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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Explore City and Country in Missoula


5. Oddball Day

The former mining center of Garnet exists today as a well-preserved ghost town.  

Hop in a car to explore some of the sights that lie outside the city limits. First grab a cup of organic, small-batch brew from Black Coffee Roasting, then head north for about an hour until you reach the National Bison Range. There you'll take a scenic drive through the reserve, which was established by President Theodore Roosevelt in order to conserve the dwindling population of the gentle giants in 1908. You can also spot Rocky Mountain elk, various species of deer, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, coyotes, and birds along the way. There are several routes to take, the most impressive of which is the Red Sleep Mountain Drive, a nineteen-mile loop where you can stop and explore two walking trails. Make your way south and stop in Ravalli at the Bison Inn Cafe (27330 U.S. Hwy 93; 406-745-4268), a diner that serves bison burgers and fish from the nearby lake. Cut back through Missoula and then head 30 miles east to Montana's oldest ghost town, Garnet, which today looks more like the set of any country Western than a place where people once lived. The town was once a robust center for mining, first for red ruby garnet and later gold, but the death of the industry and a 1912 fire led to the town's eventual desertion. After exploring the well-preserved dwellings, head back to Missoula for the evening and throw back a craft brew at one of the many breweries, including Kettlehouse Brewing Company, Tamarack Brewing Company, Draught Works, Bayern, or Big Sky—the maker of the award-winning Moose Drool beer. Then head to dinner at Flathead Lake's gastropub, where you'll find their house brews as well as burgers, pastas, and housemade pierogies, whose stuffing varies from day to day. After dinner, be sure to stop by Big Dipper Ice Cream for dessert, especially in the summer months, when they collaborate with Kettlehouse for some unique scoops of cold-smoke ice cream and other treats.

Published on May 3, 2013 as a web exclusive.

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