Who doesn’t love a road trip? September is known (by the locals) for being the best month to see Montana. The sky is robin’s egg blue, the crowds are gone and the weather is gorgeous. This Montana small town road trip will take you through a few of Western Montana’s most charming places and can easily be completed in a weekend. You’ll experience the essence of Montana and get a real feel of this most glorious state. So pack the car and let’s get going!
Philipsburg – a charming 19th century mining town
Your trip starts in Philipsburg, nestled in the beautiful Pintler Mountains and in the heart of Montana’s sapphire country. Not only is it this picturesque little town rich with large mineral deposits, it is near 75 named lakes and reservoirs and full of interesting history. Fun things to do in P-burg include panning for your own Montana sapphires, exploring old Montana silver and gemstone mines and visiting nearby ghost towns (part of Montana’s rich history). After of day of climbing through the nearby hills, enjoy a local micro-brew at the Philipsburg Brewing Company and don’t miss The Sweet Palace. It’s the best candy shop ever! If you want to try the new “Glamping Trend” or stay in a luxury cabin, try the Rock Creek Ranch. It’s amazing! Moving on from P-burg, head over the exciting Skalkahoo Highway Scenic Byway along Montana Highway 38 (closed in winter) but don’t be surprised if you land right in the middle of a cattle drive while traversing the pass on your way to….
Hamilton – home to the Copper Kings
Surrounded by the Bitterroot Mountains and along the Bitterroot River, Hamilton is home to the famous Chief Joseph, Calamity Jane and on the trail of Lewis and Clark. The town was founded by copper magnate, Marcus Daly and his historic mansion is open for tours, offering a nostalgic step back to Montana’s prosperous days of mining, timber and railroads. Hamilton, known for recreation, hunting, fishing, mountain biking, boating and hiking, are pursuits worth exploring in wide valley that surrounds the city. A plethora of food, lodging and shopping can be found in Hamilton’s charming downtown. Stop at the Bitterroot Brewery for a Honey Huckleberry brew, listen to some country music and then head over to the Grubstake Restaurant (open from May to early October) and accessed through a private game preserve. The building is made of logs with sixteen sides and a central fireplace—a true Montana experience! To stay overnight, Hamilton has whatever you desire, western lodges, charming B&Bs, camp grounds and hotels. After a good night’s sleep in this Bitterroot hamlet, you’re ready to discover…
Darby – essence of the Old West
Just about 17 miles south of Hamilton is the quaint western town of Darby. Near the Idaho border, Darby is a full of western town activities. Logger Days, Bull Riding Competitions, Rodeos, the Strawberry Festival (Darby is in one of Montana’s banana belts) and a Blue Grass Festival is really what Darby is all about. Grab a snack at the Sula Country Store and head to…
Wisdom – Valley of 10,000 haystacks
Hiking, fishing, climbing, exploring, Wisdom has 2000 square miles of it. The Big Hole River bottom is famous for its blue ribbon trout fishing, and a unique strain of fluvial arctic grayling. Many of the ranchers in the area still use the “beaverslide,” a hay stacking technique developed in the valley during the early 1900s. Before you leave Wisdom and head to Anaconda, be sure to visit the Big Hole National Battlefield, a memorial to the battle of the Big Hole between the US Army and the Nez Perce. For the last stop on your small town’s trip visit historic…
Anaconda – Home of the huge smelter stack
Built by the Anaconda Copper Company, the stack is so tall, it would easily hold the Washington Monument inside. Anaconda sprung from a melting pot of immigrants chasing the American dream and at one time was the world’s largest supplier of copper, just as electricity came into common use. Visit the Washoe Theater, the extravagant movie palace built in 1936 with Art Deco furnishings, murals, and ornamentation in silver, copper and gold. Stretch your legs at the beautiful Washoe Park and feed the trout at the Anaconda Fish Hatchery. You can’t leave Anaconda without tasting a Butte Pasty at June’s Pasty Shop and be sure to stop in to the Mining Company Saloon for some authentic Anaconda stories.
Memories of your Montana road trip will linger for years to come. Wide valleys, towering Rocky Mountains and Montana’s big skies are the souvenirs you’ll keep for a lifetime!
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