Touring the Byway
162 Miles | 7 Days / 6 Nights | Gateway City: Missoula, Montana
We recommend starting your journey in Missoula where you can learn about the city’s rich history and culture on a Historic Walking Tour and at the Montana Natural Historic Center, the Montana Museum of Arts and Culture, and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, built in 1877 when America was focused on westward expansion, before staying at the Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast.
On Day Two, drive a bonus byway named after the small pink blossoms and succulent roots of the Montana state flower. The Bitterroot Valley Scenic Byway takes you deep into the heart of the Bitterroot National Forest with stops at Lost Trail Pass and North Fork, two locations that played a pivotal role in Lewis and Clark’s famous expedition. The history lesson continues in Salmon at the Lemhi County Historic Museum and the Sacajawea Interpretive and Cultural Center and ends with a stay in a picturesque log cabin lodge. Day Three brings you to Challis, where a walking tour takes you past dozens of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places before a scenic drive on the Custer Motorway Adventure Road, a backcountry route used by old mining supply trains. Afterwards, curl up with a cup of tea in a historic bed and breakfast.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Paying homage to one of America’s greatest historical heroines, this educational and cultural center celebrates Sacajawea’s role in the Lewis and Clark expedition. Born around 1788 in the Salmon Valley, she traveled with the team as an interpreter and served as an indication of peaceful intent. Center exhibits highlight her historic trek and the Agaidika Shoshone-Bannock perspective, as well as deepen connections between Western frontier life and the natural environment. Walking trails and a presentation in the Meriwether Theater are also available.
Named because everyone in the mining camp was originally a Yankee, the Yankee Fork Mining District was organized after gold was discovered near the Salmon River in 1870. The General Custer Mine was discovered in 1876, but by 1910 the Bonanza, Custer, and Bayhorse camps were all but deserted. These ghost towns are now on view, along with museum exhibits, a gold panning station, educational programming, and friendly personnel to help illustrate the mining heritage of the area. The grounds also feature a 1/4-mile trail detailing the archeological finds of the nearby Challis Bison Jump Site.
Explore the old Custer Motorway route used by the mining supply trains that delivered gold bullion to Challis. This 2-hour side trip is an exciting backcountry scenic driving experience that illustrates the harsh life of the West. Discover old mining equipment, several stagecoach stations, deteriorating log cabins, and weathered grave markers along a remote stretch of land. Begin your trip at the Land of the Yankee Fork Interpretive Center. The driving loop is 98 miles long, with 46 miles of dirt/gravel road and no services.
Discover one of the largest volcanic caves in the world open to the public! Millions of years ago, a volcanic eruption filled the valley with a river of molten lava that got blocked off at its head and left a hollow tube in its wake. A rare and stunning lava cave was formed, which provided shelter and a food preservation system for Native Americans and later, U.S. Government supply storage during the Cold War. A self-guided tour of the caves takes about 30 minutes and requires 1/4 mile walking out and back. Lanterns will be provided, a light jacket and additional flashlight is suggested. The adjacent museum hosts the surprisingly large collection of Richard Arthur Olsen, an eccentric hunter, history lover, and outdoorsman. Featuring animal and bird mounts, long-forgotten fossils, and artifacts of ancient people, most of the mounted animals on view were taxidermied by Olsen himself.
With 756,000 acres of pristine mountain landscape, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area is one of the West’s most breathtaking scenic expanses. The headwaters of four major rivers, over 700 miles of trails, 40 peaks rising over 10,000 feet, and over 300 high-mountain alpine lakes beckon adventure enthusiasts of all types. Popular activities within the recreation area include hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and whitewater rafting, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing. The Stanley Ranger Station is the recreation area’s best entrance point for those staying near Stanley. Visitors can easily access numerous trails and lakes as well as obtain information, area maps, and a narrative automobile tour highlighting the area’s history and most impressive sights.