Deer Lodge is one of the longest inhabited areas in Montana with a rich history due to its fertile grassland that made it an ideal home for the Native Peoples. Combine this with its location at the base of two mountain ranges and Deer Lodge, Montana has a lot to offer visitors.
To aid you on your adventure, we have put together a list of things to do in Deer Lodge, whether it be for history buffs or those wanting to take in the beautiful views offered by Big Sky Country.
The Best Things to Do in Deer Lodge, Montana
1. Old Prison Museum Complex
In 1871 the Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge took in its first prisoner, and for over 100 years, it served as the main prison for the State of Montana.
When the site was closed in 1979 in favor of more modern facilities, the “Old” prison was converted to a museum. Today the 9-acre complex is home to five separate museums, numerous buildings, and plenty of opportunities to explore.
The Old Montana State Prison Complex is open year-round, and visitors can explore the site on their own, or opt for a guided tour. One of the most popular tours of the prison is the haunted prison ghost tour.
2. Play Golf with Amazing Views
It’s hard to beat the views at Deer Park Golf Course. With Mount Powell as the backdrop, visitors to Deer Lodge can enjoy this great golf course from dusk to dawn for most of the year.
The course has 9 holes and a total distance of 3,200 yards of challenge and amazing views. Everyone from beginners to experienced players will enjoy the variety of holes at Deer Park Golf Course. The pro shop at Deer Park Golf Course has a full range of services and amenities including rental clubs, cart rentals, a lounge, and a snack bar.
For a different golfing experience in Deer Lodge, the golf course at Rock Creek Cattle Company is not to be missed.
Designed by renowned course designer Tom Doak, this 18-hole course winds through Rock Creek Cattle Company crossing streams and giving spectacular views at each green, fairway, and tee-box.
This course is semi-private, so you’ll need to have a member sponsor to play here, but if you can swing the opportunity to play around at Rock Creek Cattle Company, you won’t regret it for a moment.
3. Experience Local Beers and Nightlife
Even smaller communities in Montana can boast of their fun and unique brand of nightlife. While you’ll find the experience a bit more casual and lower-key, there is no shortage of spots in Deer Lodge to enjoy a good brew, spend time with friends and enjoy the sounds of good country music.
Mount Powell Tap Room is a local’s favorite spot to hang out and enjoy a local craft brew, pizza, and friendly service. This family-friendly taproom has 20 taps that feature Montana craft beers, hard cider, and seltzers.
Their menu has classic pub fare including nachos and giant pretzels. Another local favorite that you shouldn’t miss if you’re in Deer Lodge is Montana Bar.
This is the spot where you’ll have the complete Deer Lodge nightlife experience. A low-key and casual spot serving beer, cocktails, wine, and pub foods.
4. Visit the Grant-Kohrs Ranch
A working cattle ranch since 1862, the Grant-Kohrs Ranch was established by Canadian fur-trapper Johnny Grant.
In its heyday, the ranch spanned over 10-million acres and was once the largest ranch in Montana. Today, the ranch is a National Historic Site and the 1,600 acres of the original ranch are now run, as a working cattle ranch, by the National Parks Service.
The ranch offers visitors a look into the agricultural history of Montana as well as the operations of a modern cattle operation.
The Park Service provides tours of the ranch by wagon, guided tours of the original ranch house, blacksmithing demonstrations, and a small museum dedicated to the history of the area.
5. Go to Bob Marshall Wilderness
If you want to see what Montana looked like before cattle and people, then head to Bob Marshall Wilderness.
This dedicated conservation wilderness is one of the largest in the United States and is a popular destination for individuals that want to have a more ‘wild’ outdoor experience.
The Wilderness Area has no roads and is only accessible by foot. The area is home to pristine habitat for many of Montana’s iconic wildlife, including one of the largest populations of Grizzly bears in the United States.
The area is open for day hiking, backpacking, and backcountry camping.
6. Montana Auto Museum
Montana Auto Museum located in the Old Montana State Prison complex is a car lover’s dream. This amazing museum is home to over 160 cars that range from classics, muscle cars, oddities, and rare automobiles that you’ll not find at other car museums.
The Montana Auto Museum is listed as one of the ten best car museums in the United States. Besides cars, the museum has plenty of exhibits dedicated to the history of the automobile.
7. Garnet Ghost Town
For a look into one of Montana’s most well-preserved mining ghost towns, a day trip to Garnet Ghost Town is a must.
Garnet, named for the semi-precious red stones found in the area, was a fairly successful mining town for a time. Tucked in the Garnet Mountains, Garnet was a nice community with a school, business district, and a good quantity of gold in local streams and hillsides.
The town remained a quaint yet productive mining community until around 1948. Today, the site has thirty preserved buildings and self-guided trails that wander through what is left of the town of Garnet.
Visitors get an up-close look at life in a mining town. Garnet is considered the best-preserved ghost town in Montana and is well worth the drive from Deer Lodge.
8. Shop at Hi-Country Trading Post
Just about an hour from Deer Lodge, Hi-Country Trading Post is a store, museum and snack bar, all under one roof. Opened in 1996, Hi-Country Trading Post has made a name for itself as a fun place for visitors to stop.
Many of the items in the store are made in Montana from local ingredients or by local crafters and artisans. Located in the same building as the museum of the Upper Blackfoot Historical Society.
Spend some time here before you head back to Deer Lodge and learn about the life and history of some of the Native Peoples of Southwest Montana.
Free Things to Do in Deer Lodge, Montana
9. Sculpture in the Wild park
Perhaps one of the most interesting sites in Deer Lodge is the Sculpture in the Wild park. Tucked in the forest, this park is filled with sculptures made from natural and industrial materials that express cultural and economic traditions.
Many of the sculptures are quite large, and you may feel as though you’ve stepped into another world as you wander between sculptures. Artists featured in the sculpture park are locals and desire to share the mining, logging, and agricultural history of Montana in a unique way.
10. Cottonwood City Par
If you want to enjoy a picnic or if your kids just need some time to run around and let off some steam, head to Cottonwood City Park in Deer Lodge.
This beautiful park has plenty of typical park amenities but is also full of mature trees, lush grass, and colorful gardens, making it a peaceful and relaxing place to take a break from the demands of your day, or to stretch your legs after a day of travel.
11. Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Fores
The largest national forest in Montana is the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, and it’s located not far from Deer Lodge.
Crossing over eight counties, and 3.35 million acres the forest offers visitors plenty of opportunities to explore and recreate. Within Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest you’ll find hundreds of miles of trails open to hiking, biking, and off-road exploring.
Roads through the National Forest are great for scenic drives and boast some of the most spectacular views in the State. There are also more than 50 campgrounds in the National Forest where you can pitch your tent or park your camper.
Best Tours in Deer Lodge, Montana
12. Horseback Riding
This great community offers more than just a beautiful place to live. Their trail rides are the best way to experience the open spaces of the Big Sky state. Guided by the Ranch Wrangler, riders of all experience levels will have a great experience.
Rock Creek Cattle Company trail rides range from 3-hour adventures to all-day rides complete with gourmet meals. When you’re in Deer Lodge there’s no better place to enjoy a scenic and peaceful ride through the great outdoors.
13. Ghost Tours
Some visitors to Deer Lodge might enjoy an experience that’s a bit spookier. Old Montana State Prison complex offers visitors the chance to learn about the darker side of the old prison. The Haunted Prison tour will guide you through parts of the facility where there have been reports of paranormal activity.
While searching for ghosts in the Old Montana State Prison complex, visitors will learn about those who died or were killed in the prison, and some of the more interesting facts about life in the prison.
14. Guided Ranch Tour
The Grant-Kohrs Ranch was once the largest cattle ranch in Montana. At 10-million acres, the ranch made a substantial impact on the cattle industry in Montana.
Today, much of the land has been sold to others for grazing and conservation lands, however, approximately 1,600 acres of the original Grant-Kohrs Ranch is now owned and maintained by the National Park Service as a National Historic Site.
Visitors to the ranch can learn about operations on a working cattle ranch. Guided tours of the ranch house are available throughout the year.
Site rangers also offer a variety of educational opportunities and activities like seeing the ranch from the comfort of a covered wagon, blacksmith demonstrations, roping lessons, visiting the resident livestock and other hands-on programs.
If you want to explore on your own there are also seven miles of walking trails that will provide you the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the ranch.
15. Frontier Museum Tour
Located in the Old Montana State Prison complex is one of the best museums dedicated to frontier life that you’ll find.
The Frontier Montana Museum has plenty of interesting exhibits that detail how settlers in Montana experienced life, along with many artifacts that share stories of the Native Americans that lived in the Deer Lodge area.
You can experience this museum on your own, but if you want to learn the history of Deer Lodge that’s not on display, consider a guided tour of the museum.
16. Fishing Tour
Scully’s Guide Service in Deer Lodge is a great spot to get yourself outfitted for a great day fishing. They have all the gear you need and their experienced guides can show you the best spots on the Madison River and help you hone your fishing skills.
They are quite popular so make sure that you make a reservation with them before you travel to Deer Lodge to ensure that you’re able to enjoy their services.
17. Snowmobile Tour
Deer Lodge is surrounded by National Forest lands that offer plenty of great snowmobiling trails during the winter.
Visitors to the Deer Lodge area will find that some of the best trails for families to experts are in the Continental Divide/Leadville Snowmobile trail complex.
This area which is maintained cooperatively between the Deer Lodge Snowmobile Club and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has 88-miles of trails to explore. Maps of the area can be picked up at the Montana FWP district office.
18. Wagon Tour
One of the most popular summer tours in the Deer Lodge area is the Wagon Tour at the Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site.
Led by park rangers, visitors will head out into the valley that was once a part of the largest cattle ranch in Montana. You’ll enjoy some of the most spectacular views and learn about the history of the ranch, and about some of Montana’s plants and wildlife from a covered wagon pulled by draft horses.
This tour will make you feel like you’re a settler exploring the great frontier.
19. Rafting Adventure
If you’re looking for a different sort of adventure, head west from Deer Lodge to Missoula and spend the day floating the Clark River, enjoying the views and some of Montana’s best craft beer.
River City Brews Rafting Tours offers visitors the opportunity to spend a warm summer day on the river, without having to paddle. Each tour is led by one of River City Brew’s co-owners who have a passion for floating, sharing the outdoors with visitors, and enjoying a great Montana-made craft beer.
Moose Marina located at Georgetown Lake is a great outfitter specializing in watercraft rentals. Kayaks are one of the best ways to explore Georgetown Lake.
The peaceful, non-motorized boats allow you to get close to the shore, and experience the serenity of the lake. Staff at Moose Marina can give you information on the best places to explore, and can provide basic instruction on paddling a kayak if you need a refresher.