H Paradise Valley
S. Fk. Deep Creek
Pine Creek H,C
Passage Creek Falls
Big Timber Area
Creek Falls H,C,V
Boulder Meadows H,C
Twin Lakes H,C
Lava Lake H
Little Belt Mountains
MT Railroading V
Gap Wind Farm V
Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness
Rocks Rec Area V,C
Lake State Park V,C
Mountains and Their Ghost Towns
The Judith Mountains are a "small"
mountain range that lies just northeast of Lewistown, MT. There are a
number of these "small ranges including the Big
Snowy Mountains, Little
Belt Mountains, Castle
Mountains and others. The Judith Mountains
begin east of Lewistown and arch to the northeast for about
20 miles. In most places the mountains are about 10 miles wide and the
range consists of a number of low peaks broken by stream drainages.
Pyramid Peak and New Year Peak, both on the southern end of the range
are in the 6,000 ? 6,200 ft range and when seen from Lewistown (less
than 4,000 ft) they stand 2,000 ft higher than the surrounding area.
There are a number of peaks
6,000 ft in the range. The highest point is Judith Peak at
6,400 ft. This is rugged country but it is significantly tamed as there
are lots of roads in these mountains. In the 1950?s and 1960?s the US
Air Force operated a radar station situated at the top of
Judith Peak. Today the road to this
site provides a great opportunity to drive to the top of the mountains.
Throughout the Judith range there are other roads that
provide access to much of the high country.
Not much larger than a small shed, This long-abandonded building
is the original jail at Gilt Edge.
Mountains are rich with
human history. Significant gold discoveries resulted in an active
mining history and the mining ghost towns of Maiden and Gilt
Edge that make interesting stops for the traveler. In fact, there is a
natural loop through the Judith Mountains that visits these ghost towns
can logically and easily be extended to include a visit to Kendall Ghost Town in
North Moccasin Mountains, all in an easy day. This trip can be taken
from any starting point and makes a great way to experience central
Gilt Edge Ghost Town
From Lewistown head east on
about 12 miles to the Gilt Edge Road. Turn left (north) and stay on
this road for 6 ? 7 miles until you pass through the old town site of
Gilt Edge. Gilt Edge was founded in 1893 and, although gold seemed to
plentiful, failed to thrive because of the illegal financial
dealings of the mine manager. By 1899 things were sorted out and the
town reached its peak at the turn of the century. Today you will find a
scattering of ruins and a couple of buildings. The ruins are right by
the side of the road and you can easily park and explore the area.
Two buildings remain standing in some sort of the form they originally
had. One is the jail and it is easy to imagine that it would not have
been a comfortable place to stay as it is very small.
is much larger and was the home for the ladies who kept the
miners comfortable at night. The building is very picturesque and
peering inside it is a complex building with many rooms. Unfortunately,
it is in very poor condition and no one should ever attempt to enter.
If you visit Gilt Edge and explore the area around this building be
very careful as there is an open well located in back that someone
could very easily fall into.
house in Gilt Edge still stands. Do not attempt to enter as it is in
poor condition. If you explore this area be very careful to avoid the
old well behind this structure.
There are a number of other
piles and broken walls where buildings once stood in the old town. In
one place someone has erected a cross framed perfectly in the window
carved by the fallen building (see photo). All of this is in an area
where there are people living and working. None of the ghost town areas
are posted but please be very careful to respect private property and
take only pictures if you visit.
Just up the road is the very obvious
tailings pile from past mining. The ore found around Gilt Edge was of
low quality and the town never became prosperous. However, it had a
very interesting history that has been recounted on a couple of other
web sites. If you would like to learn more about the history of Gilt
provided a perfect frame for the cross that was erected behind it.
There is no indication of how long the cross structure has been in
place but it is much more recently constructed.
In the area of Gilt Edge the
are following changes names to the Maiden Road. It continues past Gilt
Edge and travels up into Maiden Canyon. This is a picturesque drive on
a well maintained gravel road. After about four miles you will come to
a signed T intersection. Following the fork to the left you will
quickly reach the remains of Maiden. However, a great side trip is to
turn right at this junction and follow the road to the top to Judith
Peak. This is a well built and well maintained road that takes you to
the highest point in the Judith Mountains. As already mentioned, this
road was built to service a radar station placed on the top of the
peak. There is still a large complex of antennas and other
telecommunications equipment here but the views are excellent. Looking
west and south you are treated to views of the rugged mountainsides
below you and off in
the distance you see the various mountain ranges that break up the
plains of central Montana. Looking north you see an endless expanse of
flat terrain leading off toward the Missouri River.
photo to enlarge
southwest from the top of Judith
Peak you get a great view of the rugged mountain country.
Maiden Ghost Town
visit Judith Peak return the way
you came until you reach the junction to Gilt Edge. From here it is
only a short distance to Maiden where you can see the ruins of a couple
of buildings. Unfortunately, the entire town site is now on private
property so the only exploring you can do is visual from the road and
there is really not much to see, just a couple of tumbled down
buildings viewed from a distance.
The Maiden of today is far
than when this was a busy mining area. Gold was first discovered in the
general area in 1880 and miners quickly explored all of the surrounding
areas. By 1888 Maiden was a thriving town of about 1,200 and many
different businesses and services were found there. However, as the
gold began to play out the population quickly diminished and by 1896
only about 200 residents remained.
Maiden was one of the first
in the area and it is commonly
reported that it got its name from one of the first miners, a man named
Maiden. He put a sign up in front of his camp that said Camp Maden and
somewhere along the line the letter i was added making the town name
Maiden. However, there is also an alternate account that the town/camp
was named for the daughter of a friend of two of the original
settlers. This young girl was fondly known to the men as "Little
Maiden" and it is told that they named the town for her.
photo to enlarge
North from the summit of Judith Peak the views are very different than
those to the south. Here we see the rolling badlands and prairies
stretching off toward the Missouri River.
The exact origin of the name of Maiden
is not the only interesting name story in the area. Maiden
sits on the west side of the Judith Mountains and is reached by the
Maiden road which travels up the Warm Spring Creek Canyon
which drains from the Judiths. Maiden sits near the top of the canyon
and continuing up the road you cross the crest of the Judiths and drop
down the other side into Maiden Canyon and follow Maiden Creek to get
to Gilt Edge. Why the town of Maiden would be on the opposite side of
the mountain from Maiden Canyon is another naming mystery.
The two canyons, Maiden and Warm
Springs Creek, are very different in nature. Maiden Canyon is a narrow
confined canyon that quickly descends from the mountains. It is almost
all BLM land and is unpopulated. Warm Springs Creek is a broad open
valley that is almost totally privately owned. It is well populated
with farms, summer homes and other residences. It was the home to the
three small towns of Maiden,
Andersonville and Alpine. It also housed an air force
station that later became a bible college. In short, Warm Springs Creek
Canyon has seen a significant human history.
facility is located on the top of Judith Peak.
Originally this mountain top was used by the Air Force for
communications and they left behind a site perfect for today's needs.
You can get a sense of scale by looking at the man climbing near the
bottom of the tower that is second form the left.
leaving Maiden, the road turns
from gravel to pavement and after about 2 miles you will pass the area
of the old Air Force base. This facility was built to provide support
to the telecommunications facilities on the top of Judith Peak and the
base was located to provide an uninterrupted line of sight between the
two points. After the Air Force closed the facility it served for some
time as a bible college and is now privately owned.
From this point on continue
the road for another 6 miles to its intersection with Hwy 191. From
here you can head south into Lewistown to complete a great loop drive
through Montana's Judith Mountains. However, if you want to continue on
and explore another interesting old mining town cross Hwy 191 and
continue on to Kendall Ghost
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