Virginia City, Montana

Virginia City is one of the liveliest Montana Ghost Town Sites in the state. Located along Alder Gulch, in the southwestern portion of the state, it offers plenty of tourist attractions and a colorful history.

This area is home to one of the largest placer gold finds in the Old West. It is estimated that $30 million of gold was lifted from Alder Gulch within the first 3 years of discovery, and a total of $90 million was extracted during the first 6 years.


The area was discovered accidentally in the spring of 1863, when a group of 6 men passed through the area on their way back to Bannack. They had traveled to the Yellowstone Valley in search of gold, but come up empty-handed. On their way home, they stopped along Alder Creek, hoping to pan enough metal to buy some tobacco. What they found led to one of the biggest gold rushes in history.

Within days of the discovery, hundreds of prospectors flocked to the area. Within a year, the area population was estimated to be 8000-10,000 residents. The 14-mile long gulch area supported 9 mining camps. The largest camp soon developed into what is now the town of Virginia City, Montana, and in 1865, became the new capital city of Montana Territory.

Montana Vigilantes & Frontier Justice

With the boom came increased incidents of greed and crime, and in December 1863, a group of Montana Vigilantes formed and began practicing frontier justice. Within 2 months, 21 men had been rounded up, convicted, and hanged for purported crimes. By spring, however, the group had disbanded, and traditional law and order began to form as Montana Territory was formally recognized by the federal government.

Within a few years of its discovery, the booming town began to decline in popularity due to new gold discoveries in the Last Chance Gulch area near present-day Helena. Population declined quickly, and in 1875, the capital was officially relocated to Helena. Although mining continued for many years, the city never regained its initial popularity.

Montana Ghost Town Restoration

Today, the town remains one of the finest examples of Montana ghost town restoration. These Montana ghost town buildings are all part of the original town site. Approximately 150 people still reside full time in the small community. During the summer, at the height of tourism, the number of residents increases to approximately 300 people.

The community includes a number of Old West attractions for visitors, including trail rides, stagecoach rides, and a restored steam train that shuttles visitors to nearby Nevada City along the 1.5 mile Alder Gulch Short Line railway.

Additional attractions include music, theatre, and a variety of local events that celebrate and recapture the spirit of the Old West.

To learn more about these attractions, or for more information about visiting Virginia City (back to the top), be sure to visit our other webpages!

Montana Ghost Towns
Montana Culture
Montana Vacation Fun