When we were planning a trip to northwestern Montana, I spotted Garnet Ghost Town on my decades-old road atlas and we decided to route our trip so that we could stop. I’m so glad we did! This is by far the best-preserved ghost town I’ve visited, and a great historical hike.
Garnet, Montana is named for the semi-precious ruby-colored stone found in the area, but miners came for the gold-bearing quartz in the surrounding mountains. Garnet hit its heyday at the end of the 1800s when almost 1,000 people called it home. In the heart of the Garnet Mountains, the townspeople were mostly miners and those whose businesses supported the miners.
Walking through the ruins of Garnet gives you a great glimpse into what life was like in the late 1800s. The town boasted of a school, several saloons, bawdy houses, four stores, three livery stables, two barber shops, a butcher shop, a candy shop, and four hotels. Several structures, as well as cabins, are still intact and feature interpretive displays for a self-guided walk through history.
As the gold ran out, the miners began to move away. When a fire destroyed parts of the business district, it chased away most of the remaining townspeople. By the 1940s, Garnet was a ghost town.
A local historic organization charges a small fee to keep up the exhibits and the buildings. You can walk around the ghost town, and some buildings are open for you to view what life was like in the late 1800s.
This was well worth the stop, and we netted around a mile and a half during our hour-long stop.