Touring The Byway
95 Miles | 5 Days/ 4 Nights | Gateway City: Missoula, Montana
We recommend starting your journey in Missoula where you can learn about the city on the Historic Walking Tour, visit the Montana Natural Historic Center, the Montana Museum of Arts and Culture, the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, built when America was focused on westward expansion, and take the Riverfront Walking Trail, before staying at the Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast.
On Day Two, you’ll be heading out on the Bitterroot Valley Scenic Drive with a stop in Lolo to explore Travelers’ Rest State Park before moving on to Stevensville where you’ll find the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge and Whaley Homestead, Historic St. Mary’s Mission, and the Stevensville Historical Museum. Spend the night at the Bitterroot River Bed and Breakfast. The next day, take time to visit Fort Owen State Park, named after the U.S. Army Major who arrived in the Bitterroot Valley in 1850, before leaving for Victor and the Victor Heritage Museum, Corvallis, and Hamilton, where you can explore the Ravalli County Museum, the Daly Museum, built by one of the Copper Kings, and stay at the Bitterroot River Inn right on the river. On Day Four, see the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum, the Historic Darby Ranger Station Visitor’s Center and Museum, and Painted Rocks State Park, before ending the day in Butte, another unique Montana city where you can learn about the mining heritage of the region.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Historic St. Mary’s Mission was established by Fr. Pierre De Smet, a Jesuit priest, in 1841. Today, the town has the distinct honor of being the place “Where Montana Began.” The well-preserved buildings and artifacts afford you a look at the beginnings of frontier Montana and a lovely chapel, still in use.
Located a mile south of Lolo, Traveler’s Rest was twice a stopping point for the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Centuries prior to that, this site had long been used by the Salish, Pend d’Oreille, and Nez Perce peoples. Today, Native American storytellers bring their history, culture, and society to life. Be sure to take the self-guided interpretive trail.
When copper was discovered in the Bitterroot Valley, Copper King Marcus Daly purchased an existing farmhouse and had it completely remodeled by 1889, and again in 1897. When the finished home reminded him of a church, remodeling plans began again, but before that remodel which changed the Queen Anne home into Georgian Revival was complete, Daly had passed away. Today, the residence has over 50 rooms including 25 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, 7 fireplaces, 5 of which are imported Italian marble, a large living room, music room, formal dining room, sunroom, a trophy room, upstairs sitting room, and third floor billiard hall.
The 2,800-acre National Wildlife Refuge hosts a diverse representation of native Montana wildlife, with 250 species of birds, 37 species of mammals, and 17 species of reptiles and amphibians. The Refuge is also home to the Whaley Homestead, the home of an Irish immigrant who came to Montana in the 1860s to look for gold, but instead served as the first agent on the Flathead Reservation. The 1885 house survives as an outstanding example of vernacular frontier architecture. Weatherboard siding now conceals a massive, complicated structure of square-hewn logs.
Fort Missoula was established by the US Army in 1877 to protect settlers in the region. Nearly 100 years later, the Historical Museum encompasses 32 acres with over 20 historic structures and a collection of nearly 50,000 artifacts.