Cultural: History, Visitor Centers, Museums, Ghost Towns

Elk Foundation Visitor CenterRocky Mountain Elk Foundation Wildlife Visitor Center
The Elk Foundation’s Elk Country Visitor Center is more than just a museum.  It’s an experience that lets you explore the beauty, diversity and importance of elk country across North America.  The wildlife art gallery and original paintings, prints and bronzes at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation are spectacular.  Marvel at the impressive collection of world-record elk displays and life-size mounts of grizzly bear, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, wolf, lynx, a cow elk and newborn calf display and more.  Take a seat in the theater and watch the finest in wildlife films.  Then, further your knowledge of elk and their habitat with educational and entertaining books and videos.  There’s an outdoor walking trail that winds around the 22-acre Elk Foundation Property.  Watch for whit-tailed deer, turkeys, bald eagles, owls, trout and other wildlife.

United States Forest Service Smoke Jumper Visitor CenterSmoke Jumper Center
The United States Forest Service Smoke Jumper and Aerial Fire Depot features murals, videos, a reconstructed lookout tower and exhibits of men and women fighting wildfire, from the advent of the smoke jumper in 1939 to present day. In addition, Forest Service smoke jumpers are trained here. Open mid-May through mid-September with tours available on the hour.

Historical Museum of Fort Missoula Forestry AreaHistorical Museum of Fort Missoula
The museum is located on 32 acres at the core of Fort Missoula, an area included on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum has over 18,000 objects in its collection, including the main museum building, formerly a Quartermaster’s Storehouse. The museum’s indoor galleries contain both long-term and temporary exhibits that address topics of interest from the area’s early exploration to modern times. These exhibits, together with the museum’s outdoor interpretive area–a complex of original and relocated historic structures–depict the life and material culture of the region.

Rocky Mountain Museum of Military HistoryMilitary History Museum
Relive America’s epic battles at Historic Fort Missoula, home to the US Army in Montana in 1877. Located in the World War II era Building T310 & T 316, next to the Historical Museum. Exhibits, programs, & veterans’ talks on the Civil & Indian Wars, World Wars I & II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm & other military topics. Picnic area, gift counter, restrooms. Open year round.

Museum of the Arts (MAM)
The Art Museum offers visitors of all ages a broad range of activities and cultural experiences. Enjoy the changing exhibits, permanent collection, special events and shopping in the museum gift store.

Holt Heritage Museum
The Holt Heritage Museum is dedicated to the Cowboy, Stock-man, Nez Perce Indians and Holt Heritage MuseumLewis & Clark, Rodeos & Pow Wows situated adjacent to the Historic “Traveler’s Rest”. Includes an extensive collection of memorabilia collected over the last 40+ years telling the story of this area from the Nez Perce Period to the present day. Enjoy interpretive areas with authentic tipis, Indian Outlook Area, Horse-drawn vehicles, Western Hat-Boot-Spur displays & Old Town Street scene. Experience the Old West as it was. 6800 Hwy 12, Lolo, MT 59847

University of MontanaUniversity of Montana
The University – home of the Grizzlies has nationally-ranked academic programs and performing arts.  Chartered in 1893 and opened in 1895 with 50 students, but today 10,600 students work and live in 47 buildings and residence halls over a 640 acre campus.  Tours can be arraigned by appointment at (406)243-6266.  While here make sure to climb the “M” overlooking the city of Missoula.  You could hike alongside the Clark fork River on the Kim Williams Nature Trail, which connects with other Missoula Trails.

Missoula Children’s Theatre
For almost 40 years, Missoula Children’s Theatre has provided quality education, entertainment, and enrichment for all ages through the performing arts.

Museum of Mountain Flying
Montana’s only public aviation museum was founded in 1993 and is located in a large hangar at the east end of the Missoula airport.  Follow signs at airport entrance.  The Museum of Mountain Flying is dedicated to the history of mountain flying in the northern Rockies.  Open 7 days per week in the summer.  Antique airplanes on display and a gift shop.

Memorial Rose GardensMemorial Rose Garden
The Garden is located on Brooks Street. The rose garden was established in 1947 by the American Rose Society and maintained as a memorial to casualties of World War II. There are more than 2,500 rose plants growing here. On November 11, 1988, the Montana Vietnam Memorial was dedicated. Sculptor Deborah Copenhaver’s 12 foot tall bronze statue stands as a memorial to 300 Montana soldiers who lost their lives in the Vietnam conflict.  The Korean War Rose Garden was how the Memorial Rose Garden got its start back in 1944.

St. Francis Xavier ChurchSt Francis Xavier
This Church located on 420 W. Pine Street was built in 1889 the year that Montana became a state and is outstanding for its graceful steeple, its paintings and stained glass windows. The paintings were done by a brother of the Society of Jesus, a kitchen helper, who painted them in his spare time and turned out to be a master.

Ninemile Remount Depot
If you’re a history buff, the Ninemile Valley, 25 miles west of Missoula is a fascinating trip. The Valley is home to the Ninemile Remount Depot, a long time Forest Service supply and dispatch center for mules and other livestock used for firefighting and back-country work. The ranger station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, recognized for its distinctive Cape Cod architecture and its historic role in land management. Today, the ranger station remains a working ranch that is home to the popular “Forest Service Centennial Pack String”. There’s an interesting Visitor Center at the ranger station. You can also take a self-guided tour of the grounds and buildings and see the ranch in operation. From the ranger station, you can continue farther north in the mountains for lunch and a walk at the Grand Menard Picnic Area and Discovery Trail.

Garnet/Rock Creek Ghost Town and Visitor Center
For a glimpse of the real “Old West,” head to Garnet, one of the best preserved ghost towns in Montana. This historic gold-mining town, prospered from 1895-1911 when more than a thousand people lived there. As gold became scarce, Garnet’s population diminished rapidly. Today, you can still see many of Garnet’s abandoned houses, stores and mines. The visitor center at Garnet is open 10 am to 6 p.m. daily during the summer. Cars are allowed on the road from June 1 through November 15. The visitor center’s winter hours are 10 am to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. After visiting Garnet, bring your flies and rod and cool off with blue-ribbon trout fishing on nearby Rock Creek.

Missoula Down TownHistoric Downtown Missoula
Missoula’s best galleries and museums can be found in the Downtown area as 14 art galleries & 3 museums offer original, contemporary, traditional, & historical art of all forms. Native Missoula Historic WilmaAmerican & Western themes abound, as do modern exhibits, gifts & seasonal showings. Famous Missoula artist, Monte Dolack & Larry Pirnie, along with leading authors James Lee Burke & James Welch, contribute to Missoula’s art scene. Check out Gallery night from 5-8 PM on the first Friday of every month when Downtown Galleries and Museums feature new artists with wine and hors d’oeuvres.