Touring The Byway
45 Miles | 5 Days / 4 Nights | Gateway City: Missoula, Montana
We recommend beginning your journey in Missoula, which will take you to the beginning of the Bitterroot Valley Scenic Drive. While in Missoula, you can take the Downtown Historic and Art Walking Tour to get to know the city, visit the Montana Natural History Center, and tour the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, and the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, before taking the Riverfront Walking Trail and a stay at the Blue Mountain Bed and Breakfast. Between Missoula and Hamilton, you’ll be traveling the Bitterroot Valley Scenic Drive through Lolo and Stevensville. In Hamilton, you can tour the Daly Mansion and the Ravalli County Museum before staying at the Bitterroot River Inn. The next morning, on the Skalkaho Pass Scenic Drive, you’ll be traveling through the Bitterroot National Forest.
Make sure you are prepared for the drive. Fuel up in Hamilton and get all your needed supplies, because there are no services along the route. This is not a road for large trailers and you’ll need to slow down when you meet an approaching car. The road is paved leaving Hamilton and paved again on the other end before you reach Porters Corner. In between, the road is gravel, with no guard rails and curves are such that you can’t see what’s coming around the corner.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
The Salish People and the Lewis and Clark Expedition called it ‘The Place of Many Trails.’ The Bitterroot is the homeland of the Salish People, and long before there was a road through the Skalkaho, Native Tribes used the trail through this very pass.
A site that quenches the dust, and the soul, Skalkaho Falls will take your breath away! Exciting the senses, fresh, clean air surrounds as you witness, and hear the rush, of white water tumbling 150-feet from the Sapphire Mountains, pushing its way into Skalkaho Creek below.
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.
Steep, winding roads lead to remnants of this once thriving 1890s silver boomtown with the richest silver mine on the earth that might never have been discovered. The miner’s backers thought the venture was hopeless and ordered it closed. The message was delayed while the miners worked on the last blast on the last shift, that uncovered a bonanza that ultimately yielded $40,000,000. When word came to shut the mine down in the silver panic of 1893, granite had already been discovered the year before.
At 585 feet, the 1919 Anaconda Copper Company smelter stack is one of the tallest free-standing brick structures in the world. Since the smelter closed in 1980, it has become a symbol of the challenges that face communities dependent on finite resources. Only viewed from a distance, interpretive signs tell the story.
The Arts Center is housed in the1898 Deer Lodge County Courthouse, a three-story structure with a central stone rotunda, adorned with frescoes, resting on steel and a magnificent switchback staircase. Historic exhibits are coupled with arts exhibits and archives.