We traveled across the state of Montana several times during our long road trips in the USA. Finding interesting towns like Butte, was always a favorite. We stopped there one time, mostly to see the famous pit, and we're planning on coming back some day, to explore in mode depth. With that in mind, we created this list of things to do in Butte. I have a feeling our next visit there might be longer!
Thanks to its high concentration of copper, Butte was once Montana’s wealthiest mining site. Although this medium-sized city’s glory days have passed, visitors can still feel the spirit of that Old West in Butte’s marvelous museums. In this post, we’ll dig deeper into some of Butte’s must-see attractions.
Here are our picks for the top ten attractions you must visit when in Butte, Montana:
- The Berkeley Pit
- The World Museum of Mining
- The Mineral Museum
- The Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark District
- Old Butte Historical Tours & Trolley
- Our Lady of the Rockies
- Old Lexington Mill & Gardens
- Renova Hot Springs
- Pipestone Pass
- Homestake Pass
Keep reading to find out more about making the most of your trip to this proud mining town.
Why You Should Visit Butte, Montana
The main reason people visit Butte is to experience this city’s fascinating mining heritage. In addition to many excellent museums, Butte has authentic Gold Rush-era buildings and pits open to visitors. Although Butte is nowhere near the size of Billings or Missoula, you don’t have to worry about going without creature comforts. Today, there are about 30,000 residents in Butte, and the city is home to Montana Tech’s main campus.
There are also plenty of world-class natural attractions within a short drive from the city center—for example, Butte only a 2.5-hour drive north of Yellowstone National Park. For more tips on visiting Yellowstone, be sure to read through our previous post exploring Yellowstone’s top 10 attractions.
If you’re interested in national parks, then you might also consider taking the 4-hour drive from Butte to Glacier National Park. Please take a peek at TripMemos’ post on a 3-day Glacier Park itinerary to better plan your trip to this area.
The Top 10 Things To Do In Butte, Montana
Unsurprisingly, all of Butte’s star attractions are related to its mining heritage. However, there are a few natural spots sprinkled throughout our list of the city’s top ten sites.
1. The Berkeley Pit
From the 1950s till the 1980s, miners extracted an incredible 300 million tons of ore from Butte’s Berkeley Pit. As a result of this intense mining, the 1,700-foot-deep pit is now considered an environmental hazard with high concentrations of heavy metals. Local environmentalists hope their new observation deck will teach visitors about the importance of eco-friendly extraction.
The best way to take in this natural landmark is to visit the Berkeley Pit Viewing Stand for $2 per person. Usually, the deck is open between 9 AM to 5 PM between March and November. You can find out more info about visiting Berkeley Pit on Pitwatch.org.
2. World Museum of Mining
Located on the former site of the Orphan Girl Mine, the World Museum of Mining measures over 20-acres and contains dozens of buildings, machinery, and authentic equipment. In addition to touring numerous exhibits highlighting Butte’s industrial heritage, guests can go on an exhilarating underground mine tour with a professional guide.
The World Museum of Mining is usually open between 9 AM – 6 PM Mondays through Saturdays from April till October. General admission tickets cost $9 per adult and $5 per child, but these fees don’t include underground mine tours. Please visit the World Museum of Mining’s website for more details.
3. The Mineral Museum
If you’re looking for a fun & free attraction in Butte, then add The Mineral Museum to your list. Located on Montana Tech’s campus, the Mineral Museum’s exhibits help explain why Butte’s geology was so ripe for copper production. Although the museum focuses on local stones, you will also find unique rock formations from far off nations like India and Spain.
Admission to the Mineral Museum is free, and the center is usually open between 9 AM – 5 PM in the summer. Please visit this link to Montana Tech’s website for more info on visiting the Mineral Museum.
4. The Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark District
Most of this area’s historic buildings are in the Butte-Anaconda National Historic Landmark District, which includes much of Butte’s center, the northern town of Walkerville, and the nearby Anaconda region. Here are a few of the exciting attractions you’ll find here.
Dumas Brothel Museum
Anyone interested in the seedier side of Butte’s past should go on a tour of the Dumas Brothel Museum. Amazingly, this favorite Red Light haunt was in operation from the late 19th-century till the 1980s, making it one of the world’s longest operating “dens of ill-repute.”
For a $10 admission fee, you’ll get to see the authentic rooms where Dumas’ delightful dames dazzled Montana’s mighty miners. You can find out more about opening hours on Dumas Brothel Museum’s Facebook page.
Historic Clark Chateau Museum & Gallery
Of course, not everyone in Butte was a miner or a prostitute. Over the years, many powerful copper magnates rose to prominence, as is evidenced by the mansions still standing in the city center.
To get a taste for how these “copper kings & queens” lived, take a trip to the Historic Clark Chateau Museum & Gallery. Once owned by one of Butte’s elite mining dynasties, this 19th-century French-style estate now serves as the city’s most important center for the fine arts.
Tickets to the Clark Chateau cost $7 per person for a self-guided tour or $10 for a guided tour. Opening hours change throughout the year, so be sure to visit the Historic Clark Chateau Museum’s website for full details.
Mai Wah Society Inc.
Although Butte is best known for its large Irish-American community, the city was also a major hub for Chinese immigrants. To learn more about this significant aspect of Butte’s heritage, be sure to tour the well-preserved Mai Wah Society Inc.
Now home to dozens of Asian-American artifacts, the red-brick Mai Wah Society building was the most important general store for Chinese laborers. Tickets to this museum cost $8 per adult or $5 per child. Be sure to visit Mai Wah Society Inc.’s website for opening hours.
If you’re interested in learning more about Butte’s Asian-American heritage, then be sure to visit the equally historic Pekin Noodle House. First opened in the early 1900s, Pekin Noodle House is considered one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in the USA.
5. Old Butte Historical Tour & Trolley
If you’re pressed for time, then consider booking a fun walking or trolley tour of Butte. Both of these tour options will quickly take you to all of the city’s most significant attractions.
Folks interested in a walking tour of Butte should look into Old Butte Historical Adventures. This well-established tour company offers a general tour as well as two specialty tours that explore Butte during the Prohibition Era. General admission to these tours costs about $20 per person, but you could find out more info on Old Butte Historical Adventures’ website.
For those interested in the city’s trolley service, visit the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce’s website. On this 2-hour ride, your local guide will tell you fascinating stories behind famous sites like the Dumas Brothel and the Copper King Mansion. Tickets for the Butte Trolley cost $20 per adult and $8 per child.
6. Our Lady of the Rockies
Measuring 90 feet, Our Lady of the Rockies is the tallest religious statue in the USA. Local electrician Bob O’Bill created his tribute to the Virgin Mary on East Ridge shortly after his wife recovered from cancer. Although this statue is overtly Christian, builders hope it serves as an inspiration to mothers around the world.
To visit this statue, you must book a bus tour on Our Lady of the Rockies’ website. These tours are only available between the summer and fall and cost $18 per adult.
7. Old Lexington Mill & Gardens
At the intersection of East Granite and Arizona streets, you’ll find a historical park area listed as Old Lexington Mill & Gardens. Although this isn’t a formal tourist attraction, there are loads of informational plaques and old mining machinery sprinkled throughout the area.
In the warmer months, residents plant beautiful flower arrangements around the Old Lexington Mill, so be sure to check it out if you’re in town.
8. Renova Hot Springs
A 1.5-hour drive southeast of Butte, Renova Hot Springs, is a wonderfully warm site in the town of Whitehall. With average temps between 110 – 120°F, is public spring is sure to warm your bones and soothe your aching muscles.
As a word of warning, there have been reports of brain-eating amoeba living these hot springs, so please don’t stick your head underwater. Also, keep in mind these springs are “clothing optional.” The most popular time to visit Renova Hot Springs is between March and October.
9. Pipestone Pass
Completed in 1909, this 2,290-foot long tunnel known as Pipestone Pass was a part of the old Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad’s Pacific Coast Extension. Although no trains pass through Pipestone anymore, you can stop by this impressive engineering feat for some awesome selfies.
Pipestone Pass is officially a part of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, which is about a 15-minute drive south of central Butte.
10. Homestake Pass
One of the most accessible hiking trails on the Continental Divide is Homestake Pass just south of Butte. Measuring over 10 miles for a round-trip, Homestake Pass is best known for its smooth surface and even smoother rock formations.
To prepare for your hike, please read through this info put together by the Montana Wilderness Association.
Where To Stay In Butte, Montana
Due to Butte’s numerous attractions and its proximity to Yellowstone, there are dozens of excellent hotels spread throughout the city. Here are two well-reviewed names, one near the airport and another in the city’s center.
Copper King Hotel & Convention Center
One higher-end hotel near Bert Mooney Airport is the three-star Copper King Hotel. A 10-minute drive south of downtown, Copper King has a wonderfully rustic ambiance as well as impressive amenities like a spa, steakhouse, and pool.
La Quinta by Wyndham Butte
Visitors who are looking for a budget play closer to Downtown Butte should research the city’s La Quinta. Less than 5 miles from Downtown Butte, this La Quinta offers continental breakfast, pet-friendly rooms, and access to an indoor hot tub.
Montana Road Trips Rule!
Honestly, this is one of our favorite states for the road trip experience! Open spaces, fantastic scenery and friendly people - what more can you ask for? We fell in love with Montana on our first visit, and kept coming back for more. If you're like us and want to take a Montana road trip, come prepared. Here's a link to our 37 road trip tips, to make sure you can make the most of yours.
And as always, if you know Butte well, leave us some feedback. We'd love to know what you thought of this list. Would you add anything that we didn't inlcude? Leave a comment below to let us know.