Get away from it all without getting too far away. Thompson Park, just nine miles south of Butte on Highway 2, is a municipal recreation area with 25 miles of non-motorized trails for hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking. Experience the backcountry as well as past mining activity, rock formations, incredible scenic vistas, and wildlife.
The historic Milwaukee Railroad (Milwaukee Road) serves as the Park's backbone to meandering trails heading off in every direction. This gently sloping 4.5-mile trail extends from the forest boundary south to Pipestone Pass and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, passing through two tunnels and over a 600-foot steel trestle along the way.
The Sagebrush Flats, Lions Den, and Lower Eagles Nest picnic areas and the Eagle's Nest trailhead offer convenient trail access and are equipped with cooking grills and restroom facilities for great family outings.
The Thompson Legacy
William Boyce Thompson, a mining engineer, financier, self-made millionaire and extraordinary philanthropist, was born in 1869 in Virginia City, Montana, and raised in Butte.
Thompson Park originated in 1915 with William's gift of 75 acres of placer mining claims to the city of Butte for the development of a park. The donated lands were combined in 1922 with federal lands on the Deerlodge National Forest by an act of Congress to form the only congressionally designated Municipal Recreation Area in the National Forest system.
In 1935, with help from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and local civic groups, the community's vision for a year-round recreation area close to home was realized with the construction of ski jumps, roads, trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas throughout the Park.
A Scenic DriveRecognized for its winding curves, quaint roadside fountains, and magnificent nighttime views of the city lights below, Montana Highway 2 through the Park to Pipestone Pass is known locally as Harding Way. The route was named in tribute to President Warren G. Harding's visit to Butte in 1923.
A Park Reborn
In 2007 the City-County of Butte-Silver Bow and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest received grants from the state's Natural Resource Damage program, the Recreation Trails Program, Margaret T. Biddle Foundation, Northwestern Energy, and Newmont Mining Co. to rehabilitate Thompson Park and protect native fish habitat and other resources.
Picnic sites, trails, roads, and signage were designed to mimic the WPA-era Park. Civic groups helped greatly with the work, continuing the legacy of volunteerism that first created the Park.
Today Thompson Park is co-managed by the City-County of Butte-Silver Bow and Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest-Butte Ranger District.