Once a historic mining town, Zortman, MT, is a nostalgic community in the Little Rocky Mountains of Phillips County and serves as an excellent launching ground for visitors to explore the region’s campsites, hiking trails, and gold mining history.
Gold prospecting in the region began in the 1860s. However, a permanent settlement was established in 1890 when two prospectors struck a rich vein, triggering a significant rush to the newly established Zortman.
In the years that followed, several mines opened in the mountains surrounding Zortman, and several new services and businesses came to the town. The most prosperous mine was the Ruby Gulch. Opened in 1904, it is estimated that Ruby Gulch produced as much as $14,000 of gold each day.
Continuing to develop, Zortman’s population grew to approximately 2,000 people by the 1920s. Zortman thrived in the region for a few more years before a wildfire swept through the Little Rockys, destroying much of the mining operations in the area.
A little over a decade later, in 1949, the mines in Zortman were shut down, ending the town’s prosperous heyday.
Guide to Zortman, Montana
Today, Zortman, MT, remains an unincorporated community in Phillips County. With a population of 82 people as of the 2020 census, the town has managed to maintain its historical mining heritage but has converted its identity into a nostalgic town that attracts visitors as they explore the region’s natural beauty and mining histories.
Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument
Occupying a region that has largely remained unchanged since Meriweather Lewis and William Clark had first passed through over 200 years ago, The Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument is a beautiful preservation of Montana Landscape before European settlers arrived in the area.
Added to the Department of the Interior’s National Landscape Monument System in 2001, the Upper Missouri River Breaks Monument spans 149 miles from Fort Benton to Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge. It covers large portions of the adjacent Breaks country, Arrow Creek, Antelope Creek, and the Judith River.
Also included within the monument’s boundaries are six wilderness study areas— the Cow Creek Area of Critical Environmental Concern, portions of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Nez Percé National Historic Trail, the Fort Benton National Historic Landmark, and Missouri Breaks Back Country Byway.
Serving as a form of natural protection from human influences, the remote isolation of the monument makes it a fantastic location for reconnecting with nature. About 90 miles from Zortman, the memorial invites visitors to hike, hunt, fish, or paddle their way through the beautiful natural environments it preserves.
UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge
Situated within and managed by the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge, the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge is considered one of the most remote locations in Montana. It is home to several species of plants, animals, and birds, including one of the state’s only non-migrating populations of elk.
A refuge within a refuge, the UL Bend occupies one of the least visited corners f the Charles M. Russel Wilderness. This is primarily due to the fact that roads leading to the UL Bend are limited, rough, and challenging to navigate.
However, this inaccessibility makes it the perfect destination for escaping civilization. Visitors will be rewarded with a sense of isolation as they explore the region’s wetlands, native plant species, and diverse populations of mammals, birds, and fish.
Great Plains Dinosaur Museum
Located 48 miles from Zortman, in Malta, MT, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum is a must-visit for anyone hoping to explore the prehistoric inhabitants that once roamed their way through the rigorous landscapes of Montana.
As one of the 14 stops along the Montana Dinosaur Trail, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum first opened in 2008 and features several exhibits that include the first Stegosaurus and Camarasaurus scientifically collected from Montana.
Other exhibits featured at the museum include Roberta, a duck-billed dinosaur, and Leonardo, a Brachylophosaurus recognized as the world’s most complete “mummy” dinosaur.
For an even more enhanced paleontological experience, the Great Plains Dinosaur Museum invited children and adults to get their hands dirty with one of their dinosaur dig programs. Check the museum’s event schedule for upcoming dig dates.
Philips County Museum
Another stop along the Montana Dinosaur Trail, the Philips County Museum, is home to many artifacts that retell the story of the state from its prehistoric occupants to the European settlers and the early days of homesteading.
Located in Chinook, about 48 miles from Zortman, the Philips County Museum features five permanent exhibits that include Paleontology, Cowboys and outlaws, Indians, Pioneer Life, and the H.G. Robinson house.
The museum is an essential attraction for visitors to explore what life was like during the state’s earliest years and what it was like to live in the rigorous conditions required to grow a historic mining community such as Zortman.
Nestled amongst protected wildernesses in Northcentral Montana, Zortman offers plenty of hiking opportunities for visitors looking to explore the surrounding countryside.
With several trails weaving their way through the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and the UL Bend National Wildlife Refuge, there is a hike to meet any difficulty and experience level.
Some of the best hikes in the area include the Antelope Creek Nature Trail, the Kid Curry Cave Trail, and the Bone Springs Trail.
Several camping opportunities are available throughout Phillips County, including the region surrounding Zortman. In addition, designated campgrounds at Upper Missouri Rivers Break Monument offer guests the chance to spend the night in the quiet solitude of the isolated landmark.
Similarly, the Charles M. Russel National Wildlife Refuge permits dispersed camping in its UL Bend Wilderness. While no designated sites are available in the preservation, guests are welcome to set up camp and enjoy the many blisses of the region’s natural wonders.
Alternatively, the Camp Creek Campground is located only a few minutes from Zortman. It offers fully serviced sites for visitors that prefer a few comforts throughout their stay. Ground services include 20 camping units, drinking water, restrooms, picnic shelters, tables, and fire rings.
The most apparent fishing location near Zortman is the Missouri River to the south of town. The river features 60 species of warm-water and cold-water fish and offers plenty of natural scenery for a fantastic afternoon casting your line.
While various fish species call the river home, the Missouri River is world-renowned for its large trout. These species include Brook Trout, Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, and even the official State Fish of Montana, the West Slope Cutthroat Trout.
- Buckhorn Cabins & RV Park—Zortman
- Zortman Motel & Garage— Zortman
- Country Inn— Malta
- Great Northern Hotel— Malta
- Stage Road Inn— Dodson
- June- Lewis & Clark Festival– Great Falls
- July- Central Montana Fair & Rodeo – Lewistown
- July– 4th of July Parade and Fireworks Show– Zortman
- July– Philips County Fair– Dodson
- October– Oktoberfest and Scrip Kickoff– Malta
- December– Parade of Lights and Santa Pictures– Malta
Activities Near Zortman
- Lewistown (92 miles)
- Havre (110 miles)
- Billings (165 miles)
- Great Falls (197 miles)
- Miles City (251 miles)
- Camp Creek Campground
- Redbone Outfitting
- Paintbrush Adventures
- Trailhead to Bone Springs
- Jake’s Horses Inc
- Marian Hills Golf Course
National and State Parks
- Nez Percé National Historical Site
- Glacier National Park
- Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area
- Ackley Lake State Park
Restaurants and Services
What is the Cost of Living in Zortman?
With a cost-of-living index of 83.5, living in Zortman is considered relatively cheaper than in other parts of the country and even throughout the state.
Homes in Zortman cost an average of $201,400, which is comparatively more affordable than the Montana average of $353,700.
Is Zortman Safe?
Crime rates in Zortman are 100% better than the National average. As a result, Zortman is safe for travelers, and the town is considered safer than 97% of all cities in the United States.
What is Zortman Known For?
Historically serving as a mining community, Zortman is now famous as a quaintly preserved community that reflects its mining heritage while serving as a base for the many natural wonders of Northcentral Montana.