Climbing over Kings Hill Pass at 7,500 feet, spectacular mountain views splay out in all directions. From there, the Kings Hill Scenic Byway winds its way through pristine high country with lakes, streams, limestone canyons, and other rocky beauties emerging along the way. It was once not like this. The region’s mountains rendered millions upon millions of dollars of silver, gold, gemstones, coal, and minerals, leaving behind old mines, villages, ghost towns and vestiges of life when mining was king. Much of the Byway, stretching 71 miles on US Highway 89, overlaps with the Montana Mining Trail. In many places it is nestled in the lush Lewis and Clark National Forest, which (hard to believe when you see it today) included all or part of six mining districts, lands that ultimately produced the equivalent of $221,418,905 of minerals in today’s prices. Railroads chugged through majestic canyons to get to thriving boom towns while the ore held out. Neihart, which produced over $3 million in sapphires, is now surrounded by the remnants of 7,380 mines dotting the mountainside, some with ghost towns. Nearby Monarch is still barely a town while Hughesville and Albright are ghost towns and the railroad along Belt Creek is now part of the 8-mile stretch incorporated in Sluice Boxes State Park. White Sulphur Springs, once a hotbed of mining is now better known for the hot springs to soak, refresh and renew in the middle of the forest, which now, carefully managed, is once again lush and green.