Touring The Byway
148 Miles | 4 Days / 3 Nights | Gateway City: Missoula, Montana
We recommend starting your journey in Missoula, where you can explore the downtown on a historic walking tour and visit the Montana Natural History Center, the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, before taking the Riverfront Walking Trail. After a night at the Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast, you’ll be headed for Alberton on Interstate 90. After a visit to the Town Museum, you’ll be taking Old Highway 10 West, sometimes called the Mullen Road, which follows the river, jigging and jogging back and forth over and under the Interstate, until you reach St. Regis. Here the river turns and to stay with it, you’ll be taking Montana 135, which is also the St. Regis-Paradise Scenic Byway. Stop at the Hot Springs for lunch and if you like, a dip in the hot springs. About eight miles east of Thompson Falls, there is a highway pullout at the Koo-Koo-Sint Bighorn Sheep Viewing Site. Weighing up to 300 pounds, they charge their rivals at 20 miles per hour and butt heads in a struggle for herd dominance. This violent sport can be heard many miles away.
You’ll continue on Montana 135 until you reach Thompson Falls where you can explore the Old Jail Museum and see the Thompson Falls High Bridge just south of the intersection of Gallatin and Preston Avenue. You’ll be heading back a few miles for the evening at Rocky Point Ranch, right on the river, to relax in the scenic beauty.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Glacier National Park is a stunningly beautiful, ice-carved terrain of serrated ridges, jutting peaks, dramatic hanging valleys, 50 glaciers, more than 200 lakes and waterfalls, and some 1.2 million acres of forest. Some call it the Crown of the Continent and few know that it backs up to the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park across the Canadian border. In frontier days, visitors to the remote mountain valleys were likely to be horse-mounted hunters seeking hides and heads as trophies. Today’s visitors are photographers, hikers, birders and scenic drive lovers. The Park is big, wild, majestic, awesome and spectacular – and when their open mouths begin working again, visitors seeing it for the first time say something profound, like “wow.” A portion have returned with their work, urban tastes and expectations, and settled in, working to sustain and save working ranches, clear streams, and free ranging wildlife from the intrusions of modern life.
About 40 miles northwest of Thompson Falls, Montana 56 is the Bull River Valley Scenic Drive that meanders through the Kootenai National Forest. Striking cliffs, spires, canyons, and the magnificent peaks of the Cabinet Mountains follow your drive along the Kootenai and Clark Fork Rivers. Here, there are 191 species of birds, along with elk, whitetail and mule deer, mountain goats and bighorn sheep, moose, black bear, mountain lions, grizzly bears, coyotes, weasels, mink, beavers, otters, squirrels, bobcats, lynx, and other animals who roam the forest.
Get ready for the drive of a lifetime! One of the most scenic 50 miles in the world, this is a truly inspiring journey. Shining, glaciated peaks, plunging valleys, and turquoise blue lakes were carved by ice and slow-moving glaciers that still quietly creep across a vast wilderness. Piercing the landscape through the heart of Glacier National Park, it crosses the Continental Divide over Logan Pass at 6,646 feet. The 52-mile drive, was literally carved out of the precipitous mountainside for 12 miles of its length, where the cliffs drop hundreds of feet from the roadside. You’ll pass through lush forests of spruce, lodgepole pine, cedar, hemlock and subalpine fir. Turnouts allow you to relish vistas of glacier-sculpted mountains and glimpse wildlife. The Garden Wall features amazing waterfalls, especially in late spring when the snow is melting. A long section of rock wall adjacent to the road covered by running water, called the Weeping Wall, is one of the more unusual.
Once considered a shortcut to Glacier National Park, this beautiful route which lies within the Lolo National Forest delivers exquisite scenery of the rolling Donlan Flats with high canyon walls, and distant green mountains, with the comforting rumble of Clark Fork River by your side. You can expect to see elk, white-tailed and mule deer, bald eagles, and the occasional bighorn sheep.
Visitors to Ross Creek often say the ancient forest growing in Montana since before Columbus set foot in America rival the giant sequoias of northern California. Area Loggers who cut trees in the area were the first to protect the trees before a protected area was established in 1960. A nature trail follows the banks of Ross Creek, some of which is hidden beneath the rocky stream bed. The turnoff for the grove from Montana Highway 56 is about a half mile past the southern end of Bull Lake. A scenic pull off about two miles north on 56 offers a scenic view of the Cabinet Mountains and the roar of Ross Creek Falls.