If you find yourself in need of a place to stay for the night while driving between Glacier and Teton National Parks, might I suggest Dillon, Montana— a remote town off Interstate 15 with some surprising attractions.
🗺 Google Maps List of places mentioned in this article.
Bannack Ghost Town
The front desk attendant at the hotel I am checking into tells me that Dillon’s cow population exceeds that of humans. I can’t tell if this is his way of selling me on the town or what, so I smile and head to my room for the night.
I do a google search for anything interesting around me and discover that there’s a ghost town about 30 minutes west. I’m tired from a long day of driving but, rather than wait until tomorrow, I head over there.
I drive down a wide empty road surrounded by open plains and yellow rolling hills. I pass an abandoned retro RV from the 1970s on the side of the road and I get the sudden urge to restore one (I didn’t). It’s about 630pm when I arrive in front of an old wooden sign that reads— Bannack State Park.
The setting sun gives the air a brilliant golden hue. As I walk up to the row of rickety wooden buildings lining the road ahead of me, I spot a pair of deer munching on some dead grass. There are dozens of deer darting around me, all wondering what my business is here. I peer into some of the windows of the abandoned homes and try to picture who lived here a hundred years ago. I assume it’s the entire cast of the movie Tombstone.
After 20 minutes or so, the park ranger tells me they’re about to close soon. I use the rest of my time conducting another cheeseball photo shoot. I had never visited a ghost town before now, but I could tell I was at a good one.
The Bannack ghost town is a relic of the gold rush in the mid-1800s. The town’s population grew to around 10,000 at its peak. Today, Bannack is one of the better-preserved ghost towns in Montana.
Zombie JFK JR
Is John F. Kennedy JR alive? At least one appliance store in Dillon seems to think so. A QAnon conspiracy theory began circulating the internet around 2018 that claimed JKF Jr was not only alive, but was hiding out until they made an announcement that he would become then-President Donald Trump’s running mate for the 2020 election. JFK reportedly was even cyber squatting on an Instagram handle.
I don’t often wonder what a Trump second term would be like but, if it turned out that zombie JFK Jr was indeed going to be his Vice President, well, how can you pass that up?
There is only one Patagonia Outlet in the entire world and it exists in Dillon, Montana. Honestly, this fact surprised me more than the ghost town and conspiracy theory mural.
It’s Saturday, and the store opens at noon, so I have an hour to kill. I decide the best thing to do is have a couple of beers at the bar across the street— might as well do some discount shopping with a morning buzz.
I asked the bartender why Patagonia opened an outlet in the middle of the American North West. “That’s a great question,” she responds. “Kind of weird isn’t it?”
The outlet has a surprising amount of good gear. None of which I need. I buy myself a big blue cable knit sweater and a down bubble coat, both at 60% off.
So, turns out, the front desk clerk completely undersold Dillon, Montana. My visit here ended up being a favorite. Mr. Kennedy Jr, if you're out there, Dillon Montana has a lot of love for you, despite, you know, being a raging east coast liberal elite.