Butte is a modestly-sized former mining town halfway between Missoula and Bozeman in southern Montana (and the greater Rocky Mountains area), and under three hours from Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. It has a rich history in unionization, smelting industry and holding grand events like its large Fourth of July Parade, the Montana Folk Festival, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and Evel Knievel Days, in honor of the famed daredevil. All around Butte is outdoor wonder, like Table Mountain, Hollowtop Mountain and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
Unfortunately, Butte’s biggest tourist draw is the Berkeley Pit, a copper dam-turned-federal ecological Superfund site for monitoring and testing. Located on the far eastern edge of Butte, the Berkeley Pit still has native geese die from its toxic waters. North of the Berkeley Pit is Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond, another highly contaminated area that can take a short hike to really view.
On a lighter note, there are plenty of breweries and eateries in town that deserve attention, like Sparky’s Garage II, Uptown Cafe, Hummingbird Cafe and other Montana-traditional restaurants in the downtown area.
Butte’s houses (and their hosts) are hospitable, comfortable, full of country energy and close to local action. All across town, various kinds of set-ups are quite low in cost to rent per night, and if you want something a little shiner or more upscale, think about putting up your family in a nearby town, like the ranch-filled area around Twin Bridges (a little over a half hour from Butte), near Anaconda (under 30 minutes) or south along the Interstate 15 corridor. Planned well, this could make your party’s day trips less of a trek!
Over an hour north from Butte is the capital city of Montana, Helena, where one can dine from a wide variety of cuisine, take a fly fishing trip on the Missouri River, pop into a brewery and more. For stellar horseback riding, head on over to Three Forks on Interstate 90 for serene wilderness along the Jefferson River. Big Sky Resort, a mecca for skiing and snowboarding, is a bit of a drive south (two hours), but in the surrounding area lies the Gallatin River, Gallatin Canyon, a heaping helping of hiking trails and a great opportunity for photos at Ousel Falls.
Getting to Butte generally involves either going through Missoula or Bozeman, Montana. Missoula International Airport (MSO) receives year-round flights from Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City and other southwest U.S. cities as well as Minneapolis/St. Paul, and is just shy of two hours from Butte. Bozeman is under an hour and a half away from Butte, and its Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) serves around the same number of flights from regional neighbors as MSO. From both airports and cities, you can rent a car or hop on a Jefferson Lines bus to Butte on Interstate 90. Uber (but not Lyft) is available in all three cities.
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