Garnet Ghost Town, located about 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana in the Garnet Mountain Range, is one of the best preserved ghost towns in the U.S. This long abandoned mining town dates back to the 1860s and was named after the semi-precious ruby colored stone found in the area.
The town of Garnet was originally named Mitchell. Many buildings from a bygone era remain intact.
Miners left California and Colorado when the mining died out there and headed for Montana. They brought their families to Garnet hoping to become rich by mining for gold.
In 1898 there were almost 1,000 people who lived in Garnet. At its peak, Garnet had 13 saloons, three hotels, three livery stables, two barbershops, food stores, a union hall, a school (with 41 students), a butcher shop, a candy shop, a doctor’s office, and a mercantile shop. There were also twenty mines that operated in the town.
The Frank A. Davey General Store still has remnants of the past – from boots to tools to skis to various other items.
Garnet went through several booms and busts over the years. By 1905, the town population decreased to 150 when the gold became scarcer and more difficult to find. Then in 1912 a fire in the town’s business district destroyed many of the commercial buildings, causing most of the remaining residents to move away. The town was never rebuilt.
J.K. Wells hotel was one of the three hotels that used to sleep passersby who came to Garnet looking for gold.
But when President Roosevelt increased the price of gold from $16 to $32 an ounce in 1934, a new wave of miners moved to Garnet, taking over the emptied buildings. Garnet eventually became a ghost town in the 1940s. Residents had simply abandoned their belongings in homes, hotels, and stores.
Traces of the people who once considered Garnet home.
Today Garnet Ghost Town receives around 16,000 visitors annually who come to appreciate the Montana history. The town is open all year round, but may only be accessible by skis or snowmobiles in the spring, fall and winter because of snow.
BLM park rangers and volunteers offer school tours to share the history of the town. Visitors can freely explore the town or hike on one of the three trails that meander through old mining operations, cabins, or a park built back in the day.
The $3 entrance fee is waived on Garnet Appreciation Day, the third Saturday of June.
Garnet Appreciation Day is a fun day for the entire family filled with history, gold panning, live music, huckleberry ice cream, and kids games.
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