With Montana's rich mining history, evidence of the late 1800s gold rush remains visible across the western portion of Big Sky Country. From well-preserved examples of historic mining towns like Virginia City (gold) and Elkhorn State Park (mostly silver) to nearly unrecognizable random tailing piles dotting hillsides and ravines, mining for precious minerals drew thousands of fortune seekers to Montana.

An estimated 17,752,000 ounces of placer and lode gold were mined in Montana from 1862 to 1965, most of that amount was reportedly mined pre-1900. Many productive mines across the West were closed during WWII and most of those never resumed production, for a variety of reasons.

Read More: What Are the Highest Elevation Interstate Passes in Montana?

old time wiester town with an assemble of miners
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There's still gold out there.

While commercial gold mining may have slowed in the Treasure State, plenty of gold remains in Montana mountains and streams. Amateurs with gold fever can explore the hobby with minimal cost; the bare basics are a gold pan, a shovel, and a bucket.

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Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash
Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

Join a local mineral/prospecting club for a hands-on introduction.

Years ago, I bought a gold pan at Cabela's. I took it with me on a random hiking trip and came across a tiny stream along the trail in the National Forest. "This looks like a good spot to pan for gold!", I thought, excited to strike it rich.

I didn't find any gold. In my defense... I didn't have a clue about the proper panning technique, I didn't know where to scoop my paydirt from, or if I was even in a "good spot" for panning. Essentially, I was clueless.


Gold hunting class, June 15 at the Huntley Project Museum

Since my lone gold-hunting expedition, I've been yearning to give it another shot. Perhaps I'll check out an upcoming free class, hosted by the Beartooth Treasure Hunters & Prospectors Club. The class is on June 15 from noon to 3 pm at the Huntley Project Museum. If you can't make the class, the club meets on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 4B's in Billings at 6:30 pm.

The introductory class will cover various hobbyist-level gold prospecting techniques, including high banking, sluice boxes, and gold pans. Keep in mind that local waterway regulations may impact what types of mining you can do on public and private land.

Great Groups For Montana Rock Hounds

Rock hounding in Montana is HUGE! Almost everyone has collected rocks at some point in their life, and for those that still enjoy collecting or learning about geology, there are several active groups for you to join.

Gallery Credit: mwolfe

Take a Look Inside this Riverside Montana Dream Home

Montana has a million things to offer, with the mountains, rivers, and all around natural beauty taking precedence. Now, get all those things and more wrapped up into one incredible property. Take a look:

Gallery Credit: Devon Brosnan

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