View the remnants of an early Montana historic mining town at Elkhorn State Park. This once important silver mining town boomed from 1870 until the fall of silver prices in 1896. The Elkhorn mine lay idle from 1912 to 1916. From 1916 to 1971 the mine dumps and underground workings produced over $1.5 million. In addition to silver, gold and lead were taken from mines in the area.
During the boom, 2,500 people lived in Elkhorn, including immigrants from Scandinavia, Germany, France, Ireland and Holland. A few people still live in town and only two buildings are publicly owned: Gillian and Fraternity Halls, purportedly the most photographed ghost town buildings in the country.
As you approach the town watch for old mine tailings on the left. A forest service picnic area (on the right) has an interpretive sign. From there, drive, walk or ski up the main road.
Wander Main Street and read the interpretive signs explaining Elkhorns past. Because a handful of people still live there, stick to Main Street and remember only the two halls are public.
A cemetery lies on the east ridge above town. The dates on the tombstones belie the tough life of the miners and their families.
After exploring Elkhorn head northwest toward the town of Boulder. Three miles south of town is the Boulder Hot Springs Resort. The resort was built in the late 1800s to release tension in the muscles of gold miners. Today it is a bed and breakfast and conference center complete with an outdoor hot springs-fed pool, mens and womens indoor plunges, steam rooms and spa services.
In Boulder, there are abandoned mine tunnels that now serve as radon health mines. Radon in large doses is dangerous, but some people think a little exposure mellows chronic arthritis pain and other ailments.
Know before you go
Elkhorn State Park, 406.495.3270
From Bozeman head east on I-90 about 55 miles to Hwy 69 (just past Cardwell). North on Hwy 69 about 25 miles. Right at Elkhorn sign onto graveled Lower Valley Road and drive 3.2 miles southeast. Left on Elkhorn Forest Rd. 8 miles north to town.
Boulder Hot Springs, 31 Hot Springs Rd., Boulder, MT, 406.225.4339
From Elkhorn drive back to Hwy 69, turn right (northwest) and drive a few miles to the Californian mission architectural-style resort on the left.