Montana is filled with mountain ranges and wild rivers, wilderness areas and national parks. But beyond the typical Montana experience lay offbeat activities that show a different side to the Treasure State. Here are a few quirky adventures you can only experience in Montana.
As a booming gold town during the 1800s, Virginia City has a deep past filled with vigilantes and highwaymen, murky politics and the first brewery in Montana. Today, you can tour the town and take in the preserved buildings and history exhibits, with plenty of activities for a wide range of ages. But one stands out among the others: gold panning. Sign up to scope the dirt and gravel for a nugget to write home about.
The Ringing Rocks outside of Whitehall have been an alluring mystery for decades. As you tap the piled rocks with hammers, they ring like bells. Today, geologists have speculated that a combination of the composition and arrangement of these precariously piled boulders leads to the reverberant sound that rings out when visitors tap the rocks. Keep in mind, rocks removed from the pile don’t ring, so leave them where you find them. Be sure to only attempt the drive in a high-clearance, AWD vehicle, as the potholes can swallow smaller cars whole.
As part of Montana’s extensive mining history, the historic city of Butte used to boom, and now its historic buildings and interesting downtown spots draw visitors from afar. The Berkeley Pit shows off the vestiges of this past, a broad (7,000 feet long, 5,600 feet wide and 1,600 feet deep) open pit now filled with toxic water laced with heavy metals. As you walk the long tunnel to the viewing deck over the pit, the impressive stature of the spot really sets in. To dive deeper into what gives Butte its slogan of “a mile high and a mile deep,” sign up for the Butte underground tour that takes you through hidden speakeasies and other secret spots.
If you’ve ever dreamed of climbing into the saddle and roping cattle like a true cowboy, life at a Montana ranch may be for you. You can try this lifestyle on for size with a visit to a working dude ranch, where you’ll saddle up and get the full experience. Of course, if you enjoy the time, you can look into ranch hand jobs for yourself. If you don’t have time for a roundup of your own, a quick stop at Grant Kohrs Ranch can give you a look at historic operations.
The town of Philipsburg, Montana, has long been famous for its striking sapphires, and you can find galleries galore in the cute downtown area, along with antique stores and a popular brewery. But the true adventure comes if you head out of town to Gem Mountain, where you can buy gravel by the bucket and scour it for the tiny gems. Sometimes, you may even find a record-setting stone among the dirt and pebbles.
When adventure tempts you with a bit of quirk and camp, you can find accommodation at a Highline Adventures property to put you close to the action. Book your stay and head out for a unique experience.