The Bitterroot Valley is one of Western Montana’s best-kept secrets, with endless world-class recreation—from hiking through canyons to soaking in alpine lakes, rigging in trout on a blue-ribbon river or biking the Bitterroot Trail—it’s not hard to have fun outdoors here. The quaint communities within the Bitterroot Valley are rich with Old West charm, museums and historic sites and chock-full of breweries. The Bitterroot Valley is enjoyed by all generations. From the soft traveler to the adventure seeker, the historian to the beer aficionado, anyone can find their perfect Glacier Country getaway here.
BIKE THE BITTERROOT TRAIL
The Bitterroot Trail, a 50-mile-long paved bike path from Missoula to Hamilton, follows the Bitterroot River and offers jaw-dropping views of the jagged Bitterroot Mountains and the rolling Sapphire Range. The trail is great for beginners as it’s mostly flat, and you can stop along the way to enjoy eclectic shops, art galleries, bakeries, restaurants, coffee shops and breweries in the towns you’ll pass through: Lolo, Florence, Stevensville, Victor and Hamilton. Call ahead to make sure specific businesses are open during COVID-19 recovery.
TOUR BITTERROOT VALLEY BREWERIES
Breweries are a great way to get in on local vibes and have the full Montana experience. The Bitterroot Valley is no stranger to brewing, home to six brewhouses serving up crave-worthy craft beers. From the rustic Lolo Peak Brewery, which has a full restaurant menu to pair with 12 brews on tap, to Darby’s Bandit Brewing Company, one of the smallest breweries in Western Montana, you’ll find flavorful, easy-to-drink microbrews throughout the valley.
+ Lolo Peak Brewery & Grill, Lolo
+ Blacksmith Brewing Company, Stevensville
+ Wildwood Brewing, Stevensville
+ Bitter Root Brewery, Hamilton
+ Higherground Brewing Co., Hamilton
+ Bandit Brewing Co., Darby
HIKE THE BITTERROOT VALLEY
Hiking trails are numerous in the Bitterroot Range, and the views are awe-inspiring. Near Darby, hike the 7-mile loop around Lake Como and take in the sheer beauty of this mountain lake. Wind around the lake passing by a waterfall, creeks and alpine forests. Wander through granite canyon walls, following the Kootenai Creek, along a 9-mile hike on the Kootenai Creek Trail. The Kootenai lakes are 9 miles in, but turn around anytime on the hike—even a short distance will immerse you in the serenity of the Bitterroot National Forest. Find other Bitterroot Valley trails to trek here.
FISH THE BITTERROOT RIVER
Fishing on the blue-ribbon trout waters of the Bitterroot River is phenomenal, as is the scenery. Weaving through the lush valley floor with views of the rugged Bitterroot Mountains, anglers can reel in fish in some of the most beautiful country in Western Montana. Accessing the river is also easy for floaters and rafters. Spring is great for float fishing—try your luck on the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. There are fewer boaters; you’ll fish in tall pines and the trout are biting—it’s a true angler’s paradise. Or fish the world-famous Skwala hatch in March and April to reel in some of the biggest fish in the river. Summer and fall are perfect for wade fishing. Cast a line at one of the 10+ fishing access sites along the 84 miles of river overflowing with cutthroat, brown and rainbow trout. Caution: If boating, you’ll need to portage your boat around diversion dams, as there are a few on the Bitterroot River.
TOUR MUSEUMS AND HISTORIC SITES
The Bitterroot Valley is a hotbed for historic spots and museums. You’ll follow the footsteps of Lewis and Clark when exploring Traveler’s Rest State Park. Call ahead to schedule a tour at Holt Heritage Museum where you’ll walk through interpretive collections of cowboy, American Indian and Lewis and Clark memorabilia. Next stop is Stevensville—one of Montana’s first pioneer settlements—to take a guided tour of the Historic St. Mary’s Mission. Other notable sites:
+ Ravalli County Museum & Historical Society, Hamilton
+ Stevensville Museum, Stevensville
June 22, 2020