Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, Anaconda is a convenient location for exploring nearby Butte and Philipsburg and the surrounding wildlands. It’s also a great landing spot for travelers on Interstate 90 that need to break up a road trip.
Founded in 1883, Anaconda is rich in history and played a major role in the electrification of the U.S. and the world. To visit this quaint town is to take a step back in time; it offers visitors a genuine sense of what a Montana mining community was like more than 100 years ago.
With its downtown lit by antique lampposts, Anaconda maintains its small-town charm and is decorated with thrift stores and antique shops, historic bars and restaurants. Grand buildings like the Hearst Free Library, founded in 1898, and the art deco Washoe Theatre that still shows films today, complete the historic feel.
While visiting small towns like Anaconda can feel like time travel, their enduring structures stand as symbols of a legacy that residents are proud to hold onto and share with those passing through.
– Maria Wyllie
Lodging: Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is located at the base of the Anaconda Pintler Wilderness Area, 10 miles from Anaconda and 15 miles from downtown Butte. A great option for families, couples or large groups of friends, Fairmont has everything you need right on site.
The 500-acre resort is home to 24-hour indoor/outdoor hot pools with a 350-foot waterslide; an 18-hole golf course; spa and fitness center; informal café, a fine dining restaurant, and a lounge with a full service bar and weekly live music. Bedrooms vary in size from singles to suites accommodating up to eight people.
Olympic-sized swimming pools and mineral soaking pools are located both indoors and outdoors, offering plenty of space for Fairmont lodging guests and visitors. The pools are heated by 155-degree natural hot spring water, which is cooled to various temperatures for differing comfort levels. Between the hours of 8:30 p.m. and 8 a.m., hotel guests can enjoy the large, nearly empty pools to themselves.
Fairmont is a great home base this fall for those wanting to explore nearby mining towns, or spend time in the surrounding wilderness hiking, hunting, fishing and biking. Located three miles from Interstate 90, it’s also perfect for a layover day, allowing you to relax and reenergize without having to veer too far off course before continuing your road trip.
Classic Café: This fun little diner has it all. Open daily for lunch and dinner, and breakfast on the weekends, the Classic Café is a one-stop spot with a wide selection of food the whole family can enjoy. From hamburgers and pizza to subs, spaghetti, salads and wraps – and not to mention beers on tap – everyone will leave happy. Two old Volkswagen Bugs, named “Millie” and “Herbie” have been converted into dining tables, adding to the café’s 1950’s feel.
HaufBrau: This 46-year-old Anaconda icon is a quick drive from downtown, located right off of Hwy 1 going west. Fun for all ages, the HaufBrau has a game room for kids and a bar area with seven flat screen TVs. Hot wings and onion rings make for a great appetizer before digging into pizza with the cheese cooked over the toppings. “The HaufBrau Special,” made with sauerkraut is a locals’ favorite, and they have gluten free pizza for those with allergies. Note that this is one of the town’s only dining options on a Sunday.
Mile High Dining Restaurant: Located inside Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, the Mile High Dining Restaurant is an upscale dinner spot, offering quality food without the fuss. No need to do your hair or get dressed to the nine (we are in Montana, after all). Since it’s right inside the hotel, you can even go barefoot.
Start off with the spinach artichoke dip. For the main course, the bacon wrapped beef sirloin with asparagus is a must have. If you have room for desert, share the apple crisp – it’s big enough for two, even three. After dinner, enjoy your wine on the outside patio, which has cozy chairs surrounding fire pits, or even take a dip in the nearby hot pools.
For the outdoor enthusiast:
Lost Creek State Park: This 500-acre park featuring grey limestone cliffs and towering granite formations has 25 campsites for those who like to sleep under the stars. Lost Creek Falls, which cascades over a 50-foot drop, is in the park’s northwest corner. The .1-mile paved trail to the falls is the perfect length stroll for small children or the elderly. Those looking to get more of a workout can hike or bike along the 7.3 mile Forest Service trail, just north of the parking area. Keep your eyes peeled for mountain goats and bighorn sheep on the cliffs above. The park is open through Nov. 30.
Warm Springs Ponds: Anglers, bird watchers and other recreationists will enjoy this wildlife management area 20 minutes north of Anaconda. Once one of the country’s largest Superfund sites, the settling ponds are now premier habitat for waterfowl, fish and other wildlife. Comprised of six ponds, the area occupies the headwaters for the Clark Fork River, and provides excellent opportunities for catching bigger-than-average rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout.
Old Works Golf Course: Designed by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, aka “The Golden Bear,” the Old Works Golf Course is considered an integral part of the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County’s economic revival. Built atop the contaminated wastes left by the Old Works copper smelters, the scenic course opened in 1997 and incorporates historic relics into the design, such as flue and oven remains, and sand traps made of black slag from the smelter. Open through Oct. 31, this unique course offers a challenge for all levels of golfers.
An ideal stopover on a trip from Glacier to Yellowstone National Park, this charming 19th century mining and ranching town is located between Anaconda and Drummond. The town of approximately 1,000 is a destination spot for antique hunters and sapphire miners – Gem Mountain is just 20 minutes away.
Activity: Surrounded by lakes and rivers, Philipsburg is an ideal resting spot for fishermen. Autumn anglers should take advantage of Rock Creek, which runs about 15 miles west of Philipsburg, where they can pull out trophy-sized cutthroats.
The area is also known for its wide array of game – from bighorn sheep and elk to turkeys and grouse. Philipsburg’s Royal Tine Outfitters specializes in backcountry bow and rifle hunts for elk and also offers guided mountain lion hunts, horse trail rides and photo safaris.
Philipsburg Brewing Company: Located in a beautifully restored historic building, this small microbrewery is a favorite locals’ hangout with a friendly atmosphere. Montana malt and local mountain spring water are used to create crisp and refreshing beers. Food carts are often set up outside for hungry patrons since the brewery serves beer only.
Spend a day exploring nearby Butte, copper capital of the world, just 15 miles south of Anaconda. Apart from its rich history, evident in its vintage signs and architecture, the city offers visitors a number of activities – from historical tours to shopping, dining and watering holes, as well as hiking and biking trails right outside of town.
Activity:Butte City Underground Tour:
Operated by Old Butte Historical Adventures, this two-hour, underground city tour features stops at the prohibition-era Rookwood Speakeasy, the 1950’s Hirbour Barber Shop, and the Old City Jail. Get a feel for what life was like in the boomtown that was once home to European immigrants, miners and the wealthy “Copper Kings” who reigned over area copper mines during the Gilded Age of the late 19th century. This must-see tour leaves daily between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Eat:Pork Chop Johns:
The original “Pork Chop John,” John Berklund, created this unique porkchop sandwich in Butte in 1924, selling them from the back of a wagon at the corner of Mercury and Main streets. In 1932, he opened up a restaurant in uptown Butte to meet increasing demand, and that same storefront sells John’s Original Pork Chop Sandwich today. A second store is located on Harrison Avenue, and delivery service is available weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. John’s pork chop recipe is so popular that the restaurant ships sandwiches around the country.
Drink: Headframe Spirits: Sample cocktails at Headframe Spirits,
Butte’s first artisan distillery, offering a variety of spirits including bourbon, vodka, gin, and bourbon cream liqueur. Influenced by Butte’s history, the distillery takes its name from the headframes that lowered miners hundreds of feet below ground. Take a tour of the distillery and unwind in the tasting room as you sip on fine, locally made spirits.