Home Page > Montana > Top Things To Do In Montana > Bitterroot Valley
Includes Traveler's Rest State Park, Daly Mansion, Lolo Pass
The Bitterroot Valley of Montana is located just south of Missoula, Montana, and is a major tourist destination for Montana vacationers along U.S. Highway 93. The scenic Bitterroot Valley is 96 miles long and runs north and south between the northern-most town of Lolo, Montana and ending at Lost Trail Pass
along the Montana / Idaho border. Along the drive down the Bitterroot Valley on U.S. Highway 93 as it follows the legendary Bitterroot River, there is a chain of small charming towns that are wonderful places for tourists to discover and explore, including (north to south) Lolo, Florence, Stevensville, Victor, Corvallis, Hamilton and Darby.
Bitterroot Mountain Range
The massive Bitterroot Mountain Range towers high above the valley to the west, where several access roads provide outdoor enthusiasts a way to enter this seemingly endless pristine mountain region. This massive area includes the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot National Forest and the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Countless lakes, streams and jagged mountain peaks are found throughout the massive Bitterroot Mountain Range, with several major trailheads providing access to this remote mountainous region for outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of. To the east of the valley is the Sapphire Mountain Range, which are more rounded and lower in elevation than the neighboring Bitterroot Range to the west, but are still quite scenic and provides many recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Bitterroot Valley of Montana.
The Bitterroot River runs northward through the Bitterroot Valley for about 75 miles before it reaches the Clark Fork River near Missoula.
The Bitterroot River is a major Western river that is well-known for its outstanding trout fishing, where fly fishing enthusiasts from around the world come to the Bitterroot Valley to try their luck at the fabled rainbow trout, brown trout and west slope cutthroat trout that await them in the pristine waters of the Bitterroot River.
Major Attractions of the Bitterroot Valley
In addition to the charming towns, pristine rivers and towering mountains of the Bitterroot Valley Region such as Trapper Peak, there are a number of major attractions found in the Bitterroot Valley and surrounding area that are very much worthy of mentioning in this section.
Trapper Peak in the Bitterroot Mountain Range as viewed from Highway 93 in the Bitterroot Valley.
Lolo Pass / Lolo Trail
Lolo Pass (5,233 feet) is located in the Bitterroot Mountain Range on U.S. Highway 12 about 30 miles west of the Bitterroot Valley town of Lolo, Montana. Lolo Pass is part of the historic Lolo Trail, which is one of the few passages through the massive Bitterroot Mountain Range that straddles Montana and Idaho.
First used by the Nez Perce Indians for centuries, the Lolo Trail was then utilized by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805 during their trek westward through the Rocky Mountains and again in 1806 on their return journey. Later in 1877 Chief Joseph and his followers used the Lolo Trail during the Nez Perce War to try to escape the U.S. Military. The Lolo Trail now a National Historic Landmark due to it's significant role in the discovery and settlement of the West. There is a wonderful Visitor Center near Lolo Pass that is very much worth spending some time at.
Travelers Rest State Park
Located on the outskirts of Lolo, Montana in the Bitterroot Valley is Traveler's Rest State Park. This
National Historic Landmark and part of the National Register of Historic Places is where the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped from September 9 through September 11, 1805 before crossing over the Bitterroot Mountains at Lolo Pass along the Lolo Trail. On their return trip, the Lewis and Clark Expedition once again rested at Traveler's Rest from June 30 through July 3, 1806.
Travelers Rest State Park is a 51 acre park that actually shows visitors exactly where the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped via a very well done walking trail with interpretive signs. There is also a wonderful Visitor Center that explains in fascinating detail what went on here.
In 2002, traces of mercury and fire hearths make Traveler's Rest the ONLY site on the Lewis and Clark Expedition that has provided physical proof of their presence along their historic journey. The only other physical sign of their presence is the famous William Clark signature he carved in sandstone at Pompey's Pillar along the Yellowstone River in Eastern Montana.
The historic Daly Mansion is an absolutely gorgeous estate that was built and owned by the 19th Century American Industrialist Marcus Daly, who was one of the three iconic "Copper Kings" when Butte Montana was the number one source for copper around the world in the late 1800s. Daly was by far one of the richest men in the world, and the Daly Mansion certainly reflected his incredible wealth. This expansive estate is located on the outskirts of Hamilton, in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley, and is open to the public with tours provided. Owner of one of the largest copper deposits on earth that laid under the city of Butte Montana, Marcus Daly expanded his business to also being a leader in providing timbers for the 10,000 miles of mine shafts and tunnels underneath the city of Butte. These timbers were harvested from the forests of the Bitterroot Valley, and that is where he chose to build this impressive mansion as the family summer home.
Daly Mansion named "Riverside" is located in the town of Hamilton, Montana in the Bitterroot Valley.
The Daly Mansion, known as "Riverside", is remarkably lavish and expansive, and yet was merely the Daly Family summer home. Located on 46 acres of gorgeous landscape on the outskirts of Hamilton Montana, the Daly Mansion sees over 10,000 visitors each year, where over 100 volunteers keep up the grounds and provide outstanding tours of this historic and lavish estate. Without question the Daly Mansion is a national treasure, full of history and intrigue that will indeed be one of the highlights of your visit to the Bitterroot Valley.
Charming Towns of the Bitterroot Valley
Running between Missoula, Montana to the north and Lost Trail Pass to the south, runs not only the 96
mile long Bitterroot Valley, but also a handful of charming tourist towns along U.S. Highway 93 that are
definitely worth your time exploring. Each town has its own unique character, making each stop a brand new fun experience. All of these small towns have an amazing history, as they were founded in the mid to late 1800s.
The first charming tourist town that you will encounter heading south along U.S. Highway 93 from Missoula is Lolo, Montana, population 3,800. Lolo rests at the confluence of the Bitterroot River and Lolo Creek,
and is home to Traveler's Rest State Park. This historic site is where Lewis and Clark camped in 1805 and also 1806, and is one of the only locations along the route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition that reveals physical confirmation of their historic expedition. About 30 miles west of Lolo, on U.S. Highway 12, is Lolo Pass and Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Located on the historic Lolo Trail, this area is a National Historic Landmark that was a key geographic landmark during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.
Downtown Hamilton, Montana in the Heart of the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.
Florence Montana is the next charming small town along your drive down the Bitterroot Valley on U.S. Highway 93. This small town (population 760) offers visitors some very nice retail shops and places to eat... including the Caffee Firenze, which is a very popular place to dine in the Bitterroot Valley
If you like chocolate, you'll love Stevensville (population 1,800) as this is home to the Montana Chocolate Company. In addition to delicious chocolate treats, Stevensville is also home to a very nice antique mall and several other small businesses that cater to tourists.
Centrally located in the Bitterroot Valley along U.S. Highway 93, Victor Montana provides many of the wonderful accesses to the main recreational activities in the Bitterroot Valley. There are extremely popular hiking trails only minutes from downtown Victor, and there are some major fishing access areas for the Bitterroot River near Victor as well. And don't forget to check out the popular steakhouse located in this small town of 740 people.
Corvallis Montana (population 920) was one of the very first settlements in the Bitterroot Valley in the 1800s, and its name was given by its original settlers that came from Corvallis, Oregon. There are several historic buildings still standing here, and being in the "Heart of the Bitterroot Valley", there are several wonderful farm roads originating in Corvallis that take you into gorgeous farmland.
Hamilton Montana is by far the largest town in the Bitterroot Valley with a population of about 4,350 people. Not only is Hamilton the center of commerce in the Bitterroot Valley, but it also has a charming and historic main street with a good number of quaint restaurants and shops that tourists find very enjoyable. There is also much history here, including the Daly Mansion, which was American Industrialist and Butte Copper King Marcus Daly's summer home, which is a glorious late 1800s mansion that is open to the public.
Darby Montana is the southernmost charming small town in the Bitterroot Valley, and is an incredibly fun town to spend some time at. There is a wonderful candy store that is famous for its hot fudge, candy and ice cream, and there is a legendary antique shop that covers an entire city block that is one of the best in Montana. Even though Darby has a population of only 720 people, it is definitely a fun stop for Bitterroot Valley tourists.
Bitterroot Valley, Montana.
Top Things To Do In Montana: Bitterroot Valley