Welcome to part two of Montana’s Ghost Town Loop. This 70-mile loop tour in southwest Montana passes through scenic territory with plenty of camping options while visiting ghost towns and mining camps that helped establish the state. You will find it easy to social distance yourself from others and world events as you enjoy this loop. If you missed the last entry you can read it here.

In this entry we will continue our loop visiting the towns of Bannack and Farlin.

BANNACK


Overview of Bannack, MT

Bannack, Montana was founded in 1862 when John White found placer gold in Grasshopper Creek. As news of the gold discovery spread, hoards of prospectors and businessmen rushed to the new strike hoping to make their fortune. Two years later, Bannack was designated as the first Territorial Capital of Montana. However, when gold was discovered in nearby Virginia City, many left Bannack for the new strike taking the Capital with them. This was not the end of Bannack however, as some remained in Bannack exploring different mining techniques to liberate the gold from the earth.


Inside of the Old Bannack School House

From the late 1860's to the 1930's, Bannack survived as a mining town with an ever-changing population. By the 1950's, recovery of gold had slowed to a dribble and the majority of folks had moved on. Fortunately, at that point in time, the State of Montana declared Bannack a State Park preserving it for future generations to enjoy. Today, over sixty buildings remain standing, the majority of which can be explored by the public. People from all over the world visit this renowned ghost town to experience Montana's mining history.

Covid-19: Other than the cancellation of the Bannack Days (typically held the 3rd full Saturday and Sunday in July of each year) the park is operating normal hours and running scheduled tours.


Typical Miners Cabin

Getting There: If you are driving the loop counter clockwise with your last stop being Upper Camp (see last entry): Head south of the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway passing through the town of Polaris until you reach Hwy 278. Turn left on the highway and travel southeast until you reach the signed turn off on your right for Bannack via Bannack Road.


Hotel Meade in Bannack

Camping:

Bannack State Park has two campgrounds containing 33 campsites. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-ring. Firewood is available and trash disposal is provided. The Road Agent Campground is shaded by old cottonwood trees. The Vigilante Campground is the larger of the two campgrounds and is more suitable for larger RVs. Water is available. Click here for more information. 

Boondocking: Less than a mile away off Bannack Road there is a place to boondock on BLM land at N45° 09.755  W113° 00.963    Standard BLM dispersed camping rules apply.

Those looking to just visit for the day:

Day use parking lots will accommodate larger RVs, but may be near capacity during peak times. You might consider dropping your RV off at the Bannack turn off from Hwy 278 where Bannack Road meets the highway. There is a large gravel area located southeast of the intersection.  You can then proceed the 4 miles to the ghost town in your tow vehicle or dinghy.

Additional information can be found on the Bannack State Park website.

FARLIN

Farlin, Montana had its origins in 1864 when rich ores were first discovered in the Birch Creek Mining District of the Pioneer Mountains. The mining claims produced silver and copper, but would not be seriously mined until years later. In 1875 the owners of the claims returned to begin developing mines on the claims, but like the nearby mines in Coolidge, the area lacked an economic form of transportation for shipping the ore to make the mines profitable.  Even once the Utah and Northern Railroad laid track between what became the town of Dillon and Butte in the 1880’s, bringing more miners with them, the area still failed to become a boom town like others in the area. Eventually a smelter was built to process the ore along with the typical establishments including a general store, school, butcher shop, and post office. At its peak, the town reached a population of 500 hardy souls. By 1906 the mining operations were in financial trouble, the mines began operating only intermittently and by 1923 mining ceased.

Today you can visit the ghostly remains of the school, butcher shop, a few cabins and scattered mining relics.

Getting There: Farlin is located about 20 miles northwest of Dillon. Continuing your loop from Bannack, head east on Hwy 278 until you reach I-15. Head north on I-15 passing through Dillon (good spot to resupply) on I-15 to Exit #74 (Birch Creek Road). Head west on Birch Creek Road about 7 miles to reach Farlin. You will reach the first buildings of Farlin at N45° 23.565  W112° 48.824

Camping:

There are a couple small rustic campgrounds and boondocking opportunities farther up Birch Creek Road past Farlin for those that don’t mind driving their RV down a long dusty road.

The nearest developed campground to Farlin with easy RV access is Glen Campground which is a free fishing access site operated by Montana Fish and Wildlife.

If you will just be passing through and looking for somewhere to drop the RV while you take your tow vehicle or dinghy to Farlin there is an open area near a stock corral with room to turn around and park your RV just east of exit 74 on Birch Creek Road at N45° 22.704  W112° 42.284

In the next installment we will head up the road to an assortment of remote mining camps and related ruins west of Melrose, Montana where social distancing is assured!

youtubeHey Happy Campers! I’m sure we’re all sick of hearing the word quarantine, but there’s no doubt about it, the quarantine has put a damper on our “camping life”. The campground or camp area closures, no non-essential traveling, and of course concerned friends and family. With some of that behind us, we were beyond excited to get out with our trailer.

“Take only photographs, leave only footprints.”

youtubeVisiting our nation’s parks will likely look very different this year, and possibly for years to come.  As parks slowly reopen for daytime visitors, campgrounds remain a big question mark for this summer.  What we do, where we stay, and how we enjoy these favorite vacation spots will require a new point of view.  We need these wide-open spaces for our health and sanity, especially after months of lockdown; but we also need to be deliberate in protecting ourselves and the park we visit.  This is the new landscape painted by the brush of COVID-19.

youtubeAre you looking for somewhere to take the family RVing this summer that doesn’t include visitor centers, amusement parks, crowded campgrounds and traffic? How about enjoying a leisurely week exploring historic ghost towns and mining camps where you might not encounter another living soul, disperse camp in your RV along a babbling brook, rock hound for six-sided crystals, be stunned by nature's beauty as you traverse a scenic byway, maybe see a moose or two all while completing a loop around the majestic Pioneer Mountains of the Beaverhead National Forest in southwest Montana? In the day and age of social distancing this is a great option for young and old alike. 

LT Murray Wildlife Area & Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

youtubeIn my last entry we looked at why RV travel is expected to be the preferred method of travel this summer and how RV camping supports many outdoor activities your family can enjoy while distancing yourselves from others. I promised to share different locations over the next couple of months on where to camp along with the outdoor activities that can be enjoyed from camp.

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