The largest county by area in Montana, Beaverhead County is named for a curiously shaped rock formation in the region. The Shoshone, one of the original groups of inhabitants of the region, thought it to look like a beaver’s head. It sits right up against the continental divide and borders the state of Idaho.
Its county seat, Dillon, is home to the University of Montana Western, so it has a large population of college students. During the school year, it’s easy to find events and activities that cater to young people like concerts, trivia nights, and performances.
The main highway running through the county is interstate 15, which bisects Beaverhead and continues into Idaho and beyond. It’s very close to the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, so a stay in Beaverhead County can be combined with a trip to the park.
Visit the Beaverhead County Government website.
Annual Events in Beaverhead County, Montana
If you visit Beaverhead county for one of their annual events, you can expect to see a fiercely traditional, tight-knit community that knows how to have wholesome fun.
This annual outdoor concert officially kicks off the summer season in Beaverhead County. Typically, you can expect a local but beloved musical act to headline.
This annual bike race is a fundraiser for Camp Mak-A-Dream, an organization that supports kids struggling with a cancer diagnosis. If you want to participate, you have to register in advance. Registrations typically open in March.
July – Dillon History Days
To celebrate the history of the area, many businesses and organizations based downtown participate in Dillon History Days. Tours are organized of historic buildings, and live demonstrations featuring processes of the past are performed in different venues. Many visitors even dress in vintage clothing!
September – County Fair
The main attraction at “Montana’s Biggest Weekend,” the Beaverhead County Fair is the most heavily attended event in the region. In addition to the traditional livestock fair and carnival attractions, it’s part of a broader calendar of events held over Labor Day weekend including a rodeo, a parade, a concert, and other associated events.
Attractions in Beaverhead County, Montana
Beaverhead county is a diverse region in Montana, home to high mountain peaks, vast meadows, and unique small towns that entice tourists to stick around a while.
Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
The largest national forest in Montana, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has campgrounds, recreation areas, and many hiking trails. While you’re there, don’t miss Crystal Park, where you can dig for hidden quartz and amethyst crystals.
Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge
Originally created in 1935 to restore the natural landscape of the region after homesteading, the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge aims to preserve the birds, animals, and ecosystem for future generations. There are few roads within the forest, and the ones that are there are only meant for hiking or biking, so arrive prepared.
Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway
Winding through the pine forests and valleys of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway. Along the way, several interpretive sites discuss the history and importance of the region. When you visit, allow enough time to see the abandoned Elkhorn silver mine and Coolidge Ghost Town.
Clark Canyon Reservoir
A man-made lake created by the construction of the Clark Canyon Dam, the Clark Canyon Reservoir has been turned into a recreation area for visitors. Managed by the Bureau of Reclamation, you’ll find boat ramps, picnic shelters, and a marina. It is known for having excellent rainbow and brown trout fishing.
Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns
11 miles outside Melrose is this curious remnant of Montana’s former mining industry, the Canyon Creek Charcoal Kilns. This is where the Hecla Mining Company reduced trees to charcoal to run the furnaces of their massive smelting operation. Today, they have been left standing as a tourist attraction.
Bannack State Park
The site of Montana’s first significant gold discovery, Bannack was once a bustling gold rush town and Montana’s first territorial capital. Today it is abandoned, but it lives on as Bannock State Park. In addition to touring the ghost town, visitors can use the picnic areas and the campground.
Jackson Hot Springs
This natural hot springs and lodge is a favorite of locals for its laid-back vibe and unpretentious dining. The large pool varies somewhat in temperature, but it hovers between 100º and 106º. They have an assortment of cozy, lodge-style rooms and RV hook-ups if you’ve brought your own digs.