Frequently Asked Questions
Where are you?
What do people do at Gem Mountain?
Of course, you are more than welcome to just come visit and take a look around. More than likely our Philipsburg store has something you have never seen before, and the wildlife and people watching at the mine is always interesting.
How do we find you?
Philipsburg is located in Southwest Montana about an hour drive from Butte or Missoula. The mine is located 22 miles west of Philipsburg on Skalkaho Pass Road, MT Hwy 38. It is a beautiful drive that takes an additional 30 minutes from Philipsburg. Skalkaho Pass Road offers spectacular views of the Pintler Mountains and excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, including: bald eagles, red tail hawks, deer, elk, big horn sheep and moose.
If you are coming from the West or Northwest — Missoula, Spokane, Kalispell, Glacier Park, Flathead Lake, etc:
To Philipsburg: From Missoula travel east on I-90 approximately 45 miles to Drummond. Exit at Drummond, Exit #153, and proceed south on MT Hwy 1, the Pintler Scenic Route, 30 miles to Philipsburg. Philipsburg is located just off the highway with good signage to the Historic Downtown District. Turn Left off HWY 1 and proceed uphill about one mile. We are the first large brick building on the left. There is ample street parking with an RV parking lot directly across the street. Remember to do your U-turns at the end of the street where marked.
To the Sapphire Mine: The Sapphire Mine is located 22 miles west of Philipsburg. Continue south on HWY 1 six miles past Philipsburg to the green highway signs that say “Hamilton” and “Skalkaho Pass Road” and turn right. Travel 16 miles west to our driveway and turn right at the Gem Mountain sign. (You can’t miss it, we’re the only ones out there, and a picture of the sign is at the top center of every web page). Large RVs and towing units can ignore the big yellow warning signs about narrow winding roadways. The road is paved and suitable for all vehicles the entire way to our driveway. We have plenty of RV parking. Stop for gas and groceries in Philipsburg!
If you are coming from the North, East or South — Butte, Helena, Great Falls, Bozeman, Yellowstone National Park, northbound on I-15, etc:
From Butte, or the Junction of I-90 and I-15: Take I-90 westbound (towards Missoula) approximately 18 miles to the Anaconda / Philipsburg exit, #208. Exit at Anaconda and travel west six miles into Anaconda. Stop for gas and groceries in Anaconda. The Town Pump at the edge of Anaconda always has the lowest gas price in the area and an RV dump station. Albertsons is on your left as you enter town. Stokes is on your left most of the way through town.
To Philipsburg: From Anaconda continue west on MT Hwy 1 approximately 24 miles to the “Philipsburg” exit at the “Wye”. Continue another 1.5 miles (past the Forest Service Office) directly to the Historic Downtown District. Turn left at the stop sign. Our Philipsburg store at 201 west Broadway is located on your right one block “downhill” from the stop sign. There is ample street parking with an RV parking lot directly across the street. Remember to do your U-turns at the end of town where marked.
To the Sapphire Mine: From Anaconda travel approximately 18 miles to Skalkaho Pass Road, MT Hwy 38 (six miles south of, and before, you get to Philipsburg). After you pass Georgetown Lake and come down the “grade”, take it easy across the flat. Slow down as soon as you see the green “Skalkaho Pass Road” and “Hamilton” highway signs. You will be turning LEFT while the highway is making a right-hand curve. This is a DANGEROUS CORNER, and it is easy to miss the LEFT TURN. Travel 16 miles west to our driveway and turn right at the Gem Mountain sign. (You can’t miss it, we’re the only ones out there). Large RVs and towing units can ignore the big yellow warning signs about narrow winding roadways. The road is paved and suitable for all vehicles the entire way to our driveway. We have plenty of RV parking. If you end up in Philipsburg, you’ve traveled six miles too far. Stop in our store and look around. We look forward to seeing you.
If you are in the Bitterroot Valley; US 93 south of Missoula, Victor, Stevensville, Hamilton, Darby, Triple Creek Ranch, Salmon Idaho, etc:
If you are comfortable driving narrow (we mean really narrow, like two cars can’t pass each other in many places), winding (so narrow and winding trailers over 20 feet might not make it), gravel (the washboards can get bad during the summer) road with huge drop offs and no guard rails…. Skalkaho Pass Road is a huge time saver and beautiful drive. From US 93 one mile South of Hamilton turn east on MT Hwy 38, “Skalkaho Highway”. Travel east 38.4 miles to our driveway. Plan on spending a few minutes at Skalkaho Falls (18 miles from our driveway), and a short hike out the Boardwalk at Mudd Lake (there is nothing muddy about it, it’s beautiful). This route is NOT suitable for RVs, towing units, big road bikes (Harley, Goldwing, etc.) because it is narrow, winding and dirt/gravel. This route is not for the faint of heart and those afraid of heights and drop offs. Skalkaho Pass Road is one of the last “dirt” State Highways. It is well maintained during the summer but offers its own challenges for the faint of heart. If you’re up for it, take Skalkaho Pass Road for the spectacular views, opportunities to see wildlife, Skalkaho Falls, Mudd Lake, Sand Basin and the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine (where the pavement ends on the east side). Philipsburg is an additional 22 miles east on paved roads.
If you are using a Navigation system, Tom Tom, Garmin, etc., to find the Sapphire Mine: USE CAUTION!
If your system it is not fully updated, you WILL NOT FIND US. If the directions it gives do not match those given above DO NOT FOLLOW THEM. YOU WILL GET LOST. If you do get lost, once you have cell phone service please give us a call and we’ll help give you the correct directions.
What should we bring?
Are dogs allowed?
Yes. Please keep your dog on a leash. If it is very well behaved and we aren’t very busy, you can let it off the leash. If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior (lunging at other dogs or people) or is barking and whining, we will ask you to place your dog back in your vehicle.
Do you have camping?
What should I do with my sapphires?
If you find gem quality rough sapphires we encourage you to make the investment in heat treating and faceting to create a beautiful gemstone suitable for jewelry. Nothing breaks our hearts more than seeing nice sized gem quality sapphires walk out the door. It’s amazing how many people find very nice rough sapphires and don’t respect the incredible beauty and value of the finished gemstone. I know, it all costs money, but please, if you find nice stones, make the investment in heat treating and faceting, so you have a sapphire gemstone that you found. It is very rare that the value of the finished gemstones we return isn’t significantly greater than the investment required to heat treat and facet the stones. Your sapphire gemstones are a lifetime treasure and memory of your day at Gem Mountain.
As to what you do with your small and fractured stones, that is up to you. We’ve seen many creative uses, from displaying in a clear container, to decorating an acrylic lamp shade, scrap booking or making wire wrapped “sapphire trees”. Some people have posted pictures and ideas on our Facebook page. Get creative and post your idea.
Still Have Questions?
(406) 859-GEMS (4367)