital, and a heart-pounding bobsled run that stretched from Granite down the mountain to Phillipsburg, four miles away.
The mines eventually failed with the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893, which obliged the government to buy millions of ounces of silver every year. Silver’s price fell by about 25% in that year alone, and it continued to fall in subsequent years, contributing to a bank run and record unemployment rates. When Mae Werning, the town’s last surviving resident, died in 1969, Granite officially became a ghost town.
Granite now consists of a few buildings that line the main street, as well as the enormous structure that once housed the mine. Along the trip, signs provide some basic information but not much context. The Miner’s Union Hall, which was built in 1890, is the best-preserved structure in town. Granite, like a number of other ghost towns across the state, has been declared a state park for educational and preservation purposes.
Thanks to its State Park status, Granite is one of the easier abandoned places in Montana to find and explore.
3. Elkhorn Ghost Town
Silver fever came to Montana in the late 1800s, after significant silver deposits were discovered in the state properly termed Treasure State, and many tiny villages rose up around the mines. Elkhorn, built in 1872 in central Montana, was one such silver mining community. Elkhorn was a family town with roughly 2,500 persons at its peak, and it had all of the typical Western boom town amenities: a school, hotel, church, and saloon.
Around the turn of the century, the town began to collapse as silver prices decreased and a diphtheria epidemic cruelly killed many of the area’s youngsters. Only a few residents survived into the twenty-first century after it was abandoned in the 1970s. The ghost town is now Montana’s smallest state park, and what’s left of Elkhorn is in various stages of restoration.
Gillian Hall and Fraternity Hall, the town’s primary gathering venues, are relatively well-preserved and open for exploration. The original fixtures were kept in place, exactly as they had been over a century earlier. Other structures are collapsing or being boarded up, leaving tourists to wonder what happened within them.
While there are many abandoned places in Montana, Elkhorn is by far my favorite ghost with plenty to see and shoot!
4. First State Bank
Buffalo is a Montana unincorporated settlement in Fergus County. Buildings from failing enterprises from the 1920s and 1930s can still be seen. The former First State Bank in Buffalo, Montana is a well-known landmark. Hundreds of White Crosses had been personalized by friends and relatives along the highway over the years.
When grain prices plummeted and drought struck eastern and central Montana in the 1920s, Montana’s banking institutions were among the first to go. Between 1920 and 1925, more than half of the state’s banks failed. In 1953, the Montana American Legion launched the White Cross Highway Fatality Marker Program.
Aside from the deteriorating “First State Bank of Buffalo,” another notable landmark is the Buffalo School, which was built in 1927. The architectural design of the school is reminiscent of an old grade school in Vananda, Montana.
Like many abandoned places in Montana, there’s a lot more to see in Buffalo than just the bank. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled on the way into town for old abandoned homes and deserted vehicles.
5. Coolidge Ghost Town
The settlement of Coolidge had begun to grow as early as 1919, and work on the mine tunnel had commenced. The town was reported to be named after Allen’s buddy Calvin Coolidge. The future President was said to be a shareholder in the Boston-Montana Development Corporation.
In October 1918, the school district was created as more people moved to Coolidge. In January of 1922, a post office was opened. During the winter, residents were entertained at the pool hall or by skiing and sledding. By 1922, the community had both telephone and electric service, thanks to a power line that ran from Divide to Coolidge.
The national economy had taken a downturn by the time the mine tunnel and operation were ready to launch, and silver prices had plunged. A Montana Power Company dam failed in 1927, causing the Boston-Montana Railroad to be flooded for twelve miles and numerous bridges underway. The school district was closed, and the post office was discontinued in 1932, with mail being delivered to Wise River.
Coolidge, which formerly included a school, post office, company store, pool hall, corporate offices, residential quarters, and 350 residents, is now deafeningly quiet. The sound of the wind whistling through the thick trees and the boards groaning on the crumbling old buildings can be heard. Rusted mounds of leftover equipment from Montana’s silver mining history can also be found here and there.
If you plan to visit Coolidge, make sure you’re visiting during the summer and take an offroad vehicle. The roads can get rough and aren’t maintained like some of the more popular abandoned places in Montana.
6. Old Montana Prison
In unincorporated Powell County, Montana, the Montana State Prison is a men’s correctional facility run by the Montana Department of Corrections. The current facility was built between 1974 and 1979 as a result of the former structure’s continuous degradation in downtown Deer Lodge.
From its inception in 1871 until Montana’s independence in 1889, the “Old Prison” functioned as the Montana Territorial Prison. Throughout its existence, the jail has been plagued by chronic overcrowding, a lack of money, and outdated amenities.
Until a dramatic revolt in 1959, the institution had been plagued by degeneration, mismanagement, and financial constraints for nearly four decades. The revolt, which was led by Jerry Myles and Lee Smart, kept the jail under inmate control for 36 hours before the Montana National Guard invaded the facility to restore order.
In September 1979, the facility was closed, and the convicts were transferred to the current prison. The Old Prison, which is now a museum, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. You may go around the austere cell blocks and feel the chills of maximum-security cells in the enclosed courtyard where the criminals exercised. The last inmates were transferred out in 1979, and the facility was then offered to the public.
The Old Montana Prison is one of my favorite legal abandoned places in Montana to explore, as the tours are very casual and allow you to take photos at your own pace.
7. Saint Marie Military Ghost Town
St. Marie is in Valley County, close to Glasgow. The Glasgow Air Force Base is its most well-known site. Thousands of military troops and their families once called St. Marie home. The population fell after the base was permanently deactivated in 1976. Gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores are all unavailable. Although it is still home to 264 people (as of 2010).
Beginning in 2012, an anti-government organization affiliated with the Sovereign Citizen movement attempted to seize control of the neighborhood by purchasing and seizing a large number of primarily abandoned properties using fictitious liens and litigation. After years of public outcry and a legal battle with the government, St. Marie is once again a glorified ghost town.
The community is mostly made up of abandoned houses nowadays. It’s a bit like stepping into the Twilight Zone. When you stroll through this abandoned village, it’s tough not to feel a little uneasy. Despite many buildings being abandoned, there is a small military presence nearby.
8. Garnet Ghost Town
Garnet is a historic mining ghost town in west-central Montana that stands near the head of First Chance Creek at an elevation of roughly 6,000 feet. It was named after the brown garnet rock found in the vicinity, which was utilized as an abrasive and semi-precious stone.
The town was founded in 1895. Placer gold was discovered in the First Chance Gulch in 1865, and placer miners were active in the area as early as the 1860s. Garnet did not become a boomtown until 1898, when an abundance of gold was discovered at the Nancy Hanks Mine. Hotels, saloons, businesses, a school, a Chinese laundry, and barbershops were all there.
Nearly half of the town was destroyed by fire in 1912, and it was never rebuilt. The Garnet Preservation Project began restoration work in 1970. The Nancy Hank mine was attempted to be pumped out in the 1950s. The mine was judged dead and unprofitable by the Montana School of Mines in 1960.
A Visitor Center, informative signage, and self-guided paths, as well as books, cards, and other souvenirs, are available to visitors at the ghost town. Garnet provides a fantastic ghost town feel that is free of commercialism. Garnet is one of the more unique abandoned places in Montana, as the preservation efforts have left many of the homes just as they were hundreds of years ago.
9. Aldridge Ghost Town
Aldridge is a ghost town located in Park County, Montana. The town was founded as Aldridge in 1906, but it had previously been known as Horr and Electric. By June 1895, much of the mining activity at Horr had shifted to the lake, forming the “Camp at the Lake.” Horr’s mines were closed in 1897, and all mining operations were concentrated in Aldridge. In comparison to other mines in the vicinity, the Aldridge mines were quite safe. There was only one recorded accident on the site during the mine’s operation history. In Aldridge, the Montana Coal and Coke Company was at full capacity in 1901.
In Aldridge, the Montana Coal and Coke Company was at full capacity in 1901. Horr was renamed Electric in 1904 as a result of the power station that was built on the townsite. The Montana Coal and Coke Company was sentenced to pay over $100,000 in fines in 1910. All of Aldridge’s mining activities were forced to close due to this debt. Aldridge became a ghost town after the mines closed.
Although there is no active mining in the area now, there are still plenty of coal resources. Some of Aldridge’s structures have been demolished or relocated, while the others lie in ruins. Aldridge isn’t the most exciting of the abandoned places in Montana, but is still worth checking out if you’re nearby.
10. Wickes Tunnel
The tunnel’s construction began in 1887. Crews worked on both ends of the project. Portal was the name of the north end, and Amazon was the name of the south end. With a length of 6,145 feet, the tunnel was the longest railroad tunnel in Montana at the time of its construction. On October 24, 1888, the first train passed through the tunnel.
The wide wooden doors at each end were added to keep snowdrifts out and warm air in during the winter. Every time a train passed through, these doors had to be opened and then closed again. The tunnel is also known as the Boulder Tunnel or the Amazing Amazon Railroad Tunnel.
Both ends of the tunnel have enormous wooden doors that can still be seen today. The doors were once kept shut in the winter to keep snowdrifts out and warm air in. During the winter, water pours through fractures in the Wickes Tunnel near Boulder, Montana, and freezes. During the winter, the tunnel transforms into a magnificent ice cave.
Like many abandoned places in Montana, Wickes Tunnel can be tough to reach during rough weather and snowy seasons.
11. Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns
The Canyon Creek charcoal kilns were built in the mid-1880s to supply fuel for the nearby Glendale silver smelter, which is now a scenic ghost town. Glendale was one of Montana’s major silver and lead mining locations in the 1880s and 1890s.
The majority of the woodcutters at the Canyon Creek kilns were most likely Canadian or French Canadian, while nearly all of the charcoal burners were Italian. Many Italians were reportedly recruited directly from Italy to work in the Glendale area, according to local legend. Workers would load the kilns with perfectly placed heaps of pine logs from nearby forests, then burn the logs for days on end with very little oxygen.
Glendale’s fortunes swiftly plummeted in the 1890s, despite its appearance on the map of Montana’s top towns in 1892. Mines were depleted, the smelter shut down in 1900, and major mining ceased in 1903.
The smelting stack and a few derelict buildings are all that’s left of Canyon Creek today. Along Canyon Creek Road, approximately five miles beyond Glendale, are the historic beehive charcoal kilns. While there isn’t a whole lot left other than the kilns, they’re incredibly well preserved and are fun to shoot, especially at sunset.
12. Saint Peter’s Mission
The St. Peter’s Mission Church and Cemetery is a historic Roman Catholic mission that is also known as St. Peter’s Mission and St. Peter’s-By-the-Rock. A wooden church and “opera house,” as well as a cemetery, make up the historic site. The Society of Jesus (commonly known as the Jesuits), a Catholic religious order, started Mission in the 1860s. In October 1884, Ursuline sisters arrived and in 1885, a girls’ school was established.
In the same year, a post office was established at the mission, and farming and cattle ranching began. In 1887, a four-story stone school/dormitory for boys, as well as a three-story wooden priests’ home, were built. In 1892, a four-story convent and girls’ school were completed.
The Jesuits left St. Peter’s Mission in 1898 due to changes in federal funding for Native American parochial schools. In January 1908, the boys’ school, priests’ apartment, one-story chapel expansion, and other outbuildings were all destroyed by fire. The Ursulines closed the boys’ school and redirected their educational efforts to Great Falls, Montana, a nearby town. St. Peter’s continued to educate females until November 1918, when the girls’ school burned down. In 1938, the mission was abandoned, and the post office was shuttered.
The foundations of previous structures make up the majority of what remains of St. Peter’s Mission, and many of these are decaying or in terrible disrepair. The remains of the boys’ school and dormitories can be found on the edge of a wooded area. A piece of some stone walls with windows and doorways has survived.
The ruins of St. Peter’s Mission are a lot more accessible than other abandoned places in Montana. Simply park on the side of the road when the ruins come into view.
Go out and explore!
That concludes our list of abandoned places in Montana, but that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to find. Take the back roads, follow train tracks, and find some places for yourself. There are plenty of places I kept off this list so get out there and explore.