Even if Dillon (pop. 3,752, elev. 5,057 feet) weren’t the center of a vast region of broad fertile valleys filled with old ranches and rushing streams brimming with trout; even if Dillon weren’t surrounded by national forests and wildlife refuges; and even if Dillon weren’t close to the crossroads of Lewis and Clark, Chief Joseph, Henry Plummer, and a territory’s worth of early miners and ranchers, Dillon would deserve the traveler’s attention.
Dillon is an authentic old trade town that has managed to endure the recent economic malaise of the agricultural West without facing extinction or resorting to survival as a self-parody for tourists. Filled with historic architecture but kept young by the presence of students at the University of Montana–Western, blessed with decent restaurants, and faithful to the old bars that—then, as now—have consoled cowboys, sheepherders, and miners, Dillon is one of Montana’s most bewitching small cities and makes an excellent base for day trips to the Big Hole Battlefield, the Pioneer Mountains, Bannack, and Virginia City.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition