Two Ghost Towns for the Price of One: Virginia City & Nevada City, Montana
During a trip through the Rocky Mountains in Montana, my husband and I stumbled onto two of the most exciting ghost towns we'd ever seen — Virginia City and Nevada City.
Located in a remote area of southwest Montana, Virginia City sprang to life after gold was discovered in nearby Alder Gulch in 1863. The gold ran out a few years later, leaving Virginia City frozen in time. It's virtually unchanged since its days as Montana's territorial capital.
Virginia City's buildings and boardwalks are extremely well preserved. In fact, the town is on the National Register of Historic Places. The structures in Nevada City are just as authentic but have been moved there from other Montana ghost towns.
Together, the two towns boast 150 cabins, homes, stores, penny arcades, hotels and other Victorian-era buildings. Many of the smaller structures house souvenir shops and confectioneries during the tourist season. Historic trains, mining equipment, machinery and farm implements are also on display.
From mid-June through Labor Day, the Opera House in Virginia City comes alive with 19th-century melodramas put on by the Virginia City Players, the oldest continual summer theater in the Northwest (call 1-406/843-5314 for details). In addition, you can enjoy vaudeville revues at the H.S. Gilbert Brewery (1-406/843-5218), one of Montana's first breweries, and dramas played out in the streets by locals in period attire. Watch out for the vigilantes!
Railroad buffs will enjoy riding the Alder Gulch Short Line Railroad, which links the two towns. It's powered by a 1910 Baldwin steam-driven locomotive. There's a railroad museum at the Nevada City station as well.
You can also see the sights while riding in a 1941 fire engine or taking a 25-minute stagecoach ride up into Alder Gulch. Children love it when the coach is “robbed” by local orphan Calamity Jane and her pal Annie Oakley.
There are several campgrounds in the area. We camped at Ennis RV Village, 1 mile north of Ennis, next to the beautiful Madison River.
During our stay, we found a variety of inviting eateries in Virginia City. One of our favorites was the Star Bakery and Restaurant. The sandwiches were delicious and reasonably priced.
We spent hours exploring these towns and immersing ourselves in the past. The “spirits” in these ghost towns make you feel right at home.
Before You Visit
Virginia City and Nevada City are on U.S. Highway 287, about 12 miles west of Ennis (the “Fishing Capital of the World”) and about a 90-mile-drive west of Yellowstone National Park. The towns are open for tours from late May to mid-September.
Accommodations and dining are avail-able in historic buildings. For details, contact the Virginia City Chamber of Commerce at 1-406-843-5555.