Viginia City, Montana
Virginia City (above and below), is the West’s best-preserved gold mining town from the 1860s. Visitors can walk the same boardwalks that desperate vigilantes once roamed, and guests are transported to a time when rowdy miners mingled in saloons. They can also tour more than 100 historic buildings, complete with artifacts and furnishings; ride a fully-refurbished 1910 steam locomotive and a stagecoach; attend live theater; shop in gift and specialty shops; and enjoy fine dining, old fashioned baked goods and candies.
Nevada City, Montana
Nevada City, just 1.5 miles away, has 14 historic buildings original to the site, plus a collection of more than 100 historic buildings that were saved from locations all over Montana and moved here. Visit the Nevada City Music Hall—its collection of historic music machines, gaviolis and player pianos make up the largest public music machine collection in the world. You can also spend time panning for gold at Alder Gulch.
Along the west leg of the historic Yellowstone Trail (MT Hwy. 1) is Philipsburg, which had its hard-rock mining heyday in the late 1800s. Silver mining spawned brick and mortar buildings before silver prices plunged and the town’s population dwindled. Today, historic Philipsburg is the best living example of what these ghost towns were once like.
South Pass City, Wyoming
Wyoming’s City of Gold is surrounded by mining claims, several of which are still being worked today. The restored area contains 20 original structures and a Gold Mining Interpretive Center, complete with an original working stamp mill.
In 1868, town resident William Bright introduced a bill in the territorial legislature granting women the right to vote, making Wyoming the first territory or state to grant suffrage to women. Two months later, Esther Morris was appointed the town’s justice of the peace, becoming the nation’s first female judge.
Kirwin, located at the head of the spectacular Wood River Valley, is a historic mining town surrounded by breathtaking mountain peaks that top 12,000 feet. The annual Kirwin Excursion, sponsored by Meeteetse Museums, is held on a Saturday in mid- August, with local speakers giving presentations on different aspects of the area. (Below: Wolf Mine Shaft, Kirwin, Wyoming)
Old Trail Town, Cody, Wyoming
Old Trail Town, on the western edge of Cody, depicts a classic ghost town constructed from a collection of restored and relocated historic buildings.
Silver City, Idaho
Idaho alone has about 150 ghost towns. The best, Silver City, was founded in 1864, just two years after silver and gold were discovered nearby, luring hundreds of miners from all walks of life. Today, all that’s left are about 70 buildings and numerous mine dumps.