Philipsburg flourished early as a mining town in the 1870s and 80s. Today, the historic town has a lot to offer visitors, from mining for Montana sapphires to exploring a ghost town. Philipsburg is located just a few minutes off of Interstate 5 southeast of Missoula, Montana. Whether you pass through on a road trip or stop for the night, you'll find plenty of things to see and do in Philipsburg.
The Sweet Palace in Philipsburg is a candy emporium specializing in individually-wrapped and hard candies that offers over 1,000 different kinds of treats, including numerous hard-to-find candies from the past. Fresh handmade sweets are a large part of the selection here, and fudge, taffy, caramels, and chocolates—as well as a selection of sugar-free candies—are also available. While you're browsing through the massive selection of sweets in the store, you can also watch the cheerful staff pull taffy, wrap caramels, and dip chocolate in the on-site candy factory. The Sweet Palace is open daily year-round, with extended hours from June through August.
Marvel at Montana Sapphires
The land of Montana yields a number of precious gemstones and minerals, which is why it's earned the nickname the "Treasure State." Additionally, Montana is the only state in the United States to commercially mine sapphires, including the famous cornflower blue variety known as "Montana blue." However, not all sapphires found in the river beds and mineral deposits of Montana come in this brilliant hue; these gems come in a full and magnificent range of colors including pinks, yellows, purples, and browns.
If you want to see some of these sapphires up close, stop by the Sapphire Gallery in town, which houses a huge selection of sapphires from Montana and around the world that are cut or uncut and loose or incorporated into jewelry. There's something for every budget, from magnificent multi-stone pieces fit for royalty to more modest pieces, so you can take home a piece of the state by stopping by this famous gallery in Philipsburg.
Mine Your Own Montana Sapphires
If you'd rather experience what it's like to hunt for sapphires yourself—rather than selecting a stone from a gallery—there are several places near Philipsburg that offer guests the chance to mine for these precious gems themselves. With two facilities and town and one just 20 miles outside Philipsburg, you're sure to find a great addition to your collection during your trip.
- Sapphire Gallery: Located adjacent to the Sweet Palace, the Sapphire Gallery has a whole room dedicated to gem mining. You don't have to drive any rough roads or brave the elements at this year-round operation; you'll simply purchase a bag of gem-bearing gravel and, after quick preparation by an expert staff member, pick through the washed rocks for your very own sapphires. Staff members will evaluate the quality of your gems, letting you know which ones are worth heat treating and faceting.
- Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine: This historic mine is located about 20 miles outside of Philipsburg and is open during the warmer months of the year. Known as the oldest sapphire mine in the state, this facility lets you enjoy the outdoors as you wash and sort through your bucket of gravel. Gem Mountain also has a store in Philipsburg, which is open all year.
Located on South Sansome Street in Philipsburg inside the former Courtney Hotel, the Granite County Museum and Cultural Center was founded in 1991 to exhibit the rich mining history of the region, which led to the foundation of Philipsburg.
The exhibits at this local museum provide a great overview of the silver mining operations that took place during the late 19th century. In addition to viewing real mining equipment, old photos, and a miner's cabin, you'll have a chance to walk into a realistic simulation of an actual mine. Other exhibits at Granite County Museum focus on pioneer and homestead era history.
The Granite County Museum is open daily during the summer from noon to 4 p.m. but closes during the winter months. However, from September through April, you can also call the museum to book a private tour of the facilities.
Built in 1891, the historic Opera House Theatre is the oldest theatre in Montana. Restored in the early 2000s, the Opera House offered a variety of fun performances each summer until it ended its theater program after the 2018 season. Fortunately, guests can still tour this facility by appointment to see the historic architecture and walk across the historic stage. While you're there, pay special attention to the vibrantly-colored seats—many of which are the original seats for the theatre—and the wrought ironwork of the balconies and fixtures.
Although Philipsburg is home to less than 1,000 residents (as of the latest census information), that doesn't stop the townsfolk from celebrating a wide variety of annual events and festivals. Be sure to check the official Philipsburg Chamber of Commerce Facebook page for special events happening during your trip.
- Brewfest: On President's Day weekend each February, the Philipsburg Ice Association hosts a day of festivities celebrating the best beers from Montana's many breweries at the Old Fire Hall.
- Fireman's Clam Feed: The Volunteer Fire Department of Philipsburg hosts this annual fundraised cookout event each year in May.
- Flint Creek Valley Days: This annual classic car show takes place in July each year and features a variety of sports and muscle cars dating back to the 1920s.
- Philipsburg Summer Concert: Each year in mid-August, the Philipsburg Rotary Club hosts an outdoor concert and street fair in celebration of the end of summer.
- Miner's Union Day: Celebrating the rich mining history of the region, this day-long festival features mining competitions and a city-wide picnic each September.
- Yule Night: To celebrate the holiday season each year, the Chamber of Commerce hosts an evening street festival complete with a light parade down the main street of Philipsburg.
The boom-and-bust nature of mining has left Montana with many ghost towns. Located down a rough road near Philipsburg, Granite Ghost Town is now a unit of Montana's State Park System. Among the relics that remain from abandoned Granite are the Miner's Union Hall and the Granite Mine Superintendent's House. Granite Ghost Town is open during the warm months of the year after the road is cleared of winter snow and typically closes for the season in late September or early October.
Whether you visit Philipsburg in the summer or winter, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy for guests of all ages. In the summertime, spend your day hiking along the Rock Creek trails, which runs 29 miles through the rich landscape of Montana, or enjoy a variety of watersports on Georgetown Lake including boating, water and jet skiing, swimming, and fishing. Philipsburg is also home to a number of pristine campgrounds include Copper Creek, Crystal Creek, Echo Lake, and Flint Creek campgrounds where you can stay overnight instead of renting a hotel room. In the winter, Philipsburg and the surrounding area turns into a snow-covered wonderland where visitors can take part in popular activities like cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and ice hockey on frozen ponds and lakes in the region.