Montana is known as “Big Sky Country” for a good reason. The high plains and mountains of the state are some of the most picturesque and beautiful in North America. Glacier and Yellowstone national parks in Montana are considered two of the jewels in the National Park System. Yet Montana isn’t all nature and landscape. Montana also has a historic story to tell as well. Here are five of the top historic attractions which you should consider visiting on your next trip to Montana.
If you are interested in history in Montana, make sure to check out Visit Montana’s newest video “Spooky Montana”:
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
This is unquestionably the most well-known of all the historical sites in Montana. The Battle of Little Bighorn was the location where the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry, under the leadership of flamboyant Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, was defeated by Lakota and Cheyenne warriors in 1876. Over 260 cavalry troops were killed, making it the single worst defeat of the U.S. Calvary in the American West. Conversely, it was also the greatest victory of the Native Americans who fought the United States’ expansion into the western part of the continent. Custer, Chief Sitting Bull, and Chief Crazy Horse all became known to history due to their involvement in this conflict.
Excluding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, the battlefield and visitor center are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, with slightly shorter hours in the winter season and longer hours in the peak summer months. It is located close to Interstate Highway 90 in southern Montana, about an hour drive from Billings.
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site
Straddling the border with North Dakota, the Fort Union Trading Post was an important hub of economic and social activity on the Great Plains from 1828 to 1867. Here, members of six different Native American tribes came to trade with Europeans and with each other. Native Americans would trade primarily buffalo hides for manufactured goods such as guns, knives, cookware, and blankets. Its location along the banks of the Missouri River made it an excellent site for trading as it was easy to reach by water.
Located at the end of Highway 327, the fort is open every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Hours are 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. in the summer and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the winter. Note that all times are listed in the Central Time Zone.
Big Hole National Battlefield
The Battle of Big Hole took place on August 9, and 10, 1877 in a Nez Perce encampment. There, United States Army troop engaged in a surprise attack on the settlement which resulted in the deaths of 70 to 90 Nez Perce, including men, women, and children. This was part of the Nez Perce War an exodus led by the famous Chief Joseph who refused to sign a treaty with the US government and fled to Canada where they could seek asylum.
The battlefield is open every day except for federal holidays. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and winter hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The site is approximately a 1 hour and 45-minute drive from Butte along Montana Highway 43.
Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site
The Grant-Kohrs Ranch is a preserved cattle ranch which at one point was the headquarters for a massive cattle grazing operation from the mid-19th Century. The main settlement was built in 1862 and the ranch was in operation under different owners until 1958. At its peak, the ranch encompassed over 10 million acres of land. Today the site commemorates the role of the American Cowboy and documents the history of American cattle ranching.
The ranch is located in the town of Deer Lodge and is situated just off of Interstate Highway 90. It is approximately a 45-minute drive from Butte and is open every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Summer hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and winter hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Garnet Ghost Town
Garnet Ghost Town is a classical American mining ghost town which was built during a mining boom and then abandoned. The name is derived from the garnet gemstone deposits which were found near the site. The town dates back to 1895 and was abandoned in the 1920’s. Today there are over 30 buildings on the site which have been preserved, making it of the best-preserved ghost towns in Montana.
The site is located just off of Interstate 90, 20 miles from Missoula and 100 miles from Butte. It is open year-round, but their Visitor Center is open daily for the summer season through September from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. During the winter some parts of the site may not be accessible.
This post was sponsored by the Montana Office of Tourism