Montana is part of the American West, and as such, there are several Montana ghost towns to visit. See first-hand where people came to seek their futures in mining, and imagine how good or bad life must have been there. Note that three of these Montana ghost towns are considered semi-ghost towns, but I will be calling them ghost towns for SEO and searchability purposes. One of the ghost towns is on private property and thus you can only drive by.
I’ve previously written about Bannack State Park, as well as Virginia City and Nevada City, two amazing Montana ghost towns you should check out. In this post, I’ll specifically share information on three semi-ghost towns near Helena, Montana, and one private ghost town, to help you figure out which Montana ghost towns to add to your Montana bucket list. Or, if you live in Montana, I want to get you out exploring your state more!
As the capital of Montana, halfway between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Helena is a great exploration base if you are between parks or just wanting to stay in a central location in Montana. The four Montana ghost towns near Helena to explore are Elkhorn State Park, Marysville ghost town, Rimini ghost town, and Comet ghost town. Read on for tips and information about each!
One thing to note is that we visited all three of the semi-ghost town locations during the winter, which had pros and cons, as you’ll see below. If you are driving a regular car, I highly recommend only visiting Elkhorn State Park during the summer and possibly fall.
Elkhorn State Park: One of the Most Iconic Montana Ghost Towns
I would say right now Elkhorn State Park is one of my top 3 favorite Montana ghost towns (with Bannack State Park being my #1 favorite). Elkhorn State Park is about 48-53 miles away from Helena and has the remains of a 19th century mining town. It also boasts being the smallest state park in Montana, with two buildings that comprise the park: Fraternity Hall (built in 1893) and Gillian Hall. These are also two of the most popular buildings to photograph in the state of Montana.
We drove up on a quiet winter day. The year 2020 was a fairly dry winter, but up in Elkhorn the snow was basically up to my knees! No one was outside, and the only signs of life were the smoke rising from the chimneys of the inhabitants of the actual town, and a couple of people we saw on the drive up and down.
Although there are old historical buildings and of course Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall, people still live in Elkhorn, which is why it is a semi-ghost town. Therefore, much of the town is private property and off-limits. The only two buildings you are allowed to go into and go up to are Fraternity Hall and Gillian Hall. I peeked inside and they were amazing buildings. However, I didn’t stay long as I had an eerie feeling, probably caused by how deserted everything was.
When you go to Elkhorn, stay along Main Street–as required–in order to respect private property. You can see other old buildings and markers of where buildings once stood from afar.
The one thing that was scary about visiting Elkhorn State Park during the winter, as referenced in at least one online review, is that the unpaved road to the park and the road to the cemetery become very muddy in the winter.
Since the snow was high and one review online warned not to go too far without 4WD, we skipped seeing the cemetery that was somewhere nearby. I have an AWD vehicle, but I was still very nervous driving to Elkhorn State Park since I could feel my vehicle slightly fighting me on the muddy road. However, I was able to make it up with careful driving.
I saw at least one car during our trip, and one of my Instagram followers said they’ve driven up in a car during winter, but I strongly urge you to use an AWD or 4WD vehicle if you’re planning to drive up during the winter, especially if you were to drive up during a hard winter compared to the easy winter we were having in 2020.
Marysville, Montana, is about 30 minutes away from Helena. It was established in 1870, and you can see some of the buildings and history pieces remaining. From homes falling apart to a pretty church from 1886, you can catch a glimpse of a mining town that people once believed would eclipse Helena, but now barely registers on most people’s radars when they think of Montana ghost towns.
One of the buildings I walked past I later learned is actually an Airbnb you can stay at (note: I’ve never stayed here, but wanted to point it out as a fun fact).
Although it was closed the day we drove up, and I hadn’t been eating out much due to the pestilence that befell our countries in 2020, there is a historic restaurant in Marysville that you can eat at that used to be a nearby railroad station, until it was relocated to Marysville in 1975. It is the Marysville House Restaurant.
Also, Marysville is on the way to the Great Ski Divide, so if you’re going to the Great Ski Divide to ski, you don’t have an excuse for skipping out on driving through Marysville! 😉
Clocking in at 16.8 Miles from Helena, Rimini is another scenic Montana Ghost Towns. This is also an inhabited semi-ghost town. Websites claim you can do a self-tour of the town, but due to the snow covering up so many places and due to the high amount of private property/keep out signs posted across the town, we just drove by and looked from the car rather than risking upsetting anyone (always better safe than sorry!).
Someone in Rimini does have a sense of humor, as they set up a mannequin in the upper window of one of the old houses, to give it an old creepy look. The road near Rimini was also muddy and I felt my SUV slightly weaving on that road as well. Much of Rimini Road is paved, with the actual semi-ghost town being in an unpaved area.
Rimini was a mining town founded in 1864 and later home to people and barracks of dogs. The military had briefly trained dogs to invade Nazi-run Norway, but the mission never came to fruition. However, the trained dogs did do Arctic search and rescue missions. For more history on one of the most interesting Montana ghost towns, visit here or here.
Overall, I’d recommend just driving Rimini Road for the great mountain views. There also is Moose Creek Campground on the way up and a public outhouse.
Comet Ghost Town
Comet Ghost Town is a legit ghost town, about 40 miles away from Helena, but it is one of the Montana ghost towns on private property and thus can’t be explored. It was a mining town that began in the High Ore Mining District around 1869. We literally stumbled upon it by accident one day since I decided to see what was down a random road. It is located on High Ore Road, which is a dirt road, and I’m guessing also not very accessible for regular cars during a snowy winter.
As mentioned, Bannack Ghost Town is my favorite of the Montana ghost towns thus far, and a day trip from Helena, clocking in at 2.5 hours away one-way.
I’m on a quest to keep exploring Montana ghost towns, and will share information on Granite Ghost Town soon. I also visit ghost towns in other states when possible.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these Montana ghost towns! Make sure to leave a comment if there are Montana ghost towns you want me to explore next! For more Montana adventures and to follow my roaming, stick around my blog and also consider following me on Instagram and TikTok.