Flanked by the rolling Sapphire Mountains and the rugged Bitterroot Range, this scenic valley offers Old West charm along the banks of the winding and world-class Bitterroot River, which boasts numerous fishing access sites and more than 100 miles of blue-ribbon trout water. You'll find plenty of canyons to hike and trails to bike here—in fact, you can bike this corridor on the 50-mile paved Bitterroot Trail from Missoula all the way to Hamilton. In the winter, many trails in the Bitterroot become a Nordic skier's paradise.
Walk in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark at Travelers' Rest State Park in Lolo , or head off the beaten path to the Lolo Peak Trail, Lolo Pass—a favorite trail system for snowmobilers—or Lolo Hot Springs, which makes for a relaxing post-adventure soak. The Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge south of Florence provides plenty of wildlife watching, and it's a great spot for birding. Discover why Stevensville is called "Montana's First Best Place" with the founding of the Historic St. Mary's Mission in 1841, making it one of Montana's first permanent pioneer settlements. One of the most trekked trails in the region is the Kootenai Creek Trail, and it's also a great spot for rock climbing.
Stop in for tastings at the numerous breweries and cideries in the Bitterroot Valley—this valley has rich roots in apple growing. Orchards dot the region and more than 40 varieties of apples are grown here. It's the place to be during apple season, and the fall colors are spectacular as well. You'll also find cozy coffeehouses, plenty of good food —plan on dinner at Lolo Creek Steakhouse or the Wild Mare in Corvallis—and local shopping on quaint main streets in the vibrant communities that line the valley. Plus, museums, galleries and the Hamilton Players community theater company. Also in Hamilton, tour the home and grounds of Copper King Marcus Daly, the Daly Mansion.
Another popular—and picturesque—recreation hot spot is Lake Como, complete with a beach, a boat launch and an 8-mile loop around the lake. Take a walk back in time in the quaint town of Darby, where western flair abounds. Visit the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum and the Old West Candy Store. Just south of Sula, hit the slopes at Lost Trail Powder Mountain ski area—a local's-favorite hidden gem known for deep, dry powder.
Highlights: Bitterroot Trail 50-mile paved bike path from Missoula to Hamilton; Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge; charming small towns; steakhouses; downhill and Nordic skiing; snowmobiling; hot springs; canyon hiking; rock climbing; golf; trails; fishing access sites; historic sites and museums; Ice Age Floods exhibits; apple orchards; cideries; breweries; Eastside Highway; guest ranches
Length: 79 miles
Travel time: 1 1/2 hours
Fly nonstop to Missoula from San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. Get some space and breathe in the fresh mountain air. Montana is calling.
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