Driving south on Highway 93, look to the east on the hillsides for bighorn sheep. Turn left at mile marker 14 onto the East Fork Road. Keep a lookout on the entire drive, as you will likely see sheep on the rocky hillsides. Six miles down the East Fork, you will find a Wildlife Viewing Area where you may have the opportunity for a closer view of the bighorn sheep. Ask us for binoculars to take with you.
The Big Hole is not just a place it is a way of life. It is a bit of history that is still alive. But times are changing and old ways are dying out. Today it's an unusual blend of history and modern day living.
Travelers happening through at the right time could find themselves in a cattle drive or witnessing a branding done just about the way it was done in the 1800's. The four mountain ranges that surround the valley range from 7,600' to over 10,600' above sea level. The "shinning mountains" of the Bitterroot Range frame the valley's western edge. The highest point in the Valley is Homer Young's Peak (10,621'). Cattle ranching, mining, logging, various visitor servies and businesses have been the main ways of making a living in the Big Hole Valley since it's beginnings in the late 1800's.
Bannack was founded in 1862 when John White discovered gold on Grasshopper Creek. As news of the gold strike spread many prospectors and businessmen rushed to Bannack hoping to strike it rich. In 1864, Bannack was named as the first Territorial Capital of Montana. Remaining in Bannack for only a short time, the Capital moved on to Virginia City. In 1863 gold had been discovered near Virginia City and at that time many prospectors left Bannack in hopes of finding the mother lode in Virginia City. However, some people stayed in Bannack and explored the use of further mining techniques. From the late 1860's to the 1930's, Bannack continued as a mining town with a fluctuating population. By the 1950's gold workings had dwindled and most folks had moved on. At that point the State of Montana declared Bannack a State Park. Today, over sixty structures remain standing, most of which can be explored. People from all over visit this renowned ghost town to discover their heritage.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks governs the town site and surrounding area of Bannack.
Cooldige was establised in 1913 and is one of the newest additions to the National Register of Historic Places. It is located approximately 107 miles from Triple Creek Ranch and was the last silver boom town in Montana. it had the largest silver mill and its own narrow guage railroad. William R. Allen, its owner, named the town after President Coolidge. It never did operate to full capacity and went bankrupt. There are dozens of buildings still standing to explore throughout Coolidge. The upper mill is visible across the creek. Sadly, not long ago the old school house slipped into Elkhorn Creek but can be seen.
Virginia City, one of Montana's best known mining towns, is located approximately 178 miles from Triple Creek Ranch. Established in 1864, and the former Territorial Capital, Virginia City offered up approximately 60 million dollars woth of gold from the area. Although it is still inhabited today, Virginia City embodies the spirit of the old mining towns. You can walk the boardwalk and tour over 100 buildings. On weekends in summer you can watch interpreters re-enact how the miners lived in the 1860's.
Farlin is found slightly off the beaten path just 40 miles north of Bannack. Unlike Coolidge, Farlin was a copper mine. During its boom years of 1905 through 1906, the mine produced half a million pounds of copper. It was large enough to have its own post office and school. You can still see some of the old cabins. The school house is just a short hike from the main part of the mine area. Farlin is about 143 miles from Triple Creek Ranch.
are approximately 122 miles from Triple Creek Ranch. Glendale was once a thriving smelting town. The smelter produced bullion cubes of gold, silver and iron that could easily be transported for further processing. The town's population of 2,000 was one of the largest in the area. The kilns are beehive shaped and within driving distance of downtown Glendale.
SEASONAL - May 22nd - October 1st
Hidden in the Mountains of Montana - we're hard to find but worth the drive. Located between Hamilton and Philipsburg, Montana in the aptly named Sapphire Mountains you can Discover your own Montana Treasure - a Montana Sapphire Gemstone from Gem Mountain.
Sapphire Mining is a lot easier today than is was 100 years ago. We dig up the dirt for you, screen it to remove the big rocks, and bring it to the store by the dump truck load. We supply all of the tools and equipment needed for you to wash the gravel to find rough sapphires. Our professional staff will evaluate your rough saphires to determine which ones are gem quality and worth cutting to create finished gemstones.
For more information about one of these scenic drives, please contact our Activity Coordinator.