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    Virginia City and Nevada City: discovering the Far West in Montana

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    Joel Fulleda

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    If you have read the itinerary in Montana that our Lorenzo did along the trail watcher, you will no doubt be impressed by the towns of Virginia City e Nevada City, two destinations of considerable interest for fans of western imagery and the more adventurous stories of the Gold Rush. The article cited explains well what is the most common case in which you may find yourself meeting these two towns of the Far West, or during a trip from Yellowstone to the Glacier National Park, in the far north of Montana.

    However, the distance from a key city like West Yellowstone ("Just" 1.30 hours) encourages you to take an excursion specifically and entirely dedicated to these two towns: even if you don't plan to go to the northern territories of Montana - but especially if you have time to invest in the area after the visit Yellowstone and you don't have to leave immediately to other more common destinations of the tour of the west - you can organize more than a half day to discover Virginia City and his "ghost little sister": nevada city.

    So, since the two towns will probably not be in a transit area between one stage and another of your on the road, you will have to organize as best you can moving and visiting of the two historical sites that, contrary to what one might think, cannot be dismissed with a hasty tour.


    • Brief history of the two towns
    • How to get?
    • What to see in Virginia City
      • What to do?
      • Photo gallery
    • What to see in Nevada City
      • What to do?
      • Photo gallery
    • Where to sleep?

    Brief history of the two towns


    Spring of '1863: in the depths of the valleys of Age Gulch A very rich gold vein is discovered by some gold miners headed from Bannack to Yellowstone. The fact obviously could not remain a secret: after a short time an army of thousands of gold diggers arrived from all over the west, ready to sift every inch of this corner of Madison Valley in search of some glittering nugget that could enrich them or to work in the mines.

    In the following years, gold worth about 30 million dollars was mined from this and other gorges in the area: as a consequence of this "invasion", a mile away developed Virginia City e Nevada City, towns destined to become a reference point for all pioneers and adventurers in search of fortune during the period of the Gold Rush.

    In fact, Virginia City reached a considerable size, quickly becoming an icon of the West, as well as the capital of the territory: it remained so for ten years, from 1864 to 1875. As expected, not only gold prospectors arrived in those parts, but also brutal bandits and outlaws: the name "Vigilante Trail" takes its name from the supervisory body (Montana Vigilantes) which was created to defend the two towns from the raids of bandits. Age Gulch it was the most fruitful and richest gold deposit in the Rocky Mountains: visiting Virginia City and Nevada City gives you the opportunity to breathe again the unique atmosphere of the Far West, because in those parts everything has remained as it was then (or almost) .

    How to get?

    • Coming from the south (West Yellowstone) take Hwy 20 to the junction with MT-87 N. Take it and continue towards Ennis. Follow the main road (Hwy 287) to Ennis, where you will then see signs for Virginia City. Nevada City is located just one mile further northwest.
    • Coming from the north it is necessary to follow the Vigilante Trail in reverse: from Mound reach Whitehall and then take the road south along the MT-55 and MT-41 to Twin Bridges. From here you arrive in Nevada City in 30 minutes on Hwy 287. Virginia City is obviously a few miles east.

    What to see in Virginia City

    The first town you will come across when coming from West Yellowstone on Hwy 287 is therefore Virginia City. Unlike Nevada City, which as we will see is now literally a ghost town-museum, Virginia City is a fairly lively and certainly authentic town, although inevitably touristy, especially in the high season months. After parking your car near the Visitor Center on Main Street (Wallace Street), get a map (you can also find it below in pdf) and start your exploration, taking into account a couple of hours for the visit on foot: you will meet more than sixty historic buildings, some original, others reconstructed and reconverted for commercial use.

    Walking on the bumpy and creaking boards in the shade of the wooden porches of Wallace Street, you will see the opera house, saloons and restaurants, hotels, trading posts, banks, old coffee, confectionery, alcohol, beer and tobacco stores, barber shop, post office, clothing stores, jewelry and various trinkets. In some of these buildings you can enter and browse, just as if you were in a dusty movie set abandoned and suddenly revived.

    In addition to the commercial premises, along Wallace Street you will be able to see the ancient administrative offices, the school, the hall of Freemasonry, the City Hall, the private homes of the city personalities, and other fascinating buildings built in the gothic and greek revival style. I recommend that you also venture into Idaho Street and along the dirt and uphill side streets, because even there you will find old abandoned buildings and well-restored historic houses. A myriad of views that your photographs will deserve!

    • Virginia City map in pdf

    What to do?

    If you want to enrich your experience in the Far West of Virginia City, there are some tourist activities offered on site:

    • you can make a crossing on the historic train departing from the Northern Pacific RR Depot (near the theater and Visitor Center): take the Alder Gulch Shortline Railroad from Virginia City to Nevada City is an experience recommended for big nostalgic and curious little ones!
    • you can enter the Opera House to watch a melodrama by the ancient local company, la Virginia City Players Theatre Company. The shows are usually held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 16pm, Fridays at 19pm, Saturdays at 14pm and 19pm, Sundays at 19pm;
    • you can get on the horse-drawn stagecoach or on a vintage fire truck to take a narrated tour of Virginia City;
    • you can take home a photo dressed in thefar west style clothing al Photographic Emporium;
    • you can look for gold like the miners of the late nineteenth century at the western museum / laboratory River of Gold, located halfway between Virginia City and Nevada City. Here it is possible to learn how the ancient machinery used by miners worked and to know the techniques of research and extraction of the mineral;
    • you can attend a great costume ball (Grand Victorian Ball) or spend tea time in perfect Victorian style in theHistoric Bennett House Country Inn;
    • during the summer weekends, along Virginia City's main street you can watch the “Living history events”, representations of the daily life of the time according to the folklore and customs of the time, with costumed figures. At that point you will really feel like you have really taken a trip back in time!

    Photo gallery

    What to see in Nevada City

    To make you understand what awaits you I want to use two most famous western US cities as a touchstone: if Virginia City can somehow remember Oatman, to describe the very close Nevada City, I could perhaps mention Bodie, which is an abandoned western town not besieged by commercial and tourist activities. Nevada City is in all respects an open-air museum, complete with Admission: the name is Nevada City Living History Museum and, in addition to the train station / Visitor center, a historic hotel (of which the hall can be visited) and an adjacent bar / restaurant, you will not find any other premises open to the public. At the entrance to the museum they will give you a map (you can also find it below in pdf), which will be useful for you to understand the history, use and destination of all the beautiful buildings of the town.

    How to get to Nevada City from Virginia City? It is not difficult! Or with the vintage train mentioned in the previous paragraph, or by driving the mile and a half that separates it from Virginia City.
    • Nevada City map in pdf

    What to do?

    First pass by the interesting visitor center in the old station and get all the historical information you need to enjoy the visit. Here's what not to overlook ...

    Music Hall

    Before you go to discover Nevada City, pay some attention to the Music Hall, a wonderful collection of vintage "music machines" dating back to the early twentieth century and still working: your incredulous eyes will see music boxes, organs, organs, automatic pianos of exquisite workmanship, manufactured in Paris, Chicago, New York by historic manufacturers such as Engelhardt, Gavioli, Wurlitzer, Mills Novelty etc. The collection is part of the museum, and the room is practically the antechamber of the ghost town.

    Nevada City Living History Museum

    The small town of Nevada City is just lovely, and so is it more "true" than Virginia City: holding the precious map like a pistol, you will regret not having a holster to keep it, in case some cowboys appear at any moment on the dusty road! You will be able to visit a considerable number of buildings enriched with furnishings, furniture and furnishings of yesteryear: you will see the rooms and premises from behind glass or entering right through the door. On your way you will meet the bank, the school, the prison, the pioneer cabins and all the commercial activities and buildings that could not be missing in a western city. Check if there are any events scheduled on the museum calendar for the day your Nevada City visit takes place - you may even be lucky enough to attend one of the museum's period costume "living history" performances. outdoors.

    • Opening Hours: from 27 May to 4 September, every day from 10 to 18
    • Prezzi: adults $ 8-10; children 6-8 $

    Photo gallery

    Where to sleep?

    As for the overnight stay in the area you have two options, both of great charm: in fact, you will have the possibility to choose between two historic hotels, one in Virginia City and one in Nevada City.

    • Fairwater Inn: historic hotel dating back to the foundation of the town. It is located on Main Street in Virginia City and is the ideal choice for those who want to enrich the experience of a visit with a stay in absolute Far West style. Already on the outside, the structure has the characteristics of the hotels of the time, such as the terrace and the wooden veranda with chairs and tables to "observe the situation" on the main road. The rooms are rustic in style, the furniture is period but the few services present are modern. It is not a luxury hotel, but if you are looking for this type of property, you will have to look elsewhere!
    • Nevada City Hotel: as I told you, this is theonly reception facility of ghost town Nevada City. The staff is very friendly, but it's the atmosphere that wins out! By sleeping in this charming period hotel, you'll be even more secluded than in Virginia City. The only noise you will hear is the sharp crack of the porch boards, in case the ghost of some old cowboy passes by. The Nevada City Hotel, unlike the Fairwater Inn, also offers a Catering service.

    If you do not find availability, you can search for accommodation in motel in Ennis in stile montano The Sportsman Lodge.

    Fairwater Inn
    Nevada City Hotel (external)
    Nevada City Hotel (interno)
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