Once upon a time, Butte-Silver Bow, Montana was a booming city of nearly 100,000 residents. A rich vein of copper was discovered below the city, and miners, fortune seekers, and settlers rushed to “The Richest Hill on Earth” to find their own little piece of mining success.
Nestled in the Rocky Mountains, between Glacier and Yellowstone National Park, Butte Montana was first established as a mining camp in 1864. Early prospectors to the area found that the Silver Bow Creek Valley, which straddles the Continental Divide, was a lucrative place to mine for silver and gold.
Many of the early settlers were men from Cornwall, England, and Ireland. Late in the 19th Century, gold and silver mining was replaced by the Anaconda Copper mine. With electric lights heavily in demand in the growing United States, copper became king in Butte.
By 1910, Butte was the largest producer of copper in the United States, and the town was booming. However, all good things must come to an end, and over many years of declining production, the Anaconda and Berkeley Pit mines were eventually closed.
Today, the mining industry in Butte has gone, but what remains of this community is a beautifully preserved piece of American and Montana history. The historic Uptown District tells a story of wealth and prosperity and is the second-largest historical district in the United States.
In 1977 the Butte city government and the Silver Bow County government were combined into a single organization. Today, Butte is a small and thriving community that welcomes tourists and has a wealth of things to experience.
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Butte-Silver Bow Main Attractions
One of the things we love about Butte is that it is small, but there are so many great things to do. Between museums, the historic district and the ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, the area has a little something for everyone.
Historic Uptown District
The only historic district larger than Butte’s Uptown District is in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Uptown district is a nearly perfectly preserved look at the life that miners and prospectors lived in the heyday of mining activities in Butte.
Recently there has been a substantial push by the community to preserve the heritage of Butte, by highlighting the town’s importance to mining and its historical significance in the story of the western United States. The historic district has 6,000 properties and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
There are a number of opportunities for guided tours of the historic Uptown district for visitors to enjoy.
World Museum of Mining
Dedicated to telling the story of Butte’s mining history, the World Museum of Mining highlights not only the history of Butte-Silver Bow but also provides exhibits about mining technology through history.
Visitors to the museum can also take guided tours into the Orphan Girl Mine. The museum puts on a variety of programs throughout the year including scavenger hunts and summer camps for kids.
Our Lady of the Rockies
Constructed in 1979 by Butte resident Bob O’Bill as a promise to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Rockies is a 90-foot statue, dedicated to the women of the world, perched atop the Continental Divide. Our Lady of the Rockies is the third tallest statue in the United States and sits 3,500 feet above the town of Butte-Silver Bow.
The Dumas Brothel was a bordello founded by French-Canadian Brothers Joseph and Arthur Nadeau. Today, the Dumas Brothel is the only remaining, three-story Victorian brothel in the United States.
Named after Joseph’s wife Delia Dumas, the brothel served the working men of Butte until it closed in 1982 when prostitution became illegal. Today the Brothel serves as a museum where visitors can enjoy the building’s history by guided tour.
Copper King Mansion
A look into the excessive wealth that was enjoyed by mine owners in Butte can be seen in the Copper King Mansion. The home built for W.A. Clark, one of the “Copper Kings” of Butte.
His success in copper mining in the Butte area was put on display in the home he built in Butte. The mansion features 34, well-preserved rooms that show the opulence of the home. Visitors will be stunned by Tiffany-stained glass windows, hand-carved woodwork, period furnishings, and frescoed ceilings.
Today, the home is a bed and breakfast. Tours of the home are also available.
Butte-Silver Bow Recreation Activities
If history and mining aren’t your things, it’s OK, there are plenty of other things to do and see around Butte. With a wealth of opportunities for exploring the outdoors, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see around the town of Butte and Silver Bow County — you will find it hard to be bored.
Hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities around Butte. The town itself boasts over 10-miles of designated trails and greenways.
If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous, the most popular hike in the area is the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. Multiple trailheads in the Butte area give you access to this great trail that can take you the full length of the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico.
One of these connector trails is located in Thompson Park, just 9-miles south of Butte. Thompson Park has over 400-miles of non-motorized hiking and biking trails for visitors to explore.
If you don’t want to venture too far from town, try the Big Butte Trail System. This collection of trails starts in town near the Montana Tech University campus. This area has five different trail options that allow visitors to get a bird’s eye view of the town.
There are two downhill ski areas near Butte-Silver Bow for those that want to ski and ride while visiting Butte. Discovery Ski Area and Maverick Mountain are both great places to enjoy a day of skiing or riding.
If you’d rather enjoy a more leisurely skiing experience, try Nordic skiing around Mount Haggin, Georgetown Lake, Big Hole Valley, and Elk Park.
If you can hike it, you can probably bike it. There are tons of great trails around the Butte area that are great for Mountain biking. Locals like the trails in the Big Butte Trail System, and there is plenty of single-track adventure to be found at Thompson Park.
Fishing and Hunting
There are plenty of opportunities for fishing and hunting around Butte-Silver Bow. You’ll find blue-ribbon fly-fishing on the Clark Fork, Jefferson, Beaverhead, and Blackfoot rivers. If river fishing isn’t your style, try casting your line at Georgetown Lake or Big Hole.
Family fishing opportunities can be found at Skyline Park or Homestake Lake just outside of Butte.
Hunting opportunities are plentiful in the mountains and valleys around Butte. Work with local outfitters to find the best places to hunt for waterfowl, birds, and large game.
Butte-Silver Bow Accommodations
Because Butte is a relatively small community, you’ll want to plan ahead before visiting, to ensure that you’ll find lodging. Accommodations in Butte are simple, but you’ll find a variety of options including historic homes with bed and breakfasts and well-preserved Victorian hotels.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites
- Hampton Inn Butte
- LaQuinta Inn
- Comfort Inn – Butte City Center
- Finlen Hotel & Motor Inn
- Holiday Inn Express
- Super 8 by Wyndham
Many of the special events and festivals in Butte-Silver Bow 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.
- January – SnoFlinga – Winter sports festival
- January/February – Chinese New Year Parade – Cultural festival
- March – Patrick’s Day Parade – Holiday festival
- June thru August – Music on Main – Music Series
- June thru August – Montana Shakespeare in the Parks – Performing arts festival
- July – Freedom Fest – Holiday festival
- July – Montana Folk Festival – Art and music festival
- July – Butte 100 Mountain Bike Race – Bike race
- August – An Ri Ra Montana Irish Festival – Cultural festival
- August – Silver Bow County Fair – Agricultural fair
- September – Butte-toberfest – Food/Cultural festival
- December – Uptown Christmas Stroll – Holiday festival
Activities Near Butte-Silver Bow
- Thompson Park
- Beaver Ponds Trailhead
- Stodden Park
- Ridge Waters Water Park
- McGruff-Manning Memorial Park
- Humbug Spires Wilderness Study Area
- Spirit of Columbia Garden Carousel
- Highland View Golf Course
- Big Butte Open Space
- Butte Ice Rinks (multiple)
- Mount Haggin Nordic Ski
- Moulton Nordic Ski
National Parks and Forests
- Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
- Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
- Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness
- Bannack State Park/Ghost Town
- Lost Creek State Park
- Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park
- Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
- World Museum of Mining
- Dumas Brothel
- Copper King Mansion
- Historic Clark Chateau Museum and Gallery
- Piccadilly Museum of Transportation
- Mai Wah Society
- Old Lexington Stamp Mill and Gardens
- Montana Tech Mineral Museum
- Granite Mountain Memorial
- The Science Mine
- Butte National Historic District
- Ringing Rocks
- Covellite Theater
- Mother load Theater
Tours and Scenic Drives
- Homestake Pass
- Old Butte Historical Adventures
- Butte Trolly Tours
- Berkley Pit
- Our Lady of the Rockies Tour
What Is The Cost of Living in Butte?
Compared to the rest of the country, the general cost of living in Butte is considerably lower than the national average. Aside from the odd exception like the Health Services, living costs in Butte have been recorded to be close to 20% lower than the national average.
Is Butte Safe to Live in?
As far as crime rates go, unfortunately Butte weighs in with the somewhat high score of 1 out of 100 (100 being the best). With more than 2,200 reported crime incidents over a year, the upside is that more than 2,000 of those account for some type of property-related incident.
It’s definitely not that good either, with the odds of being involved in some form of violent incident being around 1 in 170. Centerville in East Butte is one of the safest regions of the town, and the Silver Bow Homes and Red Lights areas are at the other end of the spectrum.
What is Butte Known for?
Butte was a former mining town that retains strong links to its roots and heritage. Thus visitors may head to Butte for the World Museum of Mining, and the many landmarks and other reminders related to the town’s past. Butte played a key role in the early mining boom—especially when it came to copper.
You’ll also find folk music fans heading to Butte for the Montana Folk Festival which has been hosted in the town for a few years after it transitioned from the National Folk Festival to the much bigger event.
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