The mid 1800s Montana Territory gold rush definitely was a boom to bust era and the old ghost towns are just about all that remains. Plenty of age old mining artifacts can be found in the mountains of western Montana and there is one particular place that showcases it all. Garnet is the destination to look for and this ghost town is lauded as being the best preserved old west mining camp in this region, so a trip here will not disappoint!
On the downside, the problem for some will be just getting there, because the high elevation mountain mining roads are tight and twisty. There are two main roads to Garnet Ghost Town and only the Cave Gulch route favors large vehicles, so doing some mapping research will be necessary before setting sail. Since I had a short wheelbase Jeep, taking the less favorable 4x4 travel route to Garnet was the way to go. The starting point for Bear Gulch Road can be found just off of I-90 next to the Missouri River Bear Gulch Fishing Access and the signage is easy to spot. Bear Gulch Road is a narrow bumpy dirt road with very few turnouts, so drivers of large vehicles like RV campers or trailer haulers are advised to take the easier Cave Gulch pathway, which is much smoother.
Bear Gulch Road first enters several miles of deep mountain forests before tackling some steep grades, then it passes through First Chance Gulch on the way to Garnet Ghost Town. A few old abandoned cabins and mining structures can be seen when approaching the ghost town recreation area, which are worth stopping to check out. Natural springs and old rusty water pipelines can be viewed along this dirt road too, so this bumpy narrow pathway to Garnet is far from disappointing.
Upon arrival, there is plenty of parking space to be found in the hilltop Garnet day use recreation area. The fee station offers brochures with trail maps and there are several information placards on site. This recreation area is fully developed with basic facilities, picnic tables and chargrill pits, while the tall pines provide plenty of shade for relaxation. There are all sorts of rusty old industrial mining equipment to be discovered around the grounds and the old town of Garnet is right next door.
From a distance, Garnet Ghost Town certainly is a pretty sight to see. This small community is nestled in a forest clearing and most of the old buildings still stand tall. The rough hewn lumber and timber is in such good condition that it is difficult to believe Garnet is over 100 years old. One old building serves as a visitor center, gift shop and museum all wrapped up in one package, so this is the best place to start the ghost town tour. Wandering around this old mining camp certainly will open a window to the past and the rustic mountain man lifestyle will fascinate visitors of all ages. As can be imagined, an entire day can be spent exploring Garnet Ghost Town, so be sure to set plenty of time aside for the adventure!
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