All it takes is walking through an old wooden gate to step back in time when visiting Bannack State Park. The ghost towns of the west present an opportunity to escape from the modern world and the learning experience can be likened to reliving history. This Montana State Park is the home of one of the best preserved ghost towns in the entire west, so picturing exactly how things once were is easy to do in this place. Bannack is a ghost town like no other and for old wild west enthusiasts this destination belongs at the top of the list!
There are all kinds of ghost towns out west that range from a cheesy tourist trap loaded with all sorts of modern gimmicks to being a long gone abandoned settlement where only traces of the concrete building foundations remain. It is very rare to find a ghost town that actually has the original wooden buildings intact and it is even rarer to find such a thing in a harsh environment like Montana. Bannack is one of the few ghost towns that has old wooden buildings that are in good condition and visitors are encouraged to experience each historic town site inside and out.
A previous article describes the Bannack Cemetery and the Grasshopper Creek gold strike area. Both of these attractions are located just outside of Bannack and they are a good primer course for understanding the history of this town. The Bannack State Park Visitor Center is located just inside the gate to the old town Main Street area. Plenty of parking is available and the lot is big enough for RV trailers. The State Park Visitor Center is where entrance fees are paid and this is where the official guide books can be found. The self-guided tour books provide detailed information about each historic site in Bannack, which will greatly enhance the ghost town experience.
Bannack State Park is open year round, but the Visitor Center is only open for the peak tourist seasons when this region is not frozen over. For photographers that can brave the harsh Montana winter, Bannack offers an opportunity to capture one of a kind pristine winter photos of an old ghost town. Warm weather photos of old Bannack are something to be cherished too, so be sure to tote a good camera while touring this ghost town on foot.
Bannack State Park is a foot tour that can add up to a couple of miles, but the dirt road and sidewalks are smooth enough for those who have mobility challenges. Entering the old buildings is just like entering old houses, but there is no need to knock because nobody is home! The doors are unlocked and visitors are welcome to enter at will to take a look around inside. Each old historic building in Bannack has a story to tell, so be sure to set plenty of time aside for doing the grand tour.
The main street area is long and it goes all the way out to the ranch houses. There are some hillside buildings and old mining cabins to check out too. Some of the buildings have artifacts inside from the old town and the old saloon even has a piano waiting just beyond the swinging doors. Tables and chairs sit vacant by dusty windows waiting for someone to come home and the old brown wall paper is peeling off the plastered walls. There are fancy staircases and rooms that have not been booked for many years in the old hotel, which can be kind of creepy. As far as ghostly creepiness goes, the Masonic Temple School House definitely takes the cake, because this is a very eerie building to explore inside!
Bannack State Park is a good place to learn a little something about Montana history in person with a hands on experience. This State Park sponsors all sorts of summer and fall season guest activities from gold panning ventures to guided ghost walks, so it is best to look at the park event calendar when planning a tour. Nevada City and Virginia City are two more famous ghost towns nearby down the road, so a fulfilling old west tour can be done in this part of Montana. By far, old historic Bannack is the star of the show, so be sure to set plenty of time aside for touring this famous wild west ghost town!
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