History buffs gather in Virginia City and fishing addicts flock to Ennis, because each town offers its patrons a world-class experience. Virginia City and nearby Nevada City are practically unchanged from their glory days of the 1860s gold rush. Both are bathed in history and remarkably well-preserved, where visitors have no better opportunity to take a step back in time. The same could be said of the fabled Madison River as it runs through Ennis. The trout fishing remains as good today as it has ever been. Ennis also has a charming downtown filled with antique shops, galleries and other stores. And the view from the pass between the two towns is stunning.
Alder Gulch Short Line
Montana’s only operating steam locomotive from Virginia City to Nevada City. Runs weekends during the summer, smaller train runs weekdays. 406-843-5247, 800-829-2969. Click for details
vast National Historic Landmark hosting collections of old-west artifacts. America’s finest collection of 1860s "boomtown" buildings on their original sites. 800-829-2969. Click for details
A town-sized, open-air museum with over 100 buildings, thousands of artifacts and gem mining to experience. 800-829-2969. Click for details
This roadhouse was the hangout where famous outlaws would plan their next stagecoach hold up. The roads are safer now. On Highway 287, four miles south of Sheridan.
Exhibits include Civil War era guns, photos, Indian artifacts, a 100-year old birthday cake and the preserved foot of Clubfoot George, hanged in the 1860s.
Hangman’s Building & Boot Hill
Five lonely grave markers on Boot Hill tell the story of road agents that were hanged January 14, 1864. At Hangman’s Building you can still see the rope burns on the crossbeam from that fateful day.
Ennis National Fish Hatchery
One of three rainbow trout brood stock hatcheries in the federal hatchery system. Visitors’ center, display pond, tours. 12 miles SW of Ennis. 406-682-4847. Click for details
Virginia City Museums, Shops & Accommodations
Shop, dine and sleep in historic Virginia City without leaving the atmosphere of the 1860s. This living gold town offers charm and "new" discoveries for each visitor. 800-829-2969.
Virginia City Players
Oldest continuously operating summer stock theater west of the Mississippi. Features performances in 19th century style opera house. 800-829-2969.
Relax in Virginia City at Montana’s first brewery, the H.S. Gilbert Brewery, and enjoy a performance of the Brewery Follies (adult comedy). 800-829-2969.
Known as the fly fishing capital of the world, Ennis is surrounded by mountains, rivers and streams. Stroll Main Street for shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Madison River Valley
Travel south of Ennis on Highway 287 for excellent views of the Madison Range and the Lee Metcalf Wilderness to the east.
Nestled between seven mountain ranges with numerous blue ribbon fisheries, the Ruby Valley offers an abundance of recreational appeal and unquestionable beauty.
Beaverhead National Forest
Montana’s largest national forest covers 3.32 million acres. Outdoor recreational opportunities include camping and hiking, plus snowmobiling and cross country skiing in winter. 406-683-3900. Click for details
Bear Trap Canyon
Eight-mile canyon of whitewater and wilderness begins at the spillway of Ennis Lake Dam. Hikers and fishermen access via trails. Kayakers and rafters should be very experienced or hire a guide. Click for details
South of Alder, has good access for camping, fishing and boating. Ice fishing in the winter. Click for details
Lewis & Clark Interpretive Park
Located at the entrance to the county fairgrounds in Twin Bridges. The park offers the public insight into the five days the Corps spent in this area. Don’t miss the six-foot bronze statue of Sacajawea. 406-683-5824.
- Beaverhead River - Prime fishing waters renowned for the population of large brown trout with a good mix of rainbows.
- Jefferson River - Near Twin Bridges where the Beaverhead, Big Hole and Ruby Rivers meet.
- Madison River - One of the most famous trout streams in the world flows right through Ennis.
- Ruby River - Small stream running through Alder, Sheridan and Twin Bridges.
- Big Hole River - Runs through Wisdom, Jackson, Wise River, Melrose and empties into the Jefferson River near Twin Bridges.
- Kids’ Fishing Hole - In Virginia City, open to children 12 and under.
Other Virginia City and Ennis Area Communities
West of Virginia City, Alder has a gem mine open to the public for a fee. Find garnets south of town. 406-842-5160. View Alder information and listings
Small, agricultural community north of Nevada City was founded in the late 1860s as a stagecoach route and trading post on the banks of the Ruby River. St. Mary’s Catholic Church. 406-842-5588.
In the heart of the Ruby Valley, this town was founded by Civil War veterans who were attracted to the gold mines. Today it’s an uncrowded, scenic place surrounded by mountains with numerous outdoor activities. 406-684-5243. View Sheridan information and listings
Three blue-ribbon trout streams converge in this ranching town to form the Jefferson River. The RL Winston Fly Rod Co. and Fishing Museum features tours, fishing history and quality rods. Museum with Native American artifacts and a taxidermy display. Kids’ fishing pond south of town. 406-684-5243. View Twin Bridges information and listings.