The three-generation package of Georgetown Lake.
West of Homestake Pass, I-90 careens off the Continental Divide, worms through Butte, and jogs north near the junction of Hwy. 1. Here, most folks continue straight at a cool 80mph on their way to Missoula or beyond. But if you take that left, follow the road through the narrow, historic mining town of Anaconda, and continue your way into the Flint Creek range, something will happen.
Along with vehicle speed and any lingering stress, time will relax. Reach the top of the next pass and start dropping down through the evergreens and you’ll notice a new world altogether. Hit the banks of the ice-covered reservoir, and you may see no other reason to continue.
Georgetown Lake is actually a reservoir, created in 1885 to supply power to mining operations, as well as to the sleepy town of Philipsburg. At 6,425 feet in elevation, surrounded by the Flint Creek Range, Anaconda-Pintlers, and Sapphire Mountains, this still-pristine locale has recently grown in recreation popularity, and for obvious reasons. The beauty of Georgetown is its variety. Rarely do we find, even in Montana, a place that offers something for everyone, all in one spot. Be it the peak of summer or dead of winter, opportunities await the entire family.
This time of year, you’ll want to bring your cap and gloves. Skiers and snowboarders need not look further than Discovery Ski Area. This local’s mountain, though bustling on weekends and holidays, is one of the few areas that still boasts a good ol’ mom-and-pop vibe. Expect high-fives from lifties, snow in the trees, and down-to-earth bartenders.
If downhill doesn’t strike your fancy, but corduroy does, break out the Nordic skis. Meander through the Doug fir and around Echo Lake on trails that start at Disco’s base. Or, head to the Mount Haggin Wildlife Management Area for 17 miles of groomed trail. Keep a heads-up for deer, elk, moose, antelope, and an abundance of bird life. Portions of this WMA are also open to snowmobiling, though the main winter range is closed to motorized vehicles through May 15.
On the reservoir itself, you won’t have problems staying busy. Not only does the lake boast beaming views of all the surrounding mountain ranges, but the place is home to trophy-sized rainbow and brook trout, as well as kokanee salmon. Ask anyone from the area and they’ll tell you it’s the best ice-fishing hub in the state. That, or they’ll say there’s no fish around and you oughta go back to where you came from. Either way, if you’ve got an auger, a rod, and a good supply of patience, give it a shot; if there ever was a place for sitting around all day on an overturned bucket, Georgetown is it.
You might see kiteboarders, too. The 3,700-acre lagoon has plenty of room to spread out, and on some days, sees gales that test even the best boarder’s balance. If you’ve got a rig yourself, make sure it’s packed.
With cabin rentals aplenty and lodging in nearby Anaconda or Philipsburg, finding accommodations is nothing to fret over. In P-burg, don’t miss Philipsburg Brewing or the Sweet Palace, the local candy store. If you’re looking to warm your bones after a chilly day outside, the acclaimed Fairmont Hot Springs is right on the way home.
In many ways, Georgetown Lake can feel like a little home away from home. It’s as easy to get lost in a book here, as it is to spend all day skiing, fishing, or rambling around on snowshoes. Shredding pow or sipping coffee, the best part of Georgetown—like so much of Montana—is its offering to slow down, its reminder that you’ve got nowhere to be and all day to get there. So the next time you’re blowing along I-90 with some flex in your schedule, carpe diem and take that left turn.