GARNET, Mont. — Winter in Garnet ghost town is a stark contrast to summer in the abandoned mining town.
With hardly anyone wandering through main street, Garnet, at 6,000 feet elevation, feels like a true ghost town.
Each winter, the Bureau of Land Management, which manages Garnet, offers a unique way to experience the ghost town, which dates to the 1860s.
The BLM offers nightly rentals of two cabins in Garnet from Dec. 1 through the end of April. A larger cabin that can sleep up to six people is $40 a night and a smaller one-room cabin large enough for four people is $30 a night.
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The BLM holds a lottery each fall for cabin reservations. Reservation applications were due earlier this month.
However, if you missed the lottery deadline, don’t worry. There are typically still plenty of nights available in the cabins, said Maria Craig, outdoor recreation planner for the BLM in Missoula.
Full-moon nights and three-day weekends are the most coveted in the lottery. The most popular months for reservations are January and February. December can be tricky because sometimes there isn’t enough snow on the ground to be able to ski or snowmobile. The same can be true in April.
The two cabins are rustic. They don’t have water or electricity. However, they do have propane lights and a propane stove, along with a wood stove for heat.
Water is usually available at an outdoor spigot. Last winter, the water system wasn’t working, but Craig hopes that problem has been fixed.
“So far we do have water,” she said.
In the winter, the only access to Garnet is by snowmobile, cross-country skis or snowshoes.
Two routes lead into Garnet — one from Highway 200 and the other from Interstate 90. The route from Highway 200 is about 11 miles with about 2,300 feet of elevation gain. The route from Interstate 90 is shorter, about five miles, but steeper, gaining about 2,000 feet in those five miles.
Both options are long and challenging, Craig said. Visitors should be prepared with safety equipment, warm clothes and extra food and water.
Lottery applicants will be notified of results by Nov. 21. They’ll also receive the combination to get into their cabin. They should be sure to bring that, along with the map of the town they’ll receive showing the location of the cabins.
After the lottery, reservations for remaining dates can be made by calling the BLM in Missoula at 406-329-3914.