“one of America's best-preserved ghost towns”
Garnet Ghost Town is one of America's most authentic and intact ghost towns. Sure, some people say it's haunted, but c'mon what ghost town isn't?! The mountain town of Garnet was on the up-and-up throughout the 19th century, gold and silver were discovered in the area and the place was a veritable boomtown. Until, it all came crashing down in the 1940s, and Garnet went belly up.
These days, the only souls wandering around Garnet are tourists and volunteers selected by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management who are tasked with upkeep, providing tours, and selling souvenirs. These volunteers are also pretty well-rewarded for their duties. A volunteer at Garnet Ghost Town gets to live in a fully-furnished cabin, is allowed a food stipend, and a modest paycheck (so, yeah, it's not COMPLETE volunteering, but it's a very meager paycheck). What volunteers don't get is WiFi, electricity, or running water.
According to The Montana Standard:
"The positions typically last a month or more at the remote mining village east of Missoula in the Garnet Mountains. In the past, one volunteer from Buffalo, New York, spent 11 consecutive summers at Garnet, while another couple made it their summer plan for a decade. This year, however, the calendar is open for the months of August and September."
If you're interested in volunteering, you'll want to contact Gainan at the BLM Missoula Field Office at (406) 329-3735 or email email@example.com to get an application for next year. For more information on Garnet's history: blm.gov/j5ld. - Roadtrippers More about Garnet: Garnet is located in west central Montana and sits at an elevation of about 6,000 feet at the head of First Chance Creek. It was named after the brown garnet rock which was used as an abrasive and a semi-precious stone found in the area. The town dates back to 1895 and is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the Garnet Preservation Association, a non-profit citizens group. More than 30 buildings have been preserved. Visitors to the ghost town will find a Visitor Center, interpretive signs and self-guided trails, as well as books, cards and other memorabilia. Leashed pets are permitted. The town is open to visitors all year. The road is closed to wheeled vehicles from January 1st to April 30th. In winter Garnet is a popular snowmobile and cross-country ski trip. Winter cabin rentals are available.
Garnet offers a wonderful ghost town experience without commercialization. The town never had a bonanza strike but still serves as one of Montana's most impressive ghost towns. Some miners still persist and are convinced its day will come.
In 1912 nearly half the town burned down and was never rebuilt. Restoration work began in 1970 by the Garnet Preservation Project. The public donated $90,000 worth of artifacts. The structures being restored include the J.R. Wells Hotel, Dahl's Saloon, Kelly's Bar, and the F.A. Davey's Store. Today visitors can walk through town and wander into several of the buildings.
There were about fifty mines in the area. Placer miners were active in the area as early as the 1860s and placer gold was found in the First Chance Gulch in 1865, most of which was recovered by drift diggings. It wasn't until an abundance of gold was discovered at the Nancy Hanks Mine in 1898 that Garnet became a boomtown. It then became a host to nearly 1,000 people. There were hotels, saloons, stores, a school, a Chinese laundry and barbershops but by 1950 the town was deserted.
Many millions in gold were taken from the Garnet area from 1862 to 1916. In 1867 the mother lode was discovered, it contained three main veins, and several pockets of rich ore. The largest boom came in the 1890s when the mining companies came and consolidated the best properties.
The richest mine was the Nancy Hanks, which produced $690,000 in the peak year of 1896. Garnet then had seven saloons, three hotels, and a daily stage between Bearmouth and Coloma. The Nancy Hank mine continued to work, on and off, until 1954. Between the years of 1897 and 1917 $950,000 had been produced, 95% of which was gold, the remaining was copper and silver. During the 1950s efforts were made to pump out the Nancy Hank mine. By 1960 the Montana School of Mines declared the mine dead, unprofitable.
It's a bit off the beaten path, but it's a road worth traveling that yields fair reward. I had intended to spare a couple hours of a cross country road trip here and instead spent an afternoon basking in the history and stories that the staff had to share. The hotel itself is worth a visit if photography is your goal (especially since they permit you to enter and have a fair bit of furnishings), and other opportunities lie within the wildflowers scattered about the grass between the remaining structures and local wildlife. Simply put: it's worth every effort it takes to get here. It's been six months since my visit and I am still ordering various books that share the history of Garnet, eager for my next opportunity to return. The only advice I have to offer is, don't repeat my mistake if you're driving a sedan: I was told that it was an easy trek from I-90, it is not. Spare yourself and plan to come in from the highway 200 entrance.
I loved this place!! We came up from 200. It was an AWESOME place to hike around for a few hours on our road trip. However, we left taking the !-90 route. After creeping down the super thin rocky unpaved road with no guardrails in my 97 Le Saber and crying the entire way down while looking at the mile drop to my side, I don't think I'll be going there again by way of that road. OMG. If you or your loved ones are scared of heights do not take this road. Get there off 200...leave there off 200. I did find out that they actually rent some of these cabins out to snowmobilers in the winter for less than $50 a night. Great deal! I'm sure that road is a lot less scary via snow mobile. I'd do it.
Here is the coordinates for this place N46° 49.608' W113° 20.179 DO NOT use I90 entrance unless you have all wheel drive vehicle, even that is a nerve racking route! Use Hwy 200, a lot easy to drive, we wish we found the route when we driving there.
This was an afternoon stop on a cross country road trip. The trek up is quite beautiful if you come up from 90. You'll be on a windy, dirt road for at least 30 minutes before you emerge in this abandoned mining town. The staff at the visitor center is a sweet, couple from the area. They are knowledge and super friendly. You can walk into most of the buildings and really see how everything was left after the town was abandoned. I suggest bringing some food with you for a picnic or lunch. At the top of the hill there are picnic tables and a nice rest area. They even have one of the houses open in the winter for rent for $30 a night. Carry in and carry out, but that would be a pretty special stay for anyone interested. A great place to visit.
Worth the trip out. There's a $3 per person donation. This is the most intact ghost town that I've come across.
Made it to milepost 9 in early April but snow/ice stopped us there. Good luck, drive safe.
I loved this place. I would recommend it to anyone who is in the area. Well worth the drive & the views were amazing.
What an awesome place to explore! We spent several hours here walking the town and mine trail. Take 200 for sure and don't follow directions via iPhone nav, it wanted us to turn down a dirt trail. We have a Class C rv and although the road was washboard rough at places, it was well worth it. Took us about an hour up and back traveling from 200, as we went slooow. But don't let it stop you. Such a cool place!!! I could have spent several more hours.
This was a great experience. Way way way way way off the beaten path but totally worth the drive to the tippy top of the mountain. We took the back way back to I90 (not 200) and my wife was nervous the entire way down as this is mostly a logging road and most was only wide enough for one car. We met two cars going down and was not an issue getting around. I had a blast driving down the mountain that way but we have an Envoy. I would not recommend that route if you are in a car. All in all we are so glad we stopped here and grabbed a couple t-shirts from the gift shop to remember the trip by.
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Garnet Ghost Town
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