Bitterroot Valley Scenic Drives
One of the most popular activities for visitors to Montana are scenic drives, and we’ve got plenty of them in the Bitterroot Valley. Although this list is far from comprehensive, these are a great starting point for your planning. There may not be a better way to experience all that Big Sky Country has to offer than in your car, where you can see 100’s of miles of Montana in a single day.
West Fork Road
This scenic drive is for all visitors to the Bitterroot Valley. Head southwest on State Highway 473 just 5 miles south of Darby, MT for a scenic drive along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River to Painted Rocks Reservoir, 25 miles up the canyon.
Big Hole Valley
This is one of our favorite scenic drives in these parts as the Big Hole Valley is unlike any other part of Montana. Turn east on MT Highway 43 from US 93 at the Montana-Idaho border about 50 miles south of Hamilton. Head to Wisdom or Jackson for lunch, and jump in the hot springs at Jackson for a relaxing dip in the mineral pools. Don’t forget to check out the Big Hole National Battlefield!
Head east on Montana Highway 38 for an adventurous drive over Skalkaho Pass. Not for the faint of heart, this drive climbs up and over the Sapphire Mountains and ends in Philipsburg, MT 45 miles later. Take in Skalkaho falls and stop in and try your luck mining for gemstones at Gem Mountain before having lunch in “P-burg”. Some opt to take the “long way around” on the way back, which takes you through Missoula, MT before returning to the Bitterroot Valley from the north on Highway 93.
Turn off the West Fork Road at mile marker 15 onto the Nez Perce Road to access the Magruder Corridor road. This 101 mile primitive road winds through a vast undeveloped area that is much the same today as it was when the Nez Perce Indians and other early travelers crossed the area. Do some research ahead of time and plan your drive carefully as this road heads way back into the wilderness. The West Fork Ranger station on the West Fork Road is a great resource for more information.
Bass Creek Overlook
Travel 4 miles north of Stevensville, MT and turn west off of US 93 on to Bass Creek Road and follow to the Bass Creek Recreation Area. Take FS Road 1136 to the end of the road for outstanding views of the Bitterroot Valley. Take a lunch along and enjoy the picnic area that is unofficially known as the Bass Creek Overlook.
Trapper Peak Vista Point
From the Trapper Peak Vista Point you can see Trapper Peak, the tallest point in the Bitterroot Valley, rise 6,000 feet above Trapper Creek to a dizzying height of 10,157 feet. Head southwest on the West Fork Road for 6 miles and turn west on Trapper Main Road and follow for about 3 miles. Make a left on FS Road #5627 and follow for about 2 miles to the end of the road and the vista for incredible views.
Most everyone uses Highway 93 when traveling north and south in the Bitterroot Valley, but be sure to check out the East Side Highway 269 while you are here. This secondary highway passes through the towns of Corvallis and Stevensville, and traverses some of the beautiful farms and ranches of the Bitterroot Valley. The views of the Bitterroot Mountains from this east side vantage point are some of the best in the area.