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Anaconda, Montana

Anaconda, Montana is one of the most historically significant towns in Montana. This community located in southwestern Montana was once home to the state’s largest copper smelter.

Today it is a gathering place for tourists eager to enjoy some of the best recreational areas in Montana.

Founded in 1883 by Marcus Daly, one of the “Copper Kings “of Butte, Anaconda was initially to be called Copperopolis. However, another town in the state already had been named Copperopolis, so Daly named the town after his own successful copper mine, the Anaconda Mine.

While Daly got his start as a mine owner, the copper smelter that he built in Anaconda became the largest smelter and refining complex for a non-iron metal in the world. The smelter was operational until 1980 when it was closed.

Following environmental clean-up efforts, the area that was once home to the smelter was turned into a world-class golf course, attracting visitors from all over North America.

When the smelter closed, the town switched its focus from mining operations to tourism. Today, this quaint community is a history buff’s dream filled with plenty of historical sights.

For the visitor that loves the outdoors and wants to enjoy the recreational opportunities in and around Anaconda, there are plenty of activities to keep you busy.

anaconda
Image: Jasperdo

Main Attractions

Anaconda isn’t a large community, but with its rich mining history and its location tucked at the base of the Anaconda Range, there are plenty of things to see and do. When you visit Anaconda there are, however, a few must-see attractions.

Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park

anaconda smoke stack state park

Probably the most distinctive feature in the Anaconda area is the large smokestack that rises above the town. This stack is all that remains of the Anaconda Smelter-Refining Complex.

At one time, the stack was the tallest free-standing masonry structure in the world. While that distinction has come and gone, the stack still remains one of the tallest in the world and is a reminder of the town’s history.

The Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park is the only way to visit the stack, and you can only view it from the viewing platform in the state park.

The ground that the stack sits on is heavily contaminated with heavy metals and is an EPA Superfund Site. The state park offers plenty of information on the mining history of Anaconda and Butte.

Washoe Theater

washoe theater
Image: Larry Myhre

The Washoe Theater first opened its doors in 1936 at the peak of the copper processing operations of the town. The single-screen theater was the last theater in the United States constructed in the Nuevo Art or Art Deco style, and much of the lavish décor from the 1930s, including copper ornaments and murals that still adorn the theater.

While a beautiful and unique site in Anaconda, the Washoe Theater is still a functional movie theater, showing one film at a time, with one showing Monday thru Thursday and two showings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway

A 64-mile drive connecting Anaconda to Philipsburg, MT, this route offers an alternative route between Butte and Missoula, for those that want to skip the interstate. Along this route, you’ll have amazing views of the Anaconda Pintler mountains.

The highway passes by Georgetown Lake, a popular destination for hiking, camping, water sports and fishing. If you like to ski, this route in the winter takes you directly to Discovery Ski Area, one of the most popular ski resorts in Montana.

Recreation Activities

Anaconda may not be home to lots of fancy tourist attractions. However, it does play host to some of the best outdoor recreation in Montana. The Anaconda Range offers plenty of recreational activities for the adventurous at heart.

Hiking

There are ample opportunities for hiking in and around Anaconda. Great hiking trails can be found in Lost Creek State Park, including a nice hike to Lost Creek Falls. Georgetown Lake has plenty of places to hike as well.

However, if you’re looking to get away from the crowds try one of the many hiking trails within the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area or Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest.

Skiing

Discovery Ski Area is just a short drive from Anaconda, for those that enjoy the thrill of downhill skiing. If you are looking for something a little slower paced there are plenty of cross-country ski trails to be explored at Mount Haggin Nordic Center.

Fishing and Hunting

Surrounding Anaconda are hundreds of square miles of public lands that can be accessed for hunting. Popular game species in the Anaconda area include deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, moose, and game birds.

A hunting license is required to hunt on public lands surrounding Anaconda, so check the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks for information on how to acquire a hunting license.

Fishing is also very popular in the Anaconda area, with many really nice fishing areas. Popular fishing spots include Georgetown Lake, Silver Lake, Racetrack Lake, Storm Lake, Warm Springs Creek, and the Big Hole River.

As with hunting, a fishing license is required for any individual that wants to fish in Montana. Information on fishing regulations and how to acquire a fishing license can be found on the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks website.

Golf

Surprisingly, Anaconda is home to world-class golf. Following the closure and cleanup of the Anaconda Smelter, the brownfield designated lands were turned into the Old Works Golf Course, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. If that course is not your style, check out the 18-hole championship course at the Fairmont Hot Springs.

Accommodations

You’ll not find a wealth of lodging options in Anaconda. There are a number of Airbnb, Bed, and Breakfast, and vacation rental options in addition to a few hotel options.

Special Events

Many of the special events and festivals in Butte pay homage to the cultural groups that came to the area in search of a bit of mining wealth. Of course, the town does have festivals that are just for fun and celebrate some of our favorite holidays.

Activities Near Anaconda

Recreation Activities

National Parks and Forests

State Parks

Driving/Guided Tours

Museums

Performing Arts

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