Butte, Montana: The Richest Hill on Earth. The town was established as a mine site in the mid-1800s. Gold, silver, and most of all copper, has been mined at Butte. Mining operations attracted workers from all over the world. At one time, the population of Butte was close to 100,000 people, so they claim, but today the population is a little over 36,000. Famous in the past for its rather notorious Red Light District, Butte today is famous for the Berkeley Pit, which is part of the largest environmental cleanup in U.S. history. With an interesting and storied past, Butte, Montana is great for a short visit or a longer stay.
- A gateway to Helena, the Capital of Montana.
- A good place to stop over when traveling to Glacier National Park.
- The home of Montana Tech University.
- Rich in copper mining history.
Butte is approximately:
118 miles from Missoula, Montana — 155 miles from Great Falls, Montana — 226 miles from Billings Montana — 147 miles from West Yellowstone, Montana
Our trip is going to start in Missoula, Montana. Missoula has an international airport that is served by several national carriers. Drive time between Missoula and Butte: 1.75 hours.
*Recommended hotels in Missoula: Hampton Inn or Holiday Inn Express.
⇒From Missoula, Montana, take I-90 east to Butte via Deer Lodge. Bonus stop: Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site. Tour the historic buildings. Learn about ranching in Montana at this working cattle ranch. Admission: free. Here’s a link: Grant-Kors Ranch National Historic Site. Drive time between Grant-Kohrs Ranch NHS and Butte, Montana: 30 minutes.
Destination: Butte, Montana
*Recommended hotel in Butte: Hampton Inn.
*Recommended restaurant in Butte: The Montana Club – 3540 Harrison Ave.
*Recommended time to go to Butte: spring through fall.
Below are some of the things we enjoyed doing and seeing while we were in Butte.
•Trolley Ride. We started at the Butte Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and booked our ride to familiarize ourselves with the city. The driver gave an excellent overview of the history of Butte.
•Our Lady of the Rockies. We read about her and then stopped to take a picture along the highway. Did you know that Our Lady of the Rockies is the fourth tallest statue in the U.S.? Created in the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, she was dedicated as a tribute to women worldwide.
•Buildings as Billboards. We became enthralled by the old painted signs on many of the buildings in downtown Butte. Below is a slideshow of a few of them.
•Headframes. These are the contraptions that lowered (and raised) men, equipment, and even animals (mainly mules, which went down but not up – once they were down in the mines, they spent the rest of their lives there) into and out of the mines. Most importantly, headframes were used to raise ore from the mines. Supposedly there are 10,000 miles of mines under the city of Butte. It is said that all of the underground mines were filled with water during the environmental cleanup of the Superfund Site at Butte.
•The Berkeley Pit. Of course, we wanted to pay $2.00 per person to see some toxic waste! Doesn’t everyone? There’s even a gift shop! Interestingly enough, the history of the mine and the fact that it is now an EPA Superfund Site, makes for a great tourist stop in Butte. The water in this huge pit supposedly has the toxicity of battery acid. Loud horns go off every few minutes to scare away birds. If they land on this “lake” they will die. A small mine still operates next to the Berkeley Pit today.
•Side Trip to Helena, Montana. Drive time between Butte and Helena: 1 hour. Helena is the beautiful capital city of Montana. The Montana Historical Society, located across the street from the capitol building, is in the top three most interesting museums we have ever visited. We also visited the Cathedral of Saint Helena, which opened in 1908.
•Side Trip to Missouri Headwaters State Park. This beautiful state park is located at Three Forks, Montana, where the confluence of three rivers: Gallatin, Jefferson, and Madison create the headwaters of the Missouri River. We went for the scenery, a picnic, and the learning experience. Lewis and Clark camped here. Boating, fishing, hiking, biking and camping are just a few of the popular activities at this park. Here’s a link: Missouri Headwaters State Park. Drive time between Missouri Headwaters State Park and Butte, Montana: 1 hour.
We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Butte, and we recommend a stop for anyone who happens to be in the area. Leave us a comment and tell us about your favorite places. We would love to hear from you! Until the next trip…
Travel safe, travel smart, and we will see you down the road.
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.