28 Amazing Hidden Gems in Montana

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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A huge landlocked state in the northwestern area of the USA, Montana is the county’s fourth-biggest state. Known for its dramatic mountains, exciting wildlife, and abundant ways to get back to nature, Montana appears near the bottom of lists that detail the most densely populated states and the most populous states. That means there’s a lot of land mass with relatively few people to get in the way of your awesomely scenic pictures!

The majority of the state’s counties are classed as frontier counties. In some areas, there’s more chance of encountering a powerful bird of prey, herds of moose, sheep, deer, or elk, muscular bears, or swift coyotes than there are of seeing people.

One of the nation’s nine Mountain States, Montana shares borders with North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Idaho, as well as with the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Columbia, and Saskatchewan.

The earliest inhabitants were the Plains Indians, and there are still seven Indian reservations throughout the state. Many areas are considered sacred by indigenous groups.

Montana has more different types of mammal than any other state in the US. Another fun fact is that a beautiful sapphire from the state is the only gem from North America to be part of the magnificent English Crown Jewels. Even the UK wants a (literal) piece of Montana!

Named after the Spanish word for mountain, some of the state’s famous treasures include sections of Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, rolling prairies, the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, and the Museum of the Rockies. There are good reasons why state nicknames include The Last Best Place and The Treasure State!

There is something to do no matter the season, with plentiful outdoor activities and adventures to enjoy. Drive along deserted highways, explore remote and dramatic places of natural wonder, feel at one with the mountains, discover cultural sites, and get well and truly off the beaten path as you travel around Montana.

Covering more than 147,000 square miles, the state has many secrets just waiting to be found. Here are some of the best hidden gems in Montana to fuel your inner explorer:

1. Jim’s Horn House, Three Forks

Jim’s Horn House, Three ForksSource: Candace Schott / Facebook
Jim’s Horn House, Three Forks

Kicking off the list of Montana’s secret gems is a privately owned collection of antlers, gathered over 60 years by a local man, Jim Phillips, from Three Forks. You will need to ask politely to be given permission into the shed where he keeps his astounding collection; contact him in advance, don’t just show up at his home unannounced!

If you do manage to gain access to his treasure trove you will see more than 15,000 lost antlers displayed in his shed. Antlers have fascinated Mr. Phillips since he was a young boy, and he started journeying into the woods and backcountry at the tender age of ten years old to collect antlers that had become detached from their animal owners.

None of the majestic antlers have been purchased; Jim Phillips preferred to grow his collection naturally, keeping a keen eye open for stray horns and foraging in the wild. Additionally, he doesn’t hunt actual animals—only antlers that have already been shed by moose, deer, antelope, elk, and the like.

It’s little wonder that Mr. Phillips has come to be known in local circles as The Antler Man!

2. St. Ignatius Mission, St. Ignatius

St. Ignatius Mission, St. IgnatiusSource: Marty Nelson / shutterstock
St. Ignatius Mission, St. Ignatius

Built in the early 1890s, St. Ignatius Mission is located at the site of an older catholic mission that was established in the 1850s. As well as being steeped in history, the still-active church is also a visual delight.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the clay-brick church was built in a Gothic revival style. While attractive from the outside, boasting a 100-foot-tall bell tower, it’s the interiors that really make this Christian place of worship so appealing.

Step through the doors and you’ll be wowed by the sight of more than 50 stunning murals. Detailed and colourful, perhaps even more impressive is that the pictures were created by not an artist, but by one of the mission’s cooks.

Brother Joseph Carignano wasn’t just a whizz in the kitchen; he was also highly talented with a paintbrush. The gorgeous scenes show various events from throughout Christ’s life, embellishing the ceilings and walls, with the coloured-glass windows adding even more vibrancy to the interiors.

3. Boiling River, Yellowstone National Park

Boiling River, Yellowstone National ParkSource: Colton Stiffler / shutterstock
Boiling River, Yellowstone National Park

Located in Montana’s section of the amazing Yellowstone National Park, many visitors to the world’s first national park totally miss this little hidden gem. While you may in a dash to see more famous places in the expansive park, like Old Faithful and the Grand Prismatic Spring, the Boiling River is another natural wonder that is sure to impress.

Within easy reach of the park’s northern entrance, the Boiling River combines hot water from the geothermally heated waters of Mammoth Hot Springs and a cold flow from the Gardner River. The result is a warm river that is hot enough to soothe and delight yet cool enough to make bathing not only possible but pleasurable.

Stepping into the river is like easing yourself into a large hot tub, only with much more scenic vistas and a feeling of truly being connecting with nature. You’ll need to hike for about half a mile to reach the bathing spot but the inviting waters will make the effort more than worthwhile.

4. Beartooth Mountains

Beartooth MountainsSource: Byan V Egner / shutterstock
Beartooth Mountains

The Beartooth Mountains are a small mountain range in the southern part of central Montana. The lesser-visited alpine paradise boasts scenes of jaw-dropping natural and rugged beauty. You definitely want to make sure that your camera batteries are fully charged for a trip here!

Found within the huge Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the mountains feature many jagged peaks, challenging trails, and pristine lakes. You can also feast your eyes on the state’s highest peak: the 12,807-foot-tall Granite Peak.

The remote region wasn’t truly explored until the 1870s. The valleys had, however, long been used by Native American groups for hunting and taking shelter in the windy winter months. Home to around 400 plant species and a large number of diverse animals, the mountain range is one of the most biologically varied mountain groups in the country.

Soaring natural walls and pinnacles of jagged granite reflect in the sparkling waters of the lakes, with patches of verdant foliage contrasting against the deep blue hues of the water and sky. Every turn yields more glorious views. There are various trails throughout the remote mountains; set forth and discover.

5. Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, Arlee

Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, ArleeSource: Patrick Ryan / shutterstock
Garden Of One Thousand Buddhas, Arlee

As if the spectacular nature and revered Native American grounds aren’t enough to make you feel truly Zen, the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas is almost certain to give you a spiritual experience. Looking more like something you’d expect to find far away in Asia than in the US state of Montana, the unusual garden has been pleasing the public since the start of the present millennium.

The garden aims to spread the teachings and ideals of Buddhism, such as compassion, wisdom, forbearance, tolerance, and joy, in Montana.

Although the park is still working on reaching its target of 1,000 Buddha statues, it is still an aesthetically pleasing garden with a good array of Buddha images in various poses and a tranquil aura that is great for meditation and contemplation.

Covering ten acres of land, statues are arranged in a traditional wheel-like formation, a pattern that represents the cycle of birth, life, death, re-birth, according to Buddhist principles. Arranged around a towering statue of Yum Chenmo, a central figure in Tibetan Buddhism, you can also see numerous small pagodas.

6. Sand Creek Clydesdales Ranch, Jordan

Sand Creek Clydesdales Ranch, JordanSource: Sand Creek Clydesdales Ranch Vacations / Facebook
Sand Creek Clydesdales Ranch, Jordan

A tranquil place to stay in the countryside of Jordan (the cowboy-country town in Montana, not the Middle Eastern country), Sand Creek Clydesdales Ranch is a great place for anyone who wants to get away from the world for a few days.

The road leading to the property sets the scene for things to come, with cow-filled pastures and plenty of wildlife all around. The atmosphere of the old west is still very much alive in this neck of the woods, and exploring the beautiful terrain by horseback is an ideal way to have fun, discover, and live a little of the local heritage.

The friendly family that owns the property will let you accompany them as they perform their day-to-day tasks around the working ranch if you so desire. In addition to the cattle, horses, and donkeys that call the ranch home you may spot wild prairie dogs, foxes, deer, turkeys, and rabbits.

The comfortable wooden cabin gives you self-catering freedom, with its well-equipped kitchen, and plenty of privacy.

7. The American Computer & Robotics Museum, Bozeman

The American Computer & Robotics Museum, BozemanSource: EQRoy / shutterstock
The American Computer & Robotics Museum, Bozeman

Often referred to by its previous name of The American Computer Museum, Bozeman’s American Computer & Robotics Museum is a top place for any tech geeks and computer nerds. It’s also interesting for anyone that likes to see how so much has developed in the computing field over the years. There are plenty of quirky and rare exhibits too that will pique your curiosity.

The award-winning museum often slides off people’s to-do lists when they are distracted by other attractions and activities. Don’t let that happen to you!

Tracing the history of computing, robotics, communications, and artificial intelligence, the museum first opened its doors in 1990. It contains a huge assortment of artefacts and seeks to display, preserve, and educate about the age of information.

Permanent exhibitions include PCs and Video Games, Brains and Thinking Machines, which looks at AI, automation, and robots, The Apple 1 & the Altair, which tells the Apple story, and Wired & Wireless Communications with its assortment of old phones, TVs, radios, and similar.

The Age of American Optimism and 1,700 Years of Women in Science & Technology are especially enlightening.

From slide rules, mechanical adding machines, typewriters, minicomputers, and an industrial robot, to Minuteman 1 Missile Guidance Computer, old transistors, documents, images, and electronic toys, the exhibits are certainly diverse.

8. Havre Beneath the Streets, Havre

Havre Beneath The Streets, HavreSource: Northern Montana Hospital / Facebook
Havre Beneath The Streets, Havre

The town of Havre suffered many damages and much destruction during a large fire in the year 1904. Many businesses were obliterated, not to mention homes and community buildings. Havre did not rise from the cinders like a mythical bird, but it did something arguably as impressive as a Phoenix: it moved under the ashes and rubble instead.

You’d be hard-pushed to spot any sign of subterranean life in Havre (aside from, of course, promotional materials and advertisements) if you didn’t know about the underground caverns and tunnels. Inquisitive and observant eyes may, however, spot the purple squares on the pavements that indicate the underground city.

Descend under the city’s now-lively and rebuilt streets and see how locals made the most of a bad situation in an enterprising way.

Spreading out over, or rather under, six blocks, the tunnels connect basements of properties that were burnt down at the start of the 20th century. Rather than admit defeat, local traders and service providers began to operate from their basements while above-ground buildings were reconstructed.

Discover an underground dentist’s surgery, butcher’s shop, brothel, tavern, and more. Out of the watchful eye of the authorities, the tunnels and basements also helped to facilitate the opium trade and to sneak illicit liquor to speakeasies during the prohibition era.

9. Bleu Horses, Three Forks

Bleu Horses, Three ForksSource: panoglobe / shutterstock
Bleu Horses, Three Forks

Although located in plain sight, and seen by many people as they travel to and from Three Forks, few people really pause to take much notice of the huge metal horses that stand high up on a ridge looking down over the road.

Indeed, so fleeting are the glances that many people afford these statues that they may actually think they are real horses grazing above.

A total of 39 horse sculptures in various sizes and positions grace the ridge. The tallest ones reach up to eight feet tall. Foals get sustenance from their mothers, adults graze or stand on the grass, and some horses stand alone while others loiter in twos or small groups.

Get closer to the metal horses and you’ll find that they are painted a dark blue shade with smudged white stripes. Their shaggy manes and tails, which move realistically in the breeze, are made from fine rope.

10. Prairie County Museum and Evelyn Cameron Gallery, Terry

Prairie County Museum And Evelyn Cameron Gallery, TerrySource: Anne Millbrooke / Facebook
Prairie County Museum And Evelyn Cameron Gallery, Terry

Born in 1975, the Prairie County Museums lets visitors travel back in time and discover plenty of interesting details about the area’s past. The former building of the State Bank of Terry houses the museum’s diverse collections, itself dating back to the early 1900s.

There are several other buildings within the grounds too, including a pioneer homestead, a red wooden railway car that once houses the train crew, and an old steam-heated outhouse.

On the fringes of the badlands and all their majestic raw beauty, the museum peers intently into the lives of early pioneers. Learn more about the challenges and triumphs of the early settlers, as well as their regular day-to-day existence. The archives let people trace family histories and there are many old photographs.

Guides often inject their own tales and insights into tours, adding more depth to a visit. They may even tell you of more local historic gems to visit.

The Evelyn Cameron Gallery contains a stunning selection of photographs that perfectly capture life and the land back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, taken by a once-wealthy lady who gave up her privileged lifestyle in Mother England to move to Montana with her husband.

11. Allen’s Manix Store, Augusta

Allen’s Manix Store, AugustaSource: Allen's Manix Store (The Trading Post) / Facebook
Allen’s Manix Store, Augusta

Known locally as the Trading Post, Allen’s Manix Store is a family-owned general shop that sells anything and everything that you could possibly ever need, want, or imagine. Indeed, a sign outside boldly and proudly proclaims that, “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”!

Business has been booming here since the start of the 20th century, meeting the retail needs of both locals and people passing through town. With an olde-worlde appearance and atmosphere, it’s easy to imagine that you have entered a time warp and travelled back several decades.

Nostalgic, charming, and well-stocked, whether you’re looking for groceries, tools, sporting equipment, crafts, clothing, artwork, and more, you’re all but guaranteed to leave with bulging bags.

The store is licensed to sell alcohol and you can also pick up fishing and hunting permits here. Open all year round, the friendly owners and members of staff will help you to find anything that you’re looking for.

12. Garnet Ghost Town, Missoula

Garnet Ghost Town, MissoulaSource: MISHELLA / shutterstock
Garnet Ghost Town, Missoula

Although the city of Missoula is around 20 miles away from Garnet, it’s the nearest major destination to the once-thriving and now-deserted town. The surrounding forests and mountains add to the remoteness and the eerie air.

Garnet sprung up in the 1860s as a mining town and, like so many other such towns, it was quickly abandoned when the mining stocks ran out. It was originally called Mitchell.

The population here was always pretty unstable, with inconsistent gold found in the land leading to people leaving disheartened and fresh batches arriving to try and make their fortunes by—literally—striking gold.

As you walk past the lonely dwellings, inns, hotels, and stores today, it’s quite inconceivable to think that this was once a thriving and flourishing home to many. The town was noted for its lively saloons, with many a story unfolding on the bar stools. It is also rumoured that the town had a house of ill repute, though nobody is complete sure where it was.

13. Philipsburg, Granite County

Philipsburg, Granite CountySource: Sue Smith / shutterstock
Philipsburg, Granite County

Once you’ve explored the abandoned town of Garnet, head 47 miles south to enjoy the nearby olde-worlde town of Philipsburg. Providing a window into times long past, Philipsburg, unlike Garnet, is still home to a modest population.

Although Philipsburg also once relied heavily on the mining industry, the town managed to survive following the closure of local mines and mills.

The town is named in honour of a mining engineer, Philip Deidesheimer, who was responsible for the construction of the town’s ore smelter.

Step into an era that has long been all but forgotten with a wander along Main Street. Lined with fantastic restored buildings that date from the late 1800s to the middle of the 20th century, it’s charming and atmospheric.

The town also offers visitors the chance to try their hand at mining for sapphires, with trips up Gem Mountain. Purchase a bucket of dirt, wash it off, and sift through the stones to see if you have any worth keeping. This is maybe a rare opportunity to find that a pail of soil might actually turn out to be a valuable buy!

14. Bulldog Saloon, Whitefish

Bulldog Saloon, WhitefishSource: Paul Anderson / Facebook
Bulldog Saloon, Whitefish

Serving up tasty food to hungry locals and visitors the Bulldog Saloon is a prime choice for a feed in the heart of Montana’s city of Whitefish. Or, grab a glass (or bottle) of your favourite tipple and chillax for a while in friendly surroundings.

The 1903 building has had a fair few names over the years, including Dodge House, Houston’s Hall, the Pastimes, and Yeti’s Den. It has been used for various purposes, including a doctor’s office, a meeting point for Masonic members, a pool hall, a gambling den, and a general store.

The current name comes from the mascot of the local high school. A family-run and family-friendly bar, the vibe is convivial and welcoming. There’ll be no pistols drawn at dawn at this watering hole!

In addition to a wide selection of drinks, the grill keeps punters happy and full with dishes like burgers, stuffed mushrooms, chicken wings, an extensive selection of sandwiches, fish and chips, and salads. There’s a small choice for kids too.

15. Makoshika State Park, Glendive

Makoshika State Park, GlendiveSource: Zack Frank / shutterstock
Makoshika State Park, Glendive

The biggest state park in all of Montana, a lot of visitors tend to skip the regular parks and head straight for the big-name attractions of Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park. While there are certainly lots of compelling reasons to visit the two famous state treasures, adding some of the area’s state parks to your bucket list is also a good idea.

With a name that means the Land of Bad Spirits in the language of the Sioux people, Makoshika State Park is mysterious, awe-inspiring, attractive, and a touch ethereal. It boasts some of the best badlands scenery in the state too.

Huge and unusual sandstone formations are scattered throughout the park, sculpted and shaped by hundreds and thousands of years of rain, wind, and snow. The ancient rocks also contain dinosaur fossils, and there are terrific trails that follow in the footsteps of triceratops, T-Rex, and more.

Activities in the park include camping, hiking, picnicking, and archery. Don’t miss the visitors’ centre—it has a T Rex skull!

16. Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three Forks

Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three ForksSource: Leigh Anne Meeks / shutterstock
Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three Forks

A popular spot for locals but not so well-known to outsiders, Missouri Headwaters State Park is, as the name suggests, the origin of the Missouri River. See where the USA’s second-longest starts and ponder how the water flowing in front of your eyes will eventually join the sea in the Gulf of Mexico. Pretty cool, right?

The terrain is largely flat, making it perfect for people who want to enjoy some hiking and fresh air without all the ascents and descents of the mountainous areas.

The 532-acre park offers a range of fun and active adventures, such as canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating, hiking, cycling, camping, wildlife watching, picnicking, and photography.

The land was traversed by Lewis and Clark, famous explorers, on their epic journey across the western part of what is now the USA. There’s lots of local history to discover.

17. Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Bozeman

Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, BozemanSource: Robert Mutch / shutterstock
Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Bozeman

Not to be confused with the First Peoples Buffalo Jump State Park near Montana’s small town of Ulm, Madison Buffalo Jump State Park is located around 23 miles away from Bozeman, in Gallatin County.

Sitting close to the Madison River, the park seeks to preserve the jump site’s geological features. The area is almost exactly as it would have been back in the days when Native Americans herded huge groups of buffalos over a high cliff as a means of slaughtering the beasts for food and leather. While it might sound barbaric today, this primitive method of hunting was essential for the tribe’s survival in the past.

Many buffalo bones have been discovered at the bottom of the high cliff, along with evidence of teepee villages. Follow the interpretive trail to the top of the cliff, peer down, and imagine the frenzy, fear, and drama during a jump.

18. The Berkeley Pit, Butte

The Berkeley Pit, ButteSource: Rob Crandall / shutterstock
The Berkeley Pit, Butte

If you’ve ever wondered where bacteria, microbes, and other microscopic life forms like to hangout and breed, look no further than the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana.

The open-pit mine once played an integral role in helping America to see the light … copper mined from here helped in electrifying the nation. Water now fills the gigantic hole, creating a breeding ground for rare and new organisms.

The huge site is incredible. The pit stretches for a mile, and is around half a mile wide. The gash gouges into the earth for more than 1,700 feet, although that’s not obvious because of the huge volume of toxic water.

With high levels of poisonous chemicals and heavy metals, not to mention the germs, this is one place that, no matter how hot the temperature is, you certainly wouldn’t want to take a dip!

The water shimmers in the sunlight, its multi-coloured layers rather enchanting. The surface is a reddish colour, caused by high concentrations of iron. Moving down, however, the water takes on a pale green tint. A waterfall filled with iron flows over the rim. It’s almost impossible to believe that a place with such vibrant and otherworldly beauty could be so hazardous.

19. Country Bookshelf, Bozeman

Country Bookshelf, BozemanSource: Country Bookshelf / Facebook
Country Bookshelf, Bozeman

Moving away from toxic water and harmful bugs, Country Bookshelf is a pleasant sanctuary in the centre of Bozeman. It is the biggest independent bookstore in all of Montana; bookworms will certainly find plenty to excite them here!

Established in 1957, the local gem has won several awards. It aims to be the best bookshop around, and it doesn’t disappointment.

The two-floor store is packed to the gills with books of all types. The inside wrap-around balcony lets you feast your eyes on all the paper treasures, imagining devouring the words in a single sitting. There’s a dedicated section for kids, helping younger visitors to be inspired by a good story and interesting facts.

The passionate members of staff have many cool stories of their own to tell, and they are always ready to lend a hand to assist you to find just what you’re looking for. The store has its own book club too, and regularly hosts book signings, meetings with authors, and other events.

As well as being able to purchase a mammoth selection of books, visitors can browse and buy a selection of local souvenirs, greeting cards, stationery, crafts, novelty items, and more.

20. Inn on the Gallatin, Gallatin Gateway

Inn On The Gallatin, Gallatin GatewaySource: The Inn on the Gallatin / Facebook
Inn On The Gallatin, Gallatin Gateway

A local gem in Gallatin County, the Inn on the Gallatin is a delightful boutique getaway on the banks of the Gallatin River. The establishment can trace its heritage back to the mid-1950s and has been providing cute little riverside chalets for people’s pleasure for many years.

Guests can benefit from top-class fly fishing experiences at the heart of nature. The nearby area offers hiking, rafting horse riding, zip lining, and more.

The real secret about this lovely spot is, however, its café. There’s no need to be a hotel resident to dine here either; the yummy food is available for all.

Settle down in a vintage all-American setting to savour tasty American comfort food. Lunchtime menu items include burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads, soups, and more inventive meals like fish tacos, turkey apple brie panini, and grilled vegetable quesadilla.

Service is swift, portions are hearty, and ingredients are, where possible, fresh and locally sourced.

It’s the café’s awesome breakfasts that often make people really sit up and pay attention. Put a spring in your step, great food in your stomach, and start your day in the right way with choices like crepes, waffles, omelets, pancakes, and eggs. Do not, we repeat, do NOT, miss trying the delectable cinnamon rolls—they’re divine!

21. Four Dances Recreation Area, Billings

Four Dances Recreation Area, BillingsSource: BONNIE WATTON / shutterstock
Four Dances Recreation Area, Billings

Covering 765 acres, Four Dances Recreation Area is a lovely natural area in Billings. Named after a significant local Native American chief, Chief Four Dances, the area was used in the past by the powerful man when he wanted to fast in solitude and a tranquil place. Indeed, the chief’s name came from the lively visions that appeared to him while he was engaged in a fast at this very spot.

The soaring cliffs tumble away down to the scenic Yellowstone River, the raised area provided terrific views down over the gushing water.

A looped trail leads through the wild landscapes for a mile and a half, leading you through native grassland and dense patches of trees. In the winter, explore the landscape with the help of skis or snowshoes. The area’s abundant flora and fauna make it a great place for wildlife-watching enthusiasts too.

The lack of traffic from cars, bicycles, horses, scooters, and the like helps to preserve the peace and quiet.

22. Castle Town Ghost Town, Meagher

Castle Town Ghost Town, MeagherSource: All Things Abandoned / Facebook
Castle Town Ghost Town, Meagher

Yet another of Montana’s deserted and long-abandoned places, Castle Town has the added claim to fame of having once been the home of Calamity Jane.

As with most of the area’s abandoned towns, Castle Town was a mining town in its former life. It was busy and prosperous in the 1890s, built on the back of a local silver rush. Along with the miners and service people came the saloon workers, shop owners, and prostitutes that sought to keep the workers happy and make their own livelihood from the mining boom.

In its heyday, records indicate that Castle Town had several stores selling an assortment of goods, a school, a jail, a post office, and a bakery. There were also, naturally homes, and the town had a number of fraternal groups. The town reportedly had as many as 14 inns. There was also not one, not two, and not even three, but a whopping seven brothels in the town. Those miners sure liked to have some fun in their downtime!

Neglected and unloved since the 1930s, the haunting remains of the town today stand silently, the raucous laughter and banter of gruff miners no longer filling the air and the giggles and coquettish smiles of women of the night no longer tempting men into their beds.

Do note that the town is now private property. Should you wish to stroll the deserted streets, you will need to arrange a convenient time for a visit.

23. Old Pitt’s Burial Site, Dillon

Old Pitt’s Burial Site, DillonSource: Tina Utter‎ / Facebook
Old Pitt’s Burial Site, Dillon

Old Pitt was the name of an elephant who worked in the Cole Brothers Circus. She was an old-hand at the circus way of life, having started out with Robinson’s Great Show. She travelled far and wide with John Robinson’s circus, performing tricks aplenty to keep the punters amused.

While working with Robinson’s Great Show, Old Pitt was surrounded by many other elephants; the circus had a large herd. When Robinson fell on hard times, he sold most of Old Pitt’s palls to another circus. Old Pitt, along with three of the other elderly elephants, was, however, kept.

Life became a bit more leisurely for Old Pitt and her three friends. They rarely needed to turn tricks anymore and could spend their days wandering around a farm. Old Pitt as the last of the four remaining elephants to survive, even outliving Mr. Robinson.

At the grand old age of 101, poor Old Pitt found herself once again in the circus, having been sold by Robinson’s widow to the Cole Brothers Circus. Forced out of retirement and made to perform once again, Old Pitt was only with the circus for a year before she died. She was believed to be 102 years old when she passed away.

Old Pitt didn’t, however, die of old age, overwork, sorrow, neglect, or any other reason that you would probably think. She was struck by lightning! A deadly lightning bolt struck the unfortunate beast as she was performing. It is said that she was buried at the spot where she died, and a memorial stone in her honour marks her grave today. Go and pay your respects when in Dillon.

24. Shep Memorial, Fort Benton

Shep Memorial, Fort BentonSource: Sherry Fields / Facebook
Shep Memorial, Fort Benton

The small town of Fort Benton has another moving memorial to an animal. Shep the dog didn’t meet with such a horrific end as Old Pitt (though it was pretty nasty!), but his tale is still, nonetheless, touching.

People say that dog is man’s best friend, and Shep really was a loyal canine pall. His beloved owner, a local cowboy, fell sick. Followed to hospital by his trusty sheepdog, the man grew weaker and weaker, his loyal dog by his side. He eventually died and his body was shipped to his family. The ever-faithful Shep watched in distress as the man’s coffin was loaded on the train, never to be seen again.

The now-homeless Shep spent the next five and a half years visiting the train station each day, searching in vain for his master. Railway workers took care of the elderly dog, moved by his devotion and love.

Sadly, with failing hearing and not-so-nimble limbs, an oncoming train ploughed right into Shep one morning as he performed his regular vigil. Locals mourned the loss of the dog, just as Shep had grieved for his deceased master. He was given a fitting send off, his casket carried by local boy scouts and his body buried on a hill that overlooked the train station.

The original memorial gradually became worn and weathered, and the grave became overgrown and unkempt. A new memorial was later erected in 1994, standing in the heart of town. The surrounding patio contains bricks that are carved with messages of love for other deceased pets.

25. Yaak Valley, Yaak

Yaak Valley, YaakSource: Pam Shoemaker / shutterstock
Yaak Valley, Yaak

Often referred to as Montana’s rainforest, the unusually named Yaak Valley is tucked away in the northwestern corner of the state, close to the border with Canada. The word Yaak means arrow in the native language.

Part of the Kootenai National Forest, the area has a climate that is slightly different to the rest of the state. Wildlife that cannot survive in other parts of the state can happily make their home here, and the Yaak Valley boasts some of the most biological diversity in all of Montana.

Verdant forests surround the gentle river, creating a scene that is harmonious and soothing. Big creatures that live around the Yaak Valley include black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, deer, lynx, and mountain goats. Myriad birds, insects, and smaller mammals inhabit the valley too.

A good choice of activities lets you enjoy the valley in various ways; from camping, hiking, fishing, and mountain biking in the summer, to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling in the winter, there’s something to keep everyone active.

Be sure to step into the Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile or the gritty Dirty Shame when in the area too.

26. Outlook Inn Bed and Breakfast, Somers

Outlook Inn Bed And Breakfast, SomersSource: Outlook Inn Bed and Breakfast / Facebook
Outlook Inn Bed And Breakfast, Somers

Another of Montana’s lovely secret hideaways, the Outlook Inn Bed and Breakfast is a veritable haven of peace and tranquility in Somers. Providing a home away from home, it is situated at one end of the sublime Flathead Lake. Get out and enjoy all the majesty of Glacier National Park and return to a cosy sanctuary each evening.

All rooms offer great views of the lake and come with en suite bathrooms and outside decks. Breakfast is included in the room rate letting you sample delectable farm-to-table meals and start your day full of vitality, energy, and zest.

While this would be the perfect opportunity to unplug, unwind, and disconnect for a few days, charging both your own batteries and those of your devices, if you desperately need to stay connected Wi-Fi is available throughout the property.

There’s a common area where you can socialise and mingle, and guests can make full use of the fridge, microwave, and kettle. Open throughout the year, it offers a great alternative to camping.

27. Smith Mine #3, Bear Creek

Smith Mine #3, Bear CreekSource: B Norris / shutterstock
Smith Mine #3, Bear Creek

One of the state’s most tragic offbeat places, the Smith Mine #3 was once a great money maker and a roaring success. The now-disused mine was also the scene of one of America’s most dreadful mining disasters.

All that remains today of the mine are ghostly ruins and long-abandoned buildings, haunted by the memories of the tragic past. The site can be seen from the nearby road and there is a memorial to remember those that lost their lives in the accident.

The date was February the 27th, 1943. It was business as normal at the mine. Seventy-seven miners descended into the bowels of the earth, hard at work as usual. Meanwhile, deadly methane gas was silently building around them.

The gas eventually exploded. Of the 77 miners to go down the shaft that day, only three came out alive. Seventy-four perished in the disaster, either from the initial explosion or by suffocation. The bodies were rescued and the mine ceased operations immediately.

28. Daniels County Museum and Pioneer Town, Scobey

Daniels County Museum and Pioneer Town, ScobeySource: Trevor Manternach / Flickr
Daniels County Museum And Pioneer Town, Scobey

The Daniels County Museum and Pioneer Town springs to life each June during Pioneer Days, when the world-famous Dirty Shame Show entertains the crowds with enthusiastic dance routines, singing, and comedy sketches. Visitors can also tuck into a traditional farmer’s breakfast to bags of energy and watch a parade of vintage vehicles.

For the rest of the year, however, the museum is slightly forgotten. An under-visited gem outside of June and the lively celebrations, come to learn more about the local history and a fabulous leap back in time.

Covering around 20 acres of land, the open-air museum showcases some 35 reconstructed and restored old buildings to show what a typical town looked like in the early 20th century. Step inside the old schoolhouse, feel somewhat pious in the various churches, wince in the dentist’s surgery, browse in the old-time general store, discover regular life in the olden days in Watt’s House and the Jacques Homestead Shack, and more.

There are many historic artefacts on display throughout the buildings and the museum also has a large collection of old farming vehicles and equipment and vintage cars.

Secluded spots in nature, inviting accommodations, foodies’ delights, journeys back through time, moving memorials, and strange and unusual sites can all be found among Montana’s hidden gems. Perhaps you should consider making your vacation in Big Sky Country even longer?

28 Amazing Hidden Gems in Montana:

  • Jim’s Horn House, Three Forks
  • St. Ignatius Mission, St. Ignatius
  • Boiling River, Yellowstone National Park
  • Beartooth Mountains
  • Garden of One Thousand Buddhas, Arlee
  • Sand Creek Clydesdales Ranch, Jordan
  • The American Computer & Robotics Museum, Bozeman
  • Havre Beneath the Streets, Havre
  • Bleu Horses, Three Forks
  • Prairie County Museum and Evelyn Cameron Gallery, Terry
  • Allen’s Manix Store, Augusta
  • Garnet Ghost Town, Missoula
  • Philipsburg, Granite County
  • Bulldog Saloon, Whitefish
  • Makoshika State Park, Glendive
  • Missouri Headwaters State Park, Three Forks
  • Madison Buffalo Jump State Park, Bozeman
  • The Berkeley Pit, Butte
  • Country Bookshelf, Bozeman
  • Inn on the Gallatin, Gallatin Gateway
  • Four Dances Recreation Area, Billings
  • Castle Town Ghost Town, Meagher
  • Old Pitt’s Burial Site, Dillon
  • Shep Memorial, Fort Benton
  • Yaak Valley, Yaak
  • Outlook Inn Bed and Breakfast, Somers
  • Smith Mine #3, Bear Creek
  • Daniels County Museum and Pioneer Town, Scobey