Love History? These Most Historic Places in MT are Bucket List Worthy
Montana is easily one of the most beautiful places in Montana, but did you know it’s also brimming with history? From pioneers and mining ghost towns to ancient artifacts and ecological wonders, Montana is a great place to visit for history buffs.
Here are ten of the most historic places to visit in Montana. Make sure to add them to your Montana travel itinerary!
Virginia City / Nevada City
Virginia City is like a living ghost town. This unique town near Philipsburg has a Main Street lined by lovingly restored buildings from the town’s gold rush era. Within these buildings are displays teaching you about the bygone mining era mixed in with modern day restaurants and shops. Main Street is even home to Montana’s oldest bar, the Hay Bale Saloon.
Just a couple minutes up the road from Virginia City is Nevada City, which is a true ghost town with dilapidated buildings from the 1880s that you can walk around.
Helena Trolley Tour
Helena became the capital city of Montana in 1875. It has a storied history both from a political and gold mining perspective.
One of the best ways to learn about the history of Montana’s capital city is on the Helena Trolley Tour. It takes you through some of the most historic parts of Helena, including the Capitol, Cathedral of St. Helena, the downtown Walking Mall, and Reeder’s Alley.
Read More: How to Have an Epic Trip to Helena
Butte Mining Past
Butte was once dubbed the richest hill on earth. At the turn of the century, this busy mining town for copper made a handful of men (dubbed Montana’s “Copper Kings”) very rich. You can tour the former mansions of these copper kings while in Butte.
Also, head up the hill for a look at old mining equipment and to see the memorial for one of the worst mining disasters in US history.
Read More: Top Things to Do in Butte, MT
A visit to Montana is incomplete for any history buff if your itinerary doesn’t include a visit to Fort Benton, a small town next to the Missouri River that is considered the birthplace of Montana.
Fort Benton was a major fur trading post along the river in the 1800s. To learn more about the town’s history, visit the reconstructed fort, which is connected to the oldest still-standing building in Montana.
Also, walk along the river path stretching alongside Main Street and read the many informational signs about Fort Benton’s history. A stop (or overnight stay!) in the lobby of the lovely Grand Union Hotel is also a must.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Fort Benton
The beautiful town of Stevensville in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley could give Benton’s tagline a run for its money since it’s known as the place where Montana began due to its early settlers.
The best place to learn more about these early pioneers is at St. Mary’s Mission, which has informational signs and displays around its property.
The church is also adjacent to a small museum where you can learn more about pioneer life in western Montana and the relationships between the early settlers of Stevensville and Native Americans.
It’s time to go way back in history — all the way to the Jurassic period. And Glendive is where you’ll want to experience that since Glendive is a prominent stop along Montana’s Dinosaur Trail.
Glendive is right next to Makoshika State Park where many of the world’s most acclaimed dinosaur fossils were discovered. Dinosaur bones unearthed around Glendive are displayed in museums all around the country, including right in Glendive at the Frontier Gateway Museum.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Glendive, MT
Bannack Ghost Town
This is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the entire country and is often called the best ghost town in Montana.
Bannack Ghost Town was once a bustling mining town in the later half of the 19th century. The town had a hotel, church, bars, and more signs of a thriving town. But when the mines dried up, the population of the town quickly left. Homes and buildings were left to decay slowly in the decades that followed.
Many of the buildings can be walked around, including the rumored-to-be-haunted Hotel Meade, which has had many ghostly reports over the years.
Pictograph Cave State Park
Just a short drive outside the city limits of Billings is Pictograph Cave State Park. This park is small but impressive thanks to its large cave that visitors can go in to see ancient drawings by indigenous tribes that lived in the area, some of which date back thousands of years.
Read More: Best Things to Do in Billings, MT
A must-see site in Southeast Montana is Pompeys Pillar, located right off I-94 about 30 minutes east of Billings.
Pompeys Pillar is an important part of the Lewis and Clark Trail since it is the only known place where the signature of William Clark is found. You’ll have to climb a few flights of stairs to see the signature.
Back on level ground is a visitor center that has excellent hands-on exhibits and informational displays about the expedition, including interesting stories about Sacajawea and other native people Lewis and Clark interacted with along the way.
Yellowstone National Park
The National Parks are more historic than you might think, especially Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park and started the beloved institution.
Within Yellowstone’s borders are incredible displays of the earth’s history. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone slices through part of the park; it was created eons ago by an enormous volcano explosion that resulted in collapsing earth and the resulting caldera of the canyon.
In another section of the park are the famous geysers, including the incredible Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful, which has been erupting “faithfully” for at least 150 years.
So Much History is Waiting to Be Discovered in Montana
We think these are the most historical places in Montana. But wherever you end up on your trip through Montana, history is waiting. From the museums of Kalispell to the Carousel for Missoula to the hidden underground street in the small town of Havre and more, there is much to learn about and unearth in Montana.