As your international flight touches down in Bozeman, Montana, you'll be amazed by the majestic peaks and steep canyons that ring the town. It's a young town with an old history, located in the classic Rocky Mountain West landscape. Native Americans occupied the area for thousands of years before fur traders arrived in the 1700s looking for beaver pelts. Founded in 1864, Bozeman served as the trail head for the Bozeman Trail that lead to the gold fields 80 miles west. Today, students from Montana State University give the city the vibrancy of a college town. The Museum of the Rockies, on the university campus, houses one of the world's largest collections of dinosaurs, along with exhibits on Native American and Western history and a 104-seat domed planetarium. The Gallatin Pioneer Museum provides a glimpse into Montana's past through such unique exhibits as jail cells, a hanging gallows, and a reconstructed log cabin.
About 60 miles west of Bozeman, at the end of the Bozeman Trail, you can witness the birthplace of Montana frozen in time. The gold discovered in Virginia City, Montana, helped to silence the guns of the Civil War by providing funding for Union troops to defeat the South. The end of the mining era in the early 1940s silenced Virginia City, and it remains today the best preserved example of the many placer mining camps that flourished in the Rocky Mountains in the 1860s.
The town stands as it did in its heyday, with 150 buildings certified as authentic historic structures, filled with museums, shops, a brewery, summer theater and restaurants. An authentic narrow gauge railroad, using cars from the railroad's gold rush era, runs between Virginia City and Nevada City, another intriguing mining ghost town. If you prefer natural history, an 89-mile scenic route takes you to the Gallatin Petrified Forest, Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, Gallatin National Forest and the Madison mountain range.