Bannack State Park MT: Camping, Hiking and a Ghost Town
I recently enjoyed a brief vacation exploring Western Montana. One of the stops along the way was at the Bannock State Park which is located at 4200 Bannack Road in Dillon, Montana. Not only does this location offer camping, but also hiking and access to an old mining town (ghost town). Following is an overview of the park and amenities.
In terms of camping, there are two campgrounds in the park. The one we stayed at was called Vigilante (yes, we picked that one because of the name). The other is called the Road Agent campground. Both are small, with only 16 campsites at Vigilante and 8 at the other. As with many state campgrounds, there is some room between the sites so you can have a bit of privacy. Each site comes with a picnic table and fire ring. There is a restroom and some water spigots available. There is also one tipi available for rent. Site options are available whether you want to camp in a tent, trailer or RV.
If you are considering a camping trip here, it is also important to note the lack of utilities. There are no electric, water or sewage hookups. Water is available in a few locations around the campground, but otherwise, services are non-existent.
Also there is also no cell service in the area. If you need it, you’ll have to drive a few miles down the road to the east until you get some reception. There is also no wi-fi. So a stay here means you will be disconnected from the rest of the world. Come prepared and you will have a great time!
Finally, if you want to stay here, you should make reservations ahead of time. Prices are different for Montana residents versus visitors, but are relatively inexpensive compared to other locations. For example, a campsite is $18 per night for residents versus $28 per night for visitors. Totally doable.
Another benefit of this park is the availability of some hiking, without having to leave the campground.
We hiked the Birds Eye View Loop trail. Estimates of length range from 2-4 miles so I’m not sure exactly how long the trail was. It’s an easy walk in terms of condition of the trail. However, then first half is all uphill and there are no trees/shade. Montana air is also very dry and if it’s a warm day, you’ll be hot and thirsty. So remember to bring lots of water and don’t forget the hat and sunscreen!
As you can imagine by the name of the trail, as you walk higher and higher, you do have a wonderful view of the area. The ghost town of Bannack is also visible from time to time. On the day we visited in late May, we did not see any wildlife. Just us and a desert-like vista. It was well worth the visit.
We visited the ghost town before the summer tours started, so we were able to wander around and look in all the buildings by ourselves. The story goes that in 1862, John White and the “Pikes Peakers” discovered gold on the banks of the river. White filed one of the first recorded mining claims in Montana (which wasn’t known as Montana at the time). Miners rushed to the area, and the town of Bannack increased from a population of about 400 to over 3,000. Mining in the area continued until the start of World War II when non-essential mining was prohibited. While work did resume when the war ended, it did not make a comeback and the population in Bannack dwindled. The post office closed in 1938 and the school in the 1950s.
The visitor’s center will provide a map which leads you around the town. Also, you could purchase an optional guide which includes a history of the area and a description of most of the buildings. It also provides information about what family life and transportation were like at the time. A walk around the town takes you past about 60 buildings including several jails, an assay office where they analyzed gold specimens, a court house, school, hotel, saloon (of course) and many other buildings.
A visit to the Bannock ghost town provides an interesting peek into the history of mining in Montana. Totally worth the time.
Some photos and an overview:
And now for a pictorial overview of the area:
If you would like any information about vacationing in this area, feel free to contact me! 406-270-3667.
For more places to visit in Montana, click here.