Made for summer

PHILIPSBURG, MT. Montana's secret charmer is a must-stop on your next roadtrip.






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Publication: Sunset
Date published: August 1, 2012

Charmsville, where? Halfway between Glacier and Yellowstone in western Montana. Located on State 1 (aka the Pintler Scenic Loop), P-burg sits in a scenic valley with views of the Sapphire Mountains and the Flint and Pintler Ranges. Why now? All-day outdoor concerts (phiHpsburgmt.com) and Shakespeare in the Parks (Aug is; shakespeareintheparks. org). Back in the 1890s heyday: Philipsburg was one of many mining boomtowns in the area (think Oeadwood) but managed to avoid becoming a ghost town. These days: Restored 19th-century buildings, hitching posts, and blooming flower baskets. The main drag, Broadway, has exactly one stoplight. Population: 930 friendly Montanans. Okay, I'll bite: It's no food town, but order a pasty and a huckleberry phosphate at Doe Brothers ($; 120 E. Broadway St.; 406/859-6676), and you'll be happy you came.

Picnic at a hidden lake

Georgetown Lake, 16 miles south of town, gets all the attention, but well take smaller and sweeter Echo Lake any day. Come for the picturesque and secluded picnic spots, and the warmer, more serene waters that are blissfully motorboat-free. Bring your fishing pole. From Route 1, turn northwest on Southern Cross Rd. After 3/4 mile, turn left onto Echo Lake Rd.

Hit the jackpot

There's sapphires in them thar hills! Buy a bag of Yogo Sapphire Ore $20/ 1-lb. bag) at Opal Mountain Gems and start panning at the outdoor sluice. The cornflower blue Yogo sapphire is only found in Montana. Keep whatever you find; have your gems cut or take them home in the raw. 204 W. Broadway; 406/853-6725.

Go ahead-ruin your dinner

A visit to the Sweet Palace will make the kids forget all about Willy Wonka. In addition to housemade taffy, fudge, peanut brittle, and truffles (try the Moose Drool chocolate beer truffles), nostalgic hard candy in jars lines the floor-to-ceiling shelves, just waiting to wreak havoc on your fillings. Closed Sat; 109 E. Broadway; 406/859-3353.

Cowboy art with heart

Former rancher Bill Ohrmann didn't start painting or welding until he was 78, but in the 13 years since, he's more than made up for lost time. Ohrmann Museum 81 Gallery, 27 miles north of town, is filled with larger-than-life steel animal sculptures - each with a metal heart visible through a small door in its chest. Stop by, and if you're lucky, you'll meet the delightful artist himself. 6155 State 1, Orummond; 406/288-3319.

Welcome to the Wild West

While you're here, you might as well go back in time ...

STROLL A GHOST TOWN

Located 6,549 feet above the valley floor, ghostly Granite is the perfect place to soak up the views. Take the selfguided Ghost Walk past the crumbling but stilt beautiful Miner's Union Hall. 4 miles southeast of P-burg.

GET UNDERGROUND

The Granite County Museum & Cultural Center has memorabilia from P-burg's past, inctuding a replica silver mine, complete with equipment and miners' cabin, from $3; 135 S. Sansome St.; 406/859-3020.

TAKE IN ASHOW

Each summer, the Opera House Theatre presents lighthearted productions and a vaudeville variety show. The hand-painted backdrops were made specially for the theater by artist Edgar Paxson in the 1880s. operahousetheatre.com

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