Monday, September 9, 2013

MK Visits Garnet Ghost Town and Coloma

I've had plans to visit Montana guest towns all summer, but between the heat (which I do not handle well) and a myriad of projects around the house, it wasn't until this last weekend when I took myself off for a ghost town visit.

The drive up the mountain was breathtaking. It rained on and off, but that is the perfect type of day for me. We were lucky enough that most of the clouds and the fog remained at bay until the drive down.

I can't explain exactly why I was so happy to be on this particular trip. In only know that from the moment we began to drive up the mountain, I kept the window down and let in the fresh pine-scented air while the cool breeze blew across my face. It was simply wonderful.

If you ever have a chance to visit Garnet and Coloma, the drive up provides a nice history lesson with interactive displays along the way. But there was more than that. One of the first displays told us about a Frank Hamilton and the Sand Park Cemetery. I only took video of that particular display (to come later), but suffice it for now to say that there was no Frank Hamilton listed on the grave markers, at least not that I saw.

"Frank Hamilton died last Tuesday and was buried in
the Coloma Cemetery on Thursday, under the auspices
of the Garnet Miners Union. Deceased was about 35
years of age, but nothing is known of his antecedents,
further than that. He was born in Colorado, presumably
at Canon City."
—Drummond Call, Friday, October 6, 1905

It is sad to be a part of history as these men were, and then to be remembered only for your name and year of death and possibly where you were born.

The next display was to tell us about the old stage stop. 

We then continued up the mountain where we finally parked and walked the short distance to Garnet. My first glimpse of it was surprising. I knew it was a preserved ghost town, but I hadn't realized just how much. 

Walking through the boarding house was a fun experience. When I first saw the kitchen, I had to pause and wonder if I could have managed to cook everything I do in this kitchen. More interior photos will be in the video. 

I was hoping for ghosts at least at the boarding house, but alas they were as absent as the sunshine. Behind me are the stairs to the second floor bedrooms.

This was the nicest of the upstairs bedroom. It was also the only room with signs that a woman lived there. 

I had some fun imagining what it would have been like to honeymoon in this cabin, but I suppose when you marry in the middle of nowhere, you take what you can get. 

And then a stop off at the old blacksmith shop where the bellows was twice my height. I so wanted to give it a try. 

And then off to the "jail." Be grateful you weren't a misfit in Garnet.

Now let's take a look at Coloma, a nearby mining camp that hasn't been preserved. You can also learn more about Garnet at

Coloma Ghost Town/Mining Camp
Called the "Mystery Camp," little information is available. The town was active from 1893 to 1906. During that period, the entire Coloma district produced approx. $250,000 in gold. The area was active again in 1918-1921 and 1932-1950. Current archological study of the site is being conducted by graduate school at University of Montana.  
Submitted by: M. S. "Doc" McClanahan *
Though not preserved, Coloma was my favorite part of the trip. There was definitely something in the crisp and clean air.The men up this mining camp may have had more rustic lodging, but they certainly had the best setting and views. I was surprised at the number of cabins still standing, even partially. 

This was my favorite of the cabins, perhaps because it was settled in a lovely place by itself among. I imagine it was quite "cute" at one time. 

Though I don't believe whoever had to sleep here every night would agree with me. 

This was my favorite place up in Coloma. You had to walk around to find it, but it's definitely worth the easy trek. Among those rocks I sat and imagined life in those mountains a century ago. Perhaps the men found solace from their work by escaping to this spot . . .

. . . to enjoy the view from the rocks. It's understandable why some of them built cabins along this ridge.

If you're ever inclined to visit northwest Montana, I suggest a drive up the mountain to Garnet and Coloma. Despite getting temporarily lost coming back from Coloma and stumbling upon evidence of a grizzly (I swear I wasn't driving), it was a truly beautiful day. Not to mention inspiring for a book. 

On the way out, we stopped for a lovely walk in the woods among the changing colors. 

Then of course there was the drive back home with a stop at Salmon Lake . . .


  1. Thanks for the tour, hope to vist some day. DebP

    1. I hope you get a chance to visit someday too, Deb!

  2. I enjoyed the tour - thank you. The pictures are great and I look forward to your video. Can't remember visiting a ghost town - would love to though. Thanks, MK

    1. Glad you enjoyed the "tour," Karen. :) The video will be done a little later than I had hoped, but I'll put up a post with it once I have a chance to finish it.

  3. What beautiful views there, love the old cabins and can you imagine taking all day to go 15 miles which we do in 15 min now...Folks back in those days really had it rough yet they still had life to live and dreams to think on just like we do today..I always enjoy reading eccleasties in the Bible where it says all has been done before and how true that is..generation after generation.
    thanks for sharing this
    Paula O(

    1. Hi Paula! That's one of the most remarkable parts of history's story--the people's ability to hope and dream amidst such difficult times and struggles. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  4. That was awesome and on my list for a future trip to Montana-- if it isn't already under snow. I love ghost towns. There is a good one in Southern Arizona-- Kentucky Camp but for my favorite, I can't really say. I like them all.

    1. The mountains do get snow early. I know it's blocked off to vehicles January through the snow melt. I haven't been to any ghost towns that far south, but what a cool history there would be in another part of the west. I hope you get that chance to see Garnet and Coloma. :)