Western Montana’s Kootenai Country and the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness are a treasure trove of breathtaking vistas, glistening waters and hidden gems. Some of our wildest and most remote backcountry can be found here in Montana’s northwest corner. The Northwest Corridor offers a scenic travel route that you can easily drive through, with plenty to see and do in some of our quietest country and most charming communities.
Begin your trip in Eureka, nestled in the lush Tobacco Valley right off U.S. Highway 93 north. Step back in time at the Tobacco Valley Historical Village—a collection of restored buildings, including a general store, schoolhouse, library, church, two log cabins, a hand-hewn house, railway depot, caboose, and fire tower. Then, hit up the local brewery for beer-brined ribs and some of the best brews and views in Montana. Overnight at the elite Wilderness Club, which boasts the No. 1 rated golf course in Montana, a Nick Faldo signature course, or spend the evening at Indian Springs Ranch, a unique recreational community where you’ll find a relaxing home away from home in a peaceful, natural setting as well as golf, swimming and boating.
Next up, drive 7.8 miles on US-93 north and State Highway 37 to Rexford, a recreation lover’s paradise and your starting point for the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway. Before you begin the drive, stop by and see Dave at Chips and Critters for a wooden, chainsaw-carved Montana souvenir. Trip Tip #1: If you’re into rock climbing, nearby Stone Hill makes the perfect side jaunt.
From Rexford, start your journey along the Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway (MT-37) for 62 miles to Libby. This stunning route follows Lake Koocanusa—a sparkling 30,000 acre lake created by the Libby Dam on the Kootenai River. Enjoy quintessential Montana river, lake and mountain views. If there’s time, take to the water for fishing or boating, and picnic along the lake. At the south end of the lake, visit the Libby Dam and Libby Dam Visitor Center.
After a day exploring, it’s time to get comfy with some fine food, brews, local conversation and live tunes at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Co. Housed in a historic building in Libby’s quaint downtown district, grab some street tacos and a Yaak Attack IPA—the perfect way to end the day.
Libby boasts multiple overnight options, all offering cozy accommodations and authentic western hospitality. Book a room at the Country Inn, Evergreen Motel (as seen one HGTV’s Hotel Impossible), Sandman Motel, or “Libby’s Finest” Venture Inn, featuring a heated pool and hot tub as well as an on-site restaurant where you’ll find a Montana steak and huckleberry milkshake you can’t leave the region without trying.
From Libby, take Montana Secondary Highway 567 north 30 miles to the Yaak—one of Montana’s most remote locations. Hit up the World Famous Dirty Shame Saloon for “the best fries in Lincoln County.” Don’t forget to take a selfie with the sasquatch at Yaak River Tavern and Mercantile before heading south on Montana Secondary Highway 508 to Yaak Falls. This road-trip hot spot is right off the highway. Witness not only a pristine cascading falls, but some of the oldest rocks in the world, dating between 800 million and one and a half billion years old.
From MT-508, take State Highway 2 for 40 miles south to Troy and don’t miss the City of Troy Museum and Visitor Center where you’ll find Troy-related historical items and a frisbee golf course. Trip Tip #2: If you have the time and are up for a side trip 29 miles south of Troy, walk among giants at the Ross Creek Cedar Grove. You’ll find a paved nature trail and 1,000-year-old western red cedars up to 12 feet in diameter.
From Troy, follow MT-2 east to Kootenai Falls and the famous swinging bridge. The falls serve as the largest undammed falls in the state and represent a rich heritage site for the Kootenai Tribe. The swinging bridge is a traveler’s favorite, and also provides access to excellent fishing on the Kootenai River.
Head back to Libby on State Highway 228—a Lake Koocanusa Scenic Byway side loop along the lake’s west side. Cross the Koocanusa Bridge—Montana’s longest and highest—before making your way back to Eureka through Rexford. There’s a parking and viewing area at the bridge, if you want to get out, stretch your legs, and breathe in the fresh mountain air.
September 23, 2019