Montana’s second-oldest city is rich with gold-mining and ranching history, its wide sweep of open grasslands speckled with heritage buildings and museums.
Discover Montana’s frontier history in Deer Lodge, located in Powell County. Established by gold miners and cattle ranchers in the late 1800s, Deer Lodge is a cozy city in a broad valley. Its sprawling meadowland is home to Montana’s most extensive range of museums and historical collections, which offer a glimpse of 19th-century life in the state’s northwest. Check out an old prison complex and visit a working cattle ranch of national historical significance.
As you explore the downtown center of Deer Lodge, imagine how it would have appeared as a frontier town in the 1870s. The sweeping meadowlands are sheltered by mountain ranges to the east and west and are ideal for raising cattle. Early pioneers settled ranches here in order to market the livestock to surrounding mining towns and settlers on the Oregon Trail. You can see one of these historic ranches in operation at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site, a working cattle ranch dedicated to the legacy of the Western cattle industry.
Learn more about the region’s history at some of Deer Lodge’s museums. The Old Prison Complex is a highlight in Deer Lodge and features eight museums within the former cellblocks. Browse the Frontier Montana Museum, Powell County Museum, and the Montana Auto Museum within this fascinating complex. Kids will enjoy Yesterday’s Playthings, a historical collection of children’s toys and games. Go antiques shopping to find some frontier treasures and head to the local farmers market in Jaycee Park to sample some of the region’s renowned fresh produce.
Outside of the city, you can find out about the region’s silver-mining heritage at the Garnet Ghost Town, a restored boomtown just over an hour’s drive away. Head to Warm Springs Ponds to see man-made waterways that are now a haven for waterfowl and fish.
Deer Lodge is located in mid-western Montana and is an hour’s drive from Helena, the state’s capital city. There is a regional airport in Helena, as well as nearby Butte. Deer Lodge is located just off the Pintlers Scenic Highway, a charming route that passes by several historic settlements within the region’s breathtaking mountain ranges.