Butte Montana is a great place to explore. Friendly people, mild summers (winters are another story, obviously) beautiful scenery and great beer. It takes a little bit of effort to get here and it’s not one of the most visited places in Montana…the lure and hype of Glacier are strong…but Butte is worth making time for. And…you’ll notice I didn’t refer to Butte as “off the beaten path” or a “hidden gem” because those phrases are tired and overused…thank you, Instagram. But seriously – make an effort to get to Butte. You won’t be sorry. If you have two days in Butte, here are the top things to do in Butte Montana.
Two days in Butte – Top things to do in Butte Montana
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Butte is rich in mining history and they have a quaint, walkable, and very photogenic downtown area with lots of places to eat or have a drink. It’s helpful to know a little bit of the city’s interesting history before you visit. Butte was once one of the largest, and busiest cities in the west. Butte’s own Anaconda Mining Company was the fourth largest corporation in the World in the 1920’s. There are lots of “ghost signs” on the brick buildings downtown and lots of visible reminders (mining rigs) of days past. Despite the fact that Butte’s largest supporting industry and population have declined, Butte doesn’t feel like a city in decline. It’s welcoming, comfortable, and really fun to explore.
I was hosted by Visit Southwest Montana. All opinions are mine. This post may contain affiliate links.
I spent two days in Butte. I have no doubt you could spend a week or even more in Butte and not be bored but I recommend a minimumof two days to knock out all the things I’ve suggested and to discover your own adventures…because that’s always fun.
Disclaimer: I was only in Butte for a total of two days. I’m sharing with you what I experienced as well as a couple of things on my radar that I wasn’t able to fit in. Read to the end to find out what to do if your “must do” activity in Butte isn’t listed here.
How to get to Butte Montana
Butte Montana has a small airport – Bert Mooney Airport. Delta offers two to three flights per day connecting through Salt Lake City. If you’re driving from elsewhere in Montana, Butte is about a three and a half hour drive from both Billings and Kalispell, to give you a frame of reference. We drove in via Billings and it was a very lovely, scenic drive.
Montana driving advice: Don’t let your tank go more than half empty. Much of the state is rural you’re definitely not in “gas station on every corner” territory.
Our Lady of the Rockies
Our Lady of the Rockies is a 90-foot statue that sits on top of the Continental Divide (elevation over 8,000 feet), which overlooks Butte. There’s an amazing story behind Our Lady of the Rockies and what it means to the people of Butte. You can read about it here.
You’re able to take a round trip bus up the mountain from June until September. You can also hike up. There is a paved road but it is a very steep climb. No private vehicles may enter the road up to the monument.
I strongly recommend this experience. The weather was terrible when I went and I still loved it – on a clear day it would have been amazing. If you’re in Butte during the off season, stop by the tour office/gift shop in the Plaza Mall and watch the short film about the history and construction. It’s a pretty intense story and getting a glimpse of the people involved in the building and construction of Our Lady of the Rockies gives you a great insight into what the people of Butte are made of. I got a little teary.
You can’t leave Butte without checking out this beautiful pit of toxic water. I’d researched this attraction before I traveled to Butte and it sounded like the absolute weirdest thing to do but it was oddly…fun.
The Berkely Pit, started in 1955, was a large truck-operated open-pit copper mine until mining ceased in 1982. By 1980 nearly 1.5 billion tons of material had been removed from the Pit, including more than 290 million tons of copper ore. The pit enabled Butte to claim the title The Richest Hill on Earth.
The pit is 7,000 feet long, 5,600 feet wide and 1,600 feet deep from the high wall on the north side just below the Kelley mine. Present day visitors can view the mine from a platform located above it. The viewing stand offers a look at the Berkeley Pit, which is filling with water. The Berkeley Pit Viewing Stand, open from May until October and by special appointment. There’s an admission fee of $3.
There’s a cute, onsite gift shop. It’s an interesting educational experience and it’s a part of Butte’s mining history. You can see all there is to see and snap your pictures in less than 15 minutes.
Copper King Mansion
The Copper King Mansion is a restored Victorian mansion (built in 1884) that was home to W.A. Clark, who is a significant player in Butte’s mining history. The mansion also operates as a bed and breakfast.
Regularly scheduled guided tours are available during tourist season and outside of tourist season upon request. You’ll learn all about the history of the family and the people who lived in the house and get to see the many collectibles up close. These people were definitely the OG hoarders. From priest vestments to toys to National Geographics, this family collected just about everything. Allow about 90 minutes for the tour.
Looking for more info on things to do in Butte (or wherever your next destination might be?) Check out Viator.
The Copper King Mansion is also a bed and breakfast. More info on their website.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
I do need to point out that Lewis and Clark Caverns State park is not in Butte, but in nearby Whitehall. However, it’s only about 40 miles away and if you’re in the area, it would be a shame to miss this one.
If getting outside and enjoying Southwestern Montana’s natural beauty is your thing, I highly recommend Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. The park has trails and campsites surrounded by stunning scenery – seriously the beauty of Montana is probably not something I could ever get used to – but what the park is really known for is their limestone caverns. Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park contains one of the largest and best known limestone caverns in the Northwest.
There are various cavern tours you can sign up for – more info is available on their website. The only way to explore the caverns is as part of a ranger led tour and it’s an experience I can heartily recommend.
Butte Brewing Company – When you’re looking for things to do in Butte Montana, don’t forget the beer!
One thing I like to do when I’m visiting a new place is try the local beer and drink coffee at a local, non-franchised coffee shop. I guess that’s two things but I didn’t get to drink coffee in Butte so I’ll just tell you about the beer.
Butte Brewing Company has a long history of beer making. Although the current operation has only been opened (or reopened) since 2015, this site has been brewing beers in Montana since 1875. The Butte Brewing company is a fun, family friendly place that serves great beer and a little bit of food (pizza and salads.) I’m an IPA person and I worked with the bartender to design my own tasting flight. My favorite was Big Butte…my second favorite was Green Monster. I do love me some inventive beer names.
The Butte Brewing company is a great place to meet and talk with the locals while you’re enjoying a view with your brew.
Things to do in Butte Montana I didn’t get to do
Here are a few things that were on my radar that just weren’t possible during my short visit. The museums weren’t of particular interest to me, to be honest…I know Butte is a mining town but I feel like I got a great sense of that mining history through other things I saw. If Museums are your thing and/or you’re looking for indoor activities, there are options. I would have loved to do the Trolley tour, which I had planned to do on the last day. A combination of time and bad weather helped that to just not work out. I have included links to these activities below if you want to scope them out when planning your own trip to Butte.
Tours are available May-September…if you’re looking outside those months (brrr) call to see what can be arranged. Reservations strongly recommended. More here.
Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church
I saw this from the outside and didn’t get a chance to go in. It is a working church but tours are available upon request. There’s actually a Serbian subculture in Butte that I’d have loved to have dug into more if I’d have had more time. More info is available on the church’s website.
Don’t see the kinds of activities you’re into? There’s even more on the Butte Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website.
Where to Stay in Butte Montana
I recommend the Copper King Hotel. The Copper King Hotel is located (literally) a stone’s throw from Burt Mooney Airport, which makes it super convenient for folks traveling by air. The Copper King is beautiful and modern and has an attached upscale restaurant, which features local beef. There’s also an on-site spa which I would have loved to have checked out firsthand but I didn’t have time.
The Copper King Hotel is Butte’s only full-service luxury hotel, although there are other places to stay in Butte if you’re looking for something more budget-friendly. But do your homework! A standard room at The Copper King Hotel starts at around $100, which is less than Butte’s Fairfield Inn, which is a lower-end Marriott brand. I like staying in Fairfield Inns and it’s usually where we look when we’re looking for a good room for not much money, but the Copper King was definitely an elevated experience.
Besides…they offer up free soft serve with toppings in the lobby every night. How fun is that?
Looking for a room in Butte (or anywhere else in the world?) Check out Booking.Com.
Have you been to Butte and don’t see your favorite place listed? Tell me what I missed so I can include it in the next update – please leave a comment or reach out to me on social media.