History

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park 1

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park

Located just east of Whitehall, MT, lies the Lewis and Clark Caverns. Discovered in 1892 by local hunters, these caverns went on to become Montana's first state park.

As one of the largest known limestone cavern systems in the northwest, Montanans have been exploring the caves for over 100 years!

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Interested in tours?

Access to the cave is by guided tours only, May through September with limited candlelight tours offered in December. Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park also features camping and a network of trails to hike or bike, a state-of-the-art visitor center, interpretive displays, a gift shop, food and beverage concessions, amphitheater, and interpretive events presented during the summer months.

Looking to camp?

The park has a large campground with 40 campsites, a tipi, and three cabins, which you can reserve online, and a group camping area, which you must contact the park to reserve. There is a $5 charge to use the dump station.

The site encompasses 3,015 acres. The entry area is at an elevation of 4,300 feet and the caverns area is at an elevation of 5,300 feet.

Cave access is only available through the guided tour. You will be asked to please wear a mask. 

Cavern Tours are now being offered. 

Special procedures for the safety of our visitors and staff:

Only Paradise tours offered at this time. The Paradise tour will guide you to the largest, most decorated rooms of the cave. Tour length is approximately 1 mile and the tour takes about 1 1/2 hours.

Pre-registration and pre-payment are required. To reserve tour tickets, learn how to prepare for your visit or discover current Park restrictions, call (406) 287-3541. Tickets are limited. We are only booking tours within a 2-week window from the date you call.

Call for tickets even if it is the day you’d like to take a tour.

Paradise Tours will be offered Friday-Monday, hourly from 9:15am-5:15pm.

Bring a face covering. Face coverings are required during cave tours.

Although optional for other areas of the park. Park disinfecting procedures involve using a bleach solution.

Visitors should consider wearing new or very clean gloves, especially in the caverns where the handrails are cleaned with bleach solution every tour.

Because of group size restrictions, tours are very limited. Park facilities that are open now are disinfected intermittently. We suggest visitors bring hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes for personal use.

Paradise Tour 

Difficulty: Easy
Length: 1 mile / 90 minutes
Schedule: Beginning May 22, 2020 Friday-Monday, offered hourly, 9:15 am-5:15 pm. Cost: $15 / person, 15 years & older; $10 for seniors, persons with a disability, and youth ages 5-14 years; children 4 years & under are free.

Pre-registration and pre-payment required. To reserve tour tickets, learn how to prepare for your visit or discover current Park restrictions, call (406) 287-3541.

Tickets are limited. Call for tickets even if it is the day you’d like to take a tour. Walk a level ½ mile trail to see the Paradise Room, the largest, most active and decorated portion of the cave. Part of the tour is wheelchair accessible.

Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park features one of the largest known limestone caverns in the Northwest.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"The caverns are amazing and the tours are fantastic. I have been through several times over the years and always loved the experience. The candlelight tours in the winter are amazing for the experience and historic aspects, but the summer tours really show off the caverns with the lights. All of the guides are passionate about their jobs and the caves, and love to teach. Great place to visit and bring friends and family."

"Absolutely beautiful! The bats are very cool to see as well! Can't wait to see it again."

"These Caverns are a jewel. The drive to the caverns winds along the Jefferson River, with cliffs adorning the sides of the road. Our party were excited to to the Caverns today, as it was the rare tour through the cave system with candles!!! This Candlelight tour is offered only at Christmas. What a treat!! The vision of the fellow participants weaving among the cave features is idyllic. It is surprising how much light the candlelight can make in the total dark. This is a best kept secret. The tour guides are top notch."

"A truly fascinating and unique experience! Amazing formations of nature. A true treasure. Outstanding tour and educational experience. Highly recommend!"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Campground

    Open

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    Water

    Available May 2 - Sept 30.

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    Showers & Comfort Station

    Available May 2 - Sept 30

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    Visitor Center

    Normal hours: Winter hours, October 7 - April 13: Open Wed - Sun, 10 am - 4 pm. Summer hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm daily; Open until 6:30pm in mid-summer.

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    Location

    25 Lewis and Clark Caverns Rd. Whitehall, MT 59759

Granite Ghost Town State Park 3

Granite Ghost Town State Park

Granite Ghost Town State Park

Granite Ghost Town State Park

Once a thriving 1890s silver boomtown, Granite Ghost Town State Park, is exactly what its name suggests, the remains of a mining town from the 1800s. In 1865, Hector Horton discovered silver in the area and in the autumn of 1872, the Granite mine was discovered by a prospector named Holland. The mine was relocated in 1875.

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To keep in mind before your visit...

Permits are required for some activities.

Prepare for a steep and windy drive to Granite from Phillipsburg. The road gains 1,280 feet in elevation and you may need to pull over for oncoming traffic, but you’ll have a beautiful view!

Only a few buildings still remain, but the main street of Granite was once bustling with saloons, a newspaper office, rooming houses, and restaurants. The state park preserves the Granite Mine Superintendent’s house and the ruins of the old miners’ Union Hall, both of which are included in the Historic American Buildings Survey. 

Be sure to take some time to hike the web of trails that lead to old homes and other ruins in the area while you’re here!

This is one of the best ghost camps in all of Montana. At one point the Granite mine was the richest silver mine on the earth, and it might never have been discovered if a telegram from the east hadn't been delayed. The mine's backers thought the venture was hopeless and ordered an end to its operation, but the last blast, on the last shift uncovered a bonanza, which yielded $40,000,000 in silver.

In the silver panic of 1893, word came to shut the mine down. The mine was deserted for three years, never again would it reach the population it once had of over 3,000 miners.
Today there is no one living in the camp. The shell of the Miners' Union Hall still stands. The roof supports have caved to the bottom floor, the third-floor dance hall, second-floor union offices, and ground-floor saloon/cafe are about to collapse together. The company hospital still stands.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Follow Granite Road which leads directly to the park. There is a sign on Granite Road where you need to turn that says "Granite Road, Ghost Town 4 Miles". Follow that sign and you're on the right path. The road is rough, but a car can make it if you drive carefully. Plenty of one lane areas where two vehicles can not pass.

"I really enjoy spending the day in the mountains. Seeing an old mining ghost town was a big bonus."

"Very cool late 19th century mining town. Lots of stone foundations and a couple buildings still almost intact. The inginuity of our forefathers as well as the massive amount of labor displayed around this old mine is impressive. The taling piles are gargantuan and the mill foundation looks like some old building in Europe."

"Took my hubby and dog on an adventure to this incredible piece of history! We went on a snowy, cold autumn day but it was so worth it! There are some building still standing, many that are only partial, but a lot of neat mining history, and the granite ghost walk trail is great and takes you through just about everything there is to see. The road up is a bit rough, but cars can make it. Overall, it was awesome to explore a bit of Montana history from 200 years ago and to see what is still standing."

 

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    Park

    • Season 5/1 - 9/30 
    • Daylight Hours Only
    • Reservations Not Accepted

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    Location

    347 Granite Road Phillipsburg, MT 59858

Elkhorn State Park 3

Elkhorn State Park

Elkhorn State Park

Elkhorn State Park

Traveling along gravel secondary roads outside of Boulder, you’ll find the once thriving town of Elkhorn, now one of the smallest state parks in the state.

 

 

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These roads take you through a 19th-century mining landscape before you reach historic Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall nestled within the privately-owned town of Elkhorn. Bring your camera to record these two picturesque structures from the late 1800's silver-mining ghost town, preserved as outstanding examples of frontier architecture. Each has been recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Three-quarters of a mile up the main road that runs through town (just outside of the state park property) lies the town cemetery where visitors can see the tombstone of Swiss miner Peter Wys who originally discovered the silver veins in the Elkhorn Mine!

Rich with mineral deposits (including silver), the Boulder Batholith originally drew settlers to the area and led to the establishment of Elkhorn in 1868, now a silver-mining ghost town. The 1880s and 1890s were the most populous times for Elkhorn, drawing around 2,500 residents at its peak, but after the Silver Crash of 1893, the town saw a drop of 75 percent of its population in just two months. In total, the Elkhorn Mine yielded about $14 million in silver.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Beautiful Town! Really neat old ghost town and mining artifacts. There are only a few buildings you can go into, but lots of history around town! The wood water tower has be repaired. I highly recommend checking out the cemetery, pretty sad story. Plenty of parking all over."

"Ghost town with sad cemetary interesting ghost town with private homes located around the buildings. There are two buildings in restored condition and other buildings scattered throughout untouched. Went further afield to the cemetery located on the hillside. Sad, unkempt and scattered tombs and plaques tell the story of the deaths of children during an epidemic."

"Lots of interesting old Stone and wood buildings give you a taste of the town that must have been grand. Check out the historic and protected Fraternity Hall. Be sure to walk up the hill to the cemetery. Monuments range from grand to crumbling wooden markers. Especially poignant are the many, many graves of children who died in the 1888-9 diphtheria epidemic."

"It still remains as one of the most well-preserved buildings in the town. Later, Elkhorn's prosperity wanted as the demand for silver decreased. When railroad service to Elkhorn was halted, most of the inhabitants left. Today, Elkhorn is a Montana State Park."

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round, Pack-In/Pack-Out

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    Location

    812 Elkhorn Street Elkhorn, MT

Clark's Lookout State Park 4

Clark’s Lookout State Park

Clark's Lookout State Park

Clark’s Lookout State Park

Clark's Lookout State Park is located one mile north of Dillon, above the Beaverhead River.

Established December 23, 1985, Clark's Lookout is set along the historic Lewis and Clark trail.

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Looking to camp?

On August 13, 1805, Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery found what is now Clark’s Lookout State Park. Having traveled from the headwaters of the Missouri River and up the Jefferson River to continue their search for a passage to the Pacific Ocean, they found instead an incredible view.

The view from the top of the hill provided Lewis & Clark and the Corps of Discovery with a view of what lay ahead. And William Clark worked to explore and document the hill overlooking the Beaverhead River.

  • Take a walk to the monument and gaze out over the land once surveyed by William Clark.
  • Have a picnic at the perfectly located picnic area.
  • Take a hike through the rest of the 7.23 acres via hiking trails with interpretive signs.
  • Cultural and Heritage information provided on site.
  • Check out all of the local wildlife including bird watching.
  • Photographic opportunities abound.
  • Plus so many more!

Interpretive signs help to explain the navigational methods used by the Corps of Discovery.

A short hike to the top of the lookout provides an incredible view of the Beaverhead Valley.

You’ll also find a granite monument shaped like a compass which displays the three compass readings Clark took in 1805! The compass monument’s design came from a small pocket compass Clark carried during the expedition!

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"Fun! I love history. Didn't know this was there until we drove by."

"Great place to stop for a walk and see a historic sight."

"Picturesque views."

"Nice place to stop for a short walk up a path to some beautiful views."

 

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    Park

    May 1 - October 31 Open 8 am to dusk

    November 1 - April 30 Winter gate closure in effect, walk-in access only.

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    Location

    25 Clark’s Lookout Road
    Dillon, MT 59725 Park

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Beaverhead Rock Hero

Beaverhead Rock State Park

Beaverhead Rock State Park

Beaverhead Rock State Park

Beaverhead Rock can be viewed and photographed from a distance, but cannot be directly accessed.

There are two great locations to best see the rock formation, though. The first is 14 miles south of Twin Bridges on Highway 41 where a pull-off has informational signs and an interesting bird sculpture.

The second location is from another Montana State Park, Clark’s Lookout State Park in Dillon.

Beaverhead Rock, also known as Point of Rocks, is a rock formation overlooking the Beaverhead River and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

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Sacagawea, a young Shoshone Indian guide traveling with the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, recognized this rock formation and knew that she may be in the vicinity of her relatives. The sighting gave the expedition hope that they may be able to find Native peoples from which to acquire horses for their trip across the mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

Meriwether Lewis, August 8, 1805 wrote: "The Indian woman recognized the point of a high plain to our right which she informed us was not very distant from the summer retreat of her nation on a river beyond the mountains which runs to the west. This hill she says her nation calls the beaver's head from a conceived resemblance of its figure to the head of that animal. She assures us that we shall either find her people on this river or on the river immediately west of its source; which from its present size cannot be very distant."

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"It is relatively unchanged since Lewis and Clark described it, in spite of attempts to do so"

"Beautiful wetlands and good fishing nearby!"

"So much fun and it's pretty."

"Beautiful!"

 

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    Park

    Open Year-Round

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    Location

    62 Beaverhead Rock Road Twin Bridges, MT 59754

Bannack State Park 2

Bannack State Park

Bannack State Park

Bannack State Park

Bannack State Park is the location of Montana's first major gold discovery, founded in 1862 this historic ghost town still has over 50 standing buildings!

Find out more about the history of the park down below.

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Tours are conducted from the visitor center, which is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Bannack Days, with historic displays, re-enactors, and activities, are held the 3rd weekend annually in July (Bannack days has been cancelled for 2020).

The campground has 28 sites, including a rental tipi located along Grasshopper Creek, a hike-in/bike-in campsite, with four tent pads, and a group picnic site.

Bannack State Park is a National Historic Landmark and the site of Montana's first major gold discovery on July 28, 1862. This strike set off a massive gold rush that swelled Bannack's population to over 3,000 by 1863.

As the value of gold steadily dwindled, Bannack's bustling population was slowly lost. Over 50 buildings line Main Street; their historic log and frame structures recall Montana's formative years.

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Curious what other visitors have had to say about the park?

"This was a great Ghost town. So many buildings to explore and go into. Well worth the drive and a day trip."

"Very interesting!! Crazy these buildings are still standing. Would have paid for a guided tour to explain everything."

"One of the best ghost towns I've been to. Most buildings are open and you can go in them."

"Didn't find any ghosts, but had a great, informative evening tour. Fun, well-preserved town with interesting stories of the wild west and life in a gold boom town. And when it gets dark, the starry sky is mesmerizing."

 

Designation

"Bannack is a beautiful area that holds so much Montana history. I always find it fascinating to see how people lived in that era, how much we take for granted, and just how tough and hardy they had to be back then."

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    Park

    Open all year.

    Summer Hours: June 8 - Sept 30, 2020 8 am - 9 pm. Winter Hours: Oct 1, 2019 - June 7, 2020 8 am - 5 pm.

    Closed December 24 & 25.

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    Campground

    Open all year.

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    Potable Water

    Available summer season.

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    Visitor Center

    Open June 3, 2020 - Labor Day. 10 am - 6 pm.

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    Location

    721 Bannack Rd Dillon, MT

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