Butte is an easy jumping-off point for plenty of adventures around Southwest Montana. And one of the best secrets of Montana is the wealth of state parks. There are 56 to discover across the state, so it’s well worth investing in a park pass if you’ll be traveling around for a while. Here are five of our favorites to check out, not far from Butte.
Ready for an underground adventure? Book your tickets for a tour at Lewis & Clark Caverns. As Montana’s first state park, this spot is a whole lot more than a cave. Early-season mountain biking is primo here since the park’s 10 miles of trails typically melt and dry off faster than others around. And the Classic Cave Tour is one of the more adventurous experiences out there—including a short slide. Tours can sell out in advance, so be sure to plan ahead if you want to be sure you can descend into the depths of the cave during your visit.
For a ghost town experience that feels like you’re wandering through another era, Bannack is the place to go. This is not the tourist hub that many other historic sites can become. Wander freely through the abandoned buildings, learning about the town’s vigilante history. If you can time your trip around Bannack Days each summer or ghost walks in the fall, you can be guided even deeper into the wild days of the old West.
Walk in Lewis’s and Clark’s shoes when you visit Missouri Headwaters State Park. Where the Madison, Gallatin and Jefferson Rivers meet to form the Missouri, you can steep yourself in culture. With a wide bluff giving you views out over the valley, pictographs hidden in a small rocky overhang, and interpretive panels that give you some insight into the Lewis and Clark history of the region, there’s a lot to explore in this small park.
Not far from Butte, the town of Anaconda holds more of the area’s deep mining history. The Anaconda Stack was used in the copper smelting process. Today, one of the tallest freestanding brick structures out there still looms over the town. The state park gives a view of the tower from below, with information about its history from that viewpoint. While you can’t go up to the base of the stack except by group tour sometimes offered during the Smeltermens Day celebrations, you can still get a good look.
For a quiet nature retreat, make a visit to Lost Creek. Most of this park is devoted to a rustic campground with dry sites only. But after you’ve traveled through the tall limestone cliffs rising up from the forest, park your car and take a short walk on a paved pathway to Lost Creek Falls. You can also head out on the trail that starts in the park and takes you back into the national forest. It crosses the park boundary and continues for several miles along the creek, through meadows, forest, and rock fields where pika make their homes.
When you want an adventure base convenient to all of Southwest Montana, Butte is the place to park your camper. Book your site or camping cabinat the Butte KOA Journey, and uncover all the state parks to explore in this corner of Montana.