Join us as we continue camping off road and this time discover a ghost town named Kirwin!
With a few extra days in our plan, I hunted and found another new area off the beaten path. We made this trip just before docking in Montana for our annual backpacking excursion.
I discovered the Kirwin Trail after reviewing maps of the forest areas near our supply stop, Cody, wy. It’s a nearly 27.1 mile featured trail southwest of Cody, WY. We enjoyed camping in a meadow complete with cows the next morning, We also spent a morning driving the jeep trail to the old mining town, Kirwin. A few buildings and even a mine shaft have gone through some restoration making it a safe and interesting place to visit.
Getting to the area was very simple. We traveled from Cody, WY where we wally docked for the night with probably 40 other RV’ers and headed south along WY-120.
It’s still an easy drive even after you’re in the national forest but only until you pass the two established campgrounds. We drove through both campgrounds, figuring we may need to return if we were unlucky locating any dispersed camping. the first campground, Big Wood River was more compact but also had a couple sites next to the river. Brown Mountain campground was more spread out and, although near the river, it wasn’t right next to it. Both had vault toilets and either would be good alternatives if we needed them.
After the campgrounds, it’s a rutted, rocky, twisting climb. What a view. We ended up unhitching the jeep at the Brown mountain campground so we could scout for dispersed areas back further. The trail info noted 3 river crossings the last 10 mile of this trail. We crossed 2 of the river crossing before locating an open meadow area that would work well for our stay. Although there wasn’t recent cow pies where we parked, we figured out we were on a cow path the next morning as they moo’d past us. We also were not far from the road. Traffic was light with a couple of tour jeeps, handful of ATVs and a few trucks including the Ranger coming through daily. All in all, we enjoyed the spot and we even had a couple stop by curious about the camper. That was a nice surprise and was fun to visit with them.
Kirwin the town
This little community sparked to life with gold and silver being discovered in the mid 1880s. Kirwin was pretty unique as far as rough and tumble mining towns go in that it never had a single saloon or brothel.
Numerous mines and shafts were dug into the mountains before 1900 and the Wolf mine wasn’t started until the 1940s. This shaft house has been restored and is an easy walk from the park area. At it’s peak there were about 200 miners and their families living here. And while summers were pleasant, the winters were brutal and the town suffered through a few avalanches before dwindling in population. Eventually, the mining operations were determined to be a bust. There was more money invested than ever was made in this little town.
When you arrive at the town, there is a vault toilet, parking area and forest signs details the history of Kirwin. From there you can walk a little further down the road and locate the bridge. Once you cross the river take your time to just explore the town and the wolf mine shaft.
One last tidbit about Kirwin is Amelia Earhart started to build a cabin here in 1934. That was just before her last flight, so as you can expect, the cabin was never finished. However, you can go visit the site following a trail beyond the end of the road.
Watch the video for even more information and visual inspiration. You most likely noticed we have a new drone and in this video we ended up with a few good clips. Practicing makes for better flights!
We really enjoyed finding this route, the canyon, and our camp area and would definitely return in the future. The established campgrounds were nice and clean. As you’re driving on towards the forest boundary, you do lose signal soon after the residential area ends making this a completely unplugged place. But with the ghost town, some hiking, and fishing, there’s plenty to do. We don’t know about you, but we take naps. They’re just one of those luxuries you can have when you’re retired.
We are in Montana for a bit and will share our time there including the backpacking trail we conquered.
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