Gold West Country

Gold West Country

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Joe Nickell

Strike gold and adventure in southwest Montana.

First comes runoff, flushing snow out of the mountains and forcing fisherfolk off the rivers. Then comes the “run-in” of summer tourists headed to Yellowstone and other well-known Montana destinations. Despite this, there are areas of the state where locals can find the peace that brought them here in the first place, while still enjoying all that Montana has to offer. Such a region is southwest Montana. Formerly known in the tourism biz as “Gold West Country,” this area is rich with natural and cultural treasures. And this summer brings an extra bounty of activities to the region.

Strike Gold Again
This year, the neighboring ghost towns of Virginia City and Nevada City celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first gold strike in Alder Gulch—the gulch from which former residents of Virginia City and Nevada City prospered or failed during the world’s most famous placer mining gold rush. Starting May 24 through the end of August, the remarkably preserved ghost towns will come alive again with historical performances and ceremonies commemorating the anniversary. 

Each weekend, actors with the Nevada City Living History Museum will educate audiences about the real Wild West mining days—from the 1863 gold discovery to the Great Duel of Nevada City and the 1865 Flour Riot. To try your own hand at striking gold, pick up a mining pan at Nevada City’s River of Gold. For the summer’s full schedule of events, visit

Cycle Your Way Through Southwest Montana
In the summer, southwest Montana offers two unique events that route cyclists through some of the most pristine Montana landscapes imaginable.

The Anaconda Bicycle Festival, June 15-16, is a weekend of bicycle events for the entire family. Cyclists can chose to ride the 25, 50 or 100-mile routes in the Pedal of the Pintlers, which routes riders from Anaconda up to Georgetown Lake and over the Continental Divide. For those who’d prefer to cruise downhill, the Turbo Twenty starts at Georgetown Lake (shuttle service provided from Anaconda) and routes riders back into town. For mountain bike enthusiasts the weekend festival also includes the Competitive Disco Mountain Boogie at Discovery Ski Area. The NORBA event features 11, 17, and 21-mile courses over the scenic, yet challenging mountain terrain.

Southwest Montana’s Ride Around The Pioneers In One Day (RATPOD) offers cyclists another vigorous challenge through the beautiful Big Hole Valley, encountering three mountain wilderness areas and the pristine Big Hole River. The one-day, 130-mile bicycle ride benefits Camp Mak-A-Dream, a cost-free, medical camp in western Montana for children, teens and young adults with cancer. This year the ride takes place on June 29, starting and ending in Dillon. 

Get Thrilled Evel-Knievel Style
For riders who prefer a little more torque behind the wheels, Evel Knievel Days celebrates the iconic daredevil, who was born and raised in Butte. On July 25-27, visitors to Butte will experience performances by Knievel’s daring successors—some of the greatest stuntmen in the country—in addition to a poker run and car/bike show. Learn more about the festival at

To discover even more events, attractions, and wilderness adventures that southwest Montana has to offer, visit

Photo credits:

Nevada City: Chuck Haney
RATPOD: John Belobraidic

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