10 Top-Rated Things to Do in Anaconda, MT
Anaconda, in Southwest Montana, is one of the most historic towns in the state. Its industrious roots date back to the late 1800s and the massive copper mining industry that struck it rich across the region. Remnants of this prosperous era are still evident throughout the town today. These visual reminders include a record-breaking Smelter Stack on the horizon and black-sand bunkers at the local golf course.
Exploring the history of Anaconda is half the fun of visiting. The other half is venturing into the incredible surrounding Montana landscapes. The town is at the tail end of the Pintler Veteran's Memorial Scenic Highway (Highway 1). This scenic route connects Anaconda to Philipsburg and several adventure outlets within Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.
The Pintler Scenic Byway is a recommended alternate route from Interstate 90 on a Montana road trip. It offers a scenic detour for those traveling between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, and a popular route for a day trip from nearby Missoula. From Missoula to Anaconda, it's a breathtakingly beautiful 100-mile drive.
Find your next stop on a Montana vacation with our list of the top things to do in Anaconda.
1. Learn the History behind the Anaconda Smelter Stack
A defining feature on the Anaconda horizon is the 585-foot-tall brick tower known as the Anaconda Smelter Stack. This massive masonry was constructed in 1918 as part of the region's booming copper mining industry. It stands today as the tallest freestanding brick structure in the world.
The Smelter Stack ceased operations in 1980. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance in the region's upbringing. Visitors aren't allowed to approach the Smelter Stack or tour the facility. Still, thanks to its prominence, it's impossible not to catch a glimpse when passing through town.
For one of the closest views and extra information, head to Anaconda Smoke Stack State Park, southeast of the town center. Here, a concrete patio and tower viewers lend a slightly better look at the smelter stack, situated just over a mile away. The site also has interpretive information detailing the stack's construction and its legacy tied to the copper industry.
2. Drive the Pintler Veteran's Memorial Scenic Highway
The Pintler Veterans' Memorial Scenic Highway is a 64-mile route that connects Anaconda to Philipsburg and Drummond. It offers an incredibly scenic alternative to the interstate between Butte and Missoula. And with skiing, wilderness areas, and massive lakes along the way, it's a real avenue for adventure from Anaconda.
The route passes through large swaths of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. One of the first major attractions on the highway heading west from Anaconda is Georgetown Lake. The sterling Anaconda Pintler Mountains back this massive reservoir, offering a fun place for a day or weekend outing.
Several trailheads are accessible from the scenic highway. Some of these trails venture into the iconic Anaconda Pintler Wilderness with startling, jagged peaks cresting the Continental Divide. This backpacking paradise is a must-do for outdoor enthusiasts in Montana. Especially those who prefer to have wild spaces without the crowds.
Farther along the scenic highway, Discovery Ski Area beckons for adventures throughout the year. This favorite ski destination thaws in the spring to reveal professional mountain bike trails in the summer. And Philipsburg, farther north, is another one of the best small towns in Montana.
Read More: Top Things to Do in Philipsburg
3. Swing the Day Away at Old Works Golf Course
The Old Works Golf Course offers Montana's most unique golfing experience and the only Jack Nicklaus course open to the public in the state. This 18-hole course has several tee locations to accommodate all abilities. And the course's copper mining origins are abundant throughout the round.
The golf course sits atop what used to be the location of Anaconda's first copper smelter. This Old Works lay dormant for several years until its designation as a Superfund site in 1983. Less than six years later, with massive citizen and government effort, and a little design help by Jack Nicklaus, the Old Works Golf Course opened to the public.
Alongside early mining relics lining some of the fairways, prominent views of the distant Anaconda Smelter Stack are available from a few tee boxes. The course's most notable touch of history comes from the black sand traps, infused with slag — a byproduct of the copper smelting process.
Address: 1205 Pizzini Way, Anaconda, Montana
Official site: https://www.playoldworks.com/
4. Hit the Slopes at Discovery Ski Area
Discovery Ski Area, one of Montana's best ski resorts, is approximately 20 miles west of Anaconda on the Pintler Scenic Byway. This popular place for winter recreation has over 2,200 skiable acres and a healthy mix of beginner, intermediate, and expert runs. The mountain also has a laid-back vibe, with friendly lift attendants and rarely ever long lift lines.
Alongside excellent skiing, the resort also has amenities like rentals, lessons, and a cozy base lodge to get warm. The lodge serves up cafeteria-style food, including homemade baked cookies oozing with chocolate. The ski area also hosts live events throughout the season, such as music acts and skiing competitions.
And it's more than just downhill skiing and snowboarding at Discovery. The facility also helps maintain an extensive collection of Nordic trails nearby. These cross-country and snowshoe paths circle the nearby Echo Lake and connect to the lodge.
The mountain also thaws off in the summertime to reveal a vast network of downhill mountain biking trails. This lift-enabled bike park has wooden construction elements, like berms, bridges, and jumps. The Discovery Bike Park offers rentals and mountain bike lessons for those new to the sport.
Address: 180 Discovery Basin Road, Anaconda, Montana
Official site: https://www.skidiscovery.com/
5. Catch a Movie at the Washoe Theater
This atmospheric theater has shown movies in Anaconda for over 80 years. The theater opened in the 1930s after Anaconda solidified itself as a copper processing capital of the world. And the theater has retained tones of this prosperous era ever since. Lavish decorations like elaborate murals and copper ornaments still adorn the single-screen auditorium.
This historical aesthetic adds to the experience of seeing a movie. Today, the theater typically shows one movie at a time throughout a single week. Every day offers a single showing, with two showings on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Address: 305 Main Street, Anaconda, Montana
Official site: http://www.washoetheatre.com/
6. Soak at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort
Ten minutes southeast of town, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort is a year-round vacation destination. It features tennis and golf throughout the summer and several dining outlets throughout the year. But it's the resort's two massive hot water pools that draw the most attention.
Fairmont has two Olympic-sized pools, one inside and one outside. Both are heated by natural hot spring water piped from underground. These relaxing waters are refreshing any time of the year. However, some may argue they best pair with the cold temperatures of winter. The outdoor pool also features a massive 350-foot enclosed waterslide that entices visitors of all ages.
The hot spring resort also offers one of the best places to stay near Anaconda. Guests at the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort have the choice between over 150 modern guest rooms. Among the overnight accommodations are one-bedroom and two-bedroom suites with full kitchens.
Address: 1500 Fairmont Road, Anaconda, Montana
7. Hop aboard an Anaconda Historic Bus Tour
Anaconda, thanks to its copper smelting heydays, is one of the most historic towns in Montana. And seeing this history is an unavoidable part of any visit. From the towering Anaconda Smelter Stack to the original buildings in Anaconda's Historic District, the town's industrious past is everywhere.
An Anaconda Historic Bus Tour is an excellent way to dive deep into this history and gain a little context of the area. These 90-minute tours depart from the Anaconda Visitor Center between mid-May and mid-September. The tours take place in vintage red open-air buses that came from Yellowstone National Park.
A few places highlighted on the guided tour include the historic Deer Lodge County Courthouse and the Washoe Theatre. Old Works Golf Course and Montana's first fish hatchery are also on the route. The bus drivers each have a personality of their own, and the easy banter between guests makes for a fun and breezy afternoon exploring history.
8. Hike to Lost Creek Falls
For a closer adventure to town, Lost Creek State Park is easily accessible with a 12-mile drive. This state park unit features spectacular mountain scenery surrounded by forested slopes. However, the biggest draw to Lost Creek is the 50-foot Lost Creek Falls tumbling in segments down a rock face.
It's a short jaunt from the farthest parking area to the falls. This proximity to the trailhead makes it a popular destination for families with young children. But adults also enjoy the cascading effects of the waterfall. And more ambitious hikers can continue the trail past the waterfall as it winds more miles alongside Lost Creek.
Other activities at the park include picnicking, mountain biking, and photography. The state park also has 25 first-come, first-served campsites accessible for RVs up to 23 feet long. Whether camping or not, common wildlife sightings include mountain goats and bighorn sheep.
Address: 5750 Lost Creek Road, Anaconda, Montana
Official site: https://fwp.mt.gov/stateparks/lost-creek
9. Visit Georgetown Lake
Georgetown Lake is a massive mountain reservoir located between Anaconda and Philipsburg on the Pintler Scenic Byway. It's a popular place to visit throughout the year for recreation, especially in the summer months. Typical activities include boating, hiking, fishing, and camping.
Stunning mountain backdrops line much of the entire lake, which encompasses over 3,000 acres. Several campgrounds and day-use areas surround the highway closest to the lake. These places to visit include public boat ramps for launching vessels onto the water. Local shops, restaurants, and a small community also punctuate this stretch of shoreline.
Surrounded by Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, the lake is also a great jumping-off point for extended adventures. To the south, the expansive Anaconda Pintler Wilderness is accessible through a variety of trailheads. This roadless wilderness encompasses over 150,000 acres of untouched mountain terrain.
10. Day Trip to Butte
If Anaconda is the most historic town in Montana, then much of that is thanks to its neighbor Butte, 24 miles to the east. Anaconda was founded as a company town to support the copper output from the prosperous mines in Butte. And more specifically, Anaconda was established to support copper smelting operations.
Butte and Anaconda comprised one of the most productive mining regions in the nation at the turn of the 1900s. And Butte continued to extract copper for a remarkable 80-plus years before closing in the 1980s. The remnants of the Richest Hill on Earth are still spread throughout the town.
A few things to check out on a day trip to Butte include the World Museum of Mining and the Mineral Museum. These two engaging museums highlight the history and underground appeal of the surrounding town. Trolley tours, historical adventure tours, and paranormal excursions are also available throughout the year.
Where to Stay in Anaconda, Montana for Sightseeing
Anaconda is a small town with a population of approximately 9,000 residents. Still, the influx of tourist traffic lends to a handful of excellent hotels, motels, and a hot spring resort. Many of the most desired properties are near the town center with easy access to area restaurants and attractions.
- Fairmont Hot Springs Resort: Offering not only one of the top things to do while visiting, Fairmont Hot Springs is also one of the best places to stay. This all-inclusive resort includes dining, tee-times, spa activities, and two heated Olympic size pools. Standard rooms and up to two-bedroom suites are available.
- Hickory House Inn: In the historic downtown district, surrounded by several local restaurants, this bed and breakfast offers a romantic stay. The Hickory House is within a historic building itself, built in 1902, and this adds to the charm.
- Marcus Daly Motel: Also in the historic town center, a block away from the Washoe Theater, the Marcus Daly Motel features affordable rates and newly remodeled rooms. The motel also features special golf and ski packages for even more value on a visit.
- Grizzly Den Motel: On the east side of town, this budget-friendly motel features clean and comfortable rooms. The hotel also features standard amenities, like air-conditioning, wireless internet, and cable TV.