By TravelingMel

As winter blankets the Bitterroot Valley in a pristine layer of snow, an enchanting world emerges, inviting adventurous couples to embark on a perfect winter getaway.

To explore this Montana gem, my husband and I loaded up our Subaru with skis, snowshoes, swimsuits and winter gear —plus some “Montana casual” outfits — ready to connect with each other and the landscape and culture of Western Montana.

The Bitterroot Valley, nestled between the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges, transforms into a winter wonderland, offering myriad outdoor activities and cozy experiences that create the ideal recipe for a romantic retreat.

Go on a romantic getaway in the Bitterroot. Photo: TravelingMel

In this article, I share a carefully curated itinerary through the Bitterroot Valley, showcasing a blend of low impact/high reward outdoor adventures in beautiful natural settings and relaxing hospitality in the Bitterroot Valley’s charming small towns.

Join us on a romantic trip full of connection and fun!

DAY 1

Lolo Pass

We started our trip at Lolo Pass, nestled in the Bitterroot Range on the Montana-Idaho border, where we cross-country skied part of the 6.5 miles of cross-country ski trails. The trails meander through thick forests and open meadows, revealing breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks.

Skiers can also explore the 13.6 mile multi-use trail shared with snowmobiles, fat bikes and snowshoers.

There is a 1.5-mile snowshoe loop as well, and snowshoers can walk anywhere in the national forest except within 30 feet of designated cross-country ski trails.

Start at the visitor center to buy your Winter Recreation Pass ($5/day pass; $20 /bundle of 5 day passes; $35/season pass), use the restrooms, get information and warm up with hot chocolate, coffee or tea. Lolo Pass Visitor Center is open Thursday to Monday, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Restrooms are available 24/7. Note: There is no cell service between the town of Lolo and Lolo Pass.

Lolo Pass sits at 5,233′ on the border between Montana and Idaho. Photo: TravelingMel

Travelers’ Rest State Park

If you have time, stop by Travelers’ Rest State Park on your way into Lolo.

Travelers’ Rest is the only archaeologically verified campsite of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the nation. And centuries before Lewis and Clark arrived, this site was known and used by Indigenous peoples, notably the Salish.

Check in at the visitor center and then walk the loop trail, reading interpretive signs as you go.

In winter, the park is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.

Lolo Creek Steakhouse

Housed in a classic western log cabin building, the Lolo Creek Steakhouse serves a bunch of different choice, hand-cut, wet-aged steaks, all cooked on a wood-fired grill in an open pit in the middle of the dining room. The fish is great, too!

Dig into a delicious steak and loaded baked potato at Lolo Creek Steakhouse. Photo: TravelingMel

Overnight Near Stevensville

There are several options for spending the night near Stevensville, but we chose a beautiful house with a view and fireplace. It’s called the Grand View Cabin, and the name suits it. We enjoyed stargazing at night and drinking coffee on the porch in the mornings with a vista over the Bitterroot Valley to the Bitterroot Mountains.

DAY 2

Historic St. Mary’s Mission

After a leisurely breakfast at the Grand View Cabin, we drove into Stevensville to check out the cute downtown and see the Historic St. Mary’s Mission. The church and visitor center are closed in winter, but we enjoyed wandering the grounds, photographing the picturesque church and reading the interpretive signs.

The Historic St. Mary’s Mission is Bitterroot Valley landmark. Photo: TravelingMel

Red Rooster Artisan Bakery

Lunch at the Red Rooster Artisan Bakery in Hamilton set us up for an afternoon of snowshoeing with delicious sandwiches and a wide selection of pastries in a charming atmosphere. We heard the quiches are quite good, too.

Lake Como

There are about 16 miles of groomed trails at Lake Como. Because of its low elevation, the season is short, but fun. While we were there it was too warm to use the groomed trails, so we donned our snowshoes on the northwest side of the lake instead, and walked up a summer hiking trail with gorgeous views of the mountains. The Como Trails are open to dogs, and there are designated single track trails for fat biking.

Snowshoe along the frozen waters of Lake Como, Photo: TravelingMel

Downtown Hamilton and Bitter Root Brewing

Downtown Hamilton is full of cute shops. We especially enjoyed browsing through Chapter One Bookstore and finding a couple of new reads to take home.

Then it was on to dinner at Bitter Root Brewing, one of the oldest breweries in the state. The beer was great and the healthy food options were a treat.

Overnight at ABC Acres

ABC Acres is a sustainable farm and regenerative agricultural haven. This unique agritourism destination combines “beyond organic” farming practices with permaculture principles, offering visitors an immersive experience in ethical and environmentally conscious agriculture. We stayed in the cute and roomy Gate House and walked around the property finding around 50 elk in one of the pastures, along with friendly goats and chickens.

Visit farm animals and watch for wildlife during your stay at ABC Acres. Photo: TravelingMel

DAY 3

ABC Acres

After breakfast in the Gate House, we took a greenhouse tour and found the most tropical place in Montana. They are growing tropical fruits including papayas, bananas, avocados, kumquats and more with geothermal heat. The farm store sells products made from farm produce, as well as other local meats, jams, honey and more. The farm tours and farm store are open to the public.

Chief Joseph Pass Ski Trails

The Chief Joseph Pass Ski Trails are located at the southern end of the Bitterroot Valley, just east of Lost Trail Ski Area and the junction of highways 93 and 43. There are more than 13 miles of trails groomed for classic and skate skiing, and snowshoeing. The snow is great, and you can’t beat the scenery!

We skied around for a while, enjoying the snow-covered trees and smooth trails. Then we popped into the Gordon Reese Warming Hut to sit by the fire and eat our picnic lunch. The cabin is open for day use and almost always has a fire in the wood stove. You can light one if there isn’t one, and you can also rent the hut for overnight stays on Recreation.gov.

Taking a break inside the warming hut on Chief Joseph Pass. Photo: TravelingMel

Dogs are not allowed. The Nordic trails are connected to nearly 20 miles of multi-use trails (snowmobiles and dogs are welcome there).

The trails are free to use, but a donation to the Bitterroot Cross Country Ski Club helps with grooming and other maintenance costs.

Triple Creek Ranch

Triple Creek Ranch is an all-inclusive, adults-only luxury ranch. On the rare night when they aren’t full, they accept dinner reservations from people staying outside the ranch. We were lucky enough to enjoy a world-class dinner of contemporary cuisine and fine wine. A fire was blazing, and a duo played music on the balcony above us. All in all it was a very romantic dinner.

Triple Creek Ranch welcomes guests with cheery lights. Photo: TravelingMel

Overnight at Bitterroot River Ranch

Lynn and Dorothy at the Bitterroot River Ranch have true western hospitality in spades. We immediately felt at home at their beautiful log Bed and Breakfast. Our room and bath were lovely, the hot tub was ready for us after a day of skiing and the breakfasts were filling and delicious. Best of all was visiting with Lynn and Dorothy.

Bitterroot River Ranch’s hot tub provides views of the Bitterroot Mountains. Photo: TravelingMel

DAY 4

Lost Trail Ski Area

Lost Trail Ski Area, located on the Montana-Idaho border, is a winter paradise for skiing enthusiasts, and we wanted to check out the reliably good snow and welcoming atmosphere.

Boasting a diverse range of terrain and ample snowfall, Lost Trail provides an ideal setting for both novice and seasoned skiers alike. It was foggy the day we skied, but I know there are breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Lift tickets, rentals and food are all reasonably priced, and the skiing was fun and diverse.

Lost Trail is open Thursday to Monday during the ski season.

Lost Trail Ski Area is one of the Bitterroot’s hidden gems. Photo: TravelingMel

Knotty Nymph

The Knotty Nymph restaurant has a charming and rustic ambiance. They serve filling comfort food that combines flavors of the region with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Overnight at Bitterroot River Ranch

We spent another night at Bitterroot River Ranch.

DAY 5

After another scrumptious breakfast and a relaxing morning playing games in one of the sitting rooms at the Bitterroot River Ranch, we hopped in the car and headed for home, already planning our next visit to Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

February 12, 2024

Related: Bitterroot Valley, Dining, Downhill Skiing, Montana, Nordic Skiing, Snowshoeing, Stay, Vacation

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