Butte, America and Beyond!
Hub and Spoke Tour - Butte
Hub: Butte, MT (Gold West Country) Spokes: Western and mining history, museums and galleries, charming towns and restored camps, caverns and capitals
DESTINATIONS (CITIES) VISITED: Butte, Deer Lodge, Bozeman, Helena, Virginia City and Nevada City Add A Day options: Philipsburg, Anaconda and the Big Hole National Battlefield
ITINERARY: Arrival into and departure from Butte, via air or at the crossroads of I-15 and I-90.
Begin your day on the Butte Trolley, a comprehensive tour via streetcar of the "Richest Hill on Earth." From there, visit the 34-room Copper King Mansion to see for yourself what mining could build. Then move on to the free Mineral Museum, where approximately 1,300 mineral specimens from around the world are on display. After a lunch break, take a walking tour of the World Museum of Mining and Hell Roarin' Gulch, a restored mining camp. While on site, the Orphan Girl mine tour takes you 65 feet below ground where visitors can see and hear how mining was done and touch the tunneled rock. End your day dining on a pasty, traditional food of the Irish miners, noodles at the Peking Noodle Parlor or in a historic uptown restaurant.
Head east on I-90 to Bozeman, where the Museum of the Rockies displays dinosaurs unearthed in Montana, Montana's homesteading and Native American history. The Museum also offers an excellent planetarium show. Stretch your legs on an easy walking tour of the South Wilson Historic District or wander the charming shops and galleries of historic downtown. After lunch, begin your return trip to Butte. Along the route, stop briefly at the Missouri Headwaters State Park for a view of the beginning of the "mighty Mo." Continue on to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park for a guided walkthrough of some fascinating limestone caverns before ending in Butte for an evening of relaxation.
Head west along I-90 to Deer Lodge. Here, tour the Old Montana Prison complex, home to the Powell County Museum, Frontier Montana Museum, Yesterday's Playthings and the former Territorial Prison. The gray sandstone walls of this immense structure are 24 feet high and buried 4 feet deep to prevent escape by tunneling. Next door, view the transition from the carriage to the car and the effect the automobile has on our lives at the Montana Auto Museum, home to over 110 vintage cars. After lunch, visit the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, an early cattle empire whose home ranch covered 25,000 acres and controlled more than a million acres in surrounding states. Today, operated by the National Park Service, tours and ranch life illustrate the development of the Northern Plains cattle industry from the 1850's to recent times. On the weekends, head to Anaconda, to board the Copper King Express, a scenic train ride through canyons and along rivers for a ride into history.
Drive north along I-15 to Helena, Montana's state capital. First, take a ride on the Last Chance Tour Train (trolley) for a comprehensive tour of Helena, sampling some of the Queen City's history and beauty. Later, choose from other area attractions such as the Montana Historical Society, the Original Governor's Mansion, the pedestrian mall on Last Chance Gulch or a tour of the Capitol building. After lunch, travel 16 miles north of Helena to the Gates of the Mountains and board a scenic cruiser for a tour of this spectacular canyon on the Missouri River. In 1805, Meriwether Lewis, of the Corp of Discovery, wrote "I shall call this place: Gates of the Mountains" because of its towering limestone cliffs you'll see first-hand.
Leave Butte's copper mining sites for Virginia City and Nevada City, two gold rush towns that have been authentically restored. Spend several hours touring these late 1800's gold rush towns, either by foot, stagecoach or fire engine. Wander the boardwalks peering into history, browse for gifts or enjoy a brew or ice cream cone in Virginia City. If time allows, take the Alder Gulch Short Line, which connects these two towns for a step back in time. In the evening, take in a play at the Opera House or a 19th century melodrama. Each weekend in the summer, see the past come alive during the Living History Days in Nevada City. Retrace your "steps" back to Butte for a different perspective on some outstanding scenery.
Add A Day Options:
Philipsburg & Anaconda
Take a day to explore the delightful towns of Philipsburg and Anaconda. Take I-90 north to Drummond where you'll proceed on MT Hwy 1 to Philipsburg, one of the nation's "Prettiest Painted Places." It's a great place to stretch your legs as you amble through antique stores and the Montana Ghost Town Hall of Fame, feed your sweet tooth or search for sapphires. After lunch, continue on MT Hwy 1 and the Pintler Scenic Route along the shores of Georgetown Lake and through national forests. In Anaconda, check out the courthouse, which was designed to be the state capitol, the Anaconda Smelter Stack State Park, one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world or the extravagant movie palace, the Washoe Theater (by appointment or movie) with its Art Deco furnishings, murals and ornamentation in silver, copper and gold leaf. On weekends, board the Copper King Express, based in Anaconda, and enjoy a scenic train ride through canyons and along rivers for a ride into history.
Big Hole National Battlefield, near Wisdom
Spend a day, reflecting on the past and the conflict between Nez Perce Indians and the U.S. Army. At the Big Hole National Battlefield, one stop along the Nez Perce National Historical Park, the park's visitor center offers museum exhibits, a film providing an introduction to the Nez Perce War of 1877 and the tragedy that took place here and an observation deck with audio program. Self-guided tours take visitors to many points on the Battlefield while a short drive to parking area connects with foot trails to the Nez Perce Camp, the Siege Area, and the Howitzer Capture site.
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