The Bitterroot Valley
Probably nowhere else in Montana provides such a diverse and satisfying unity of attractions as the Bitterroot Valley.
First of all, let’s make it clear that the Bitterroot is stunningly beautiful. The Bitterroot River, flanked by groves of cottonwood, winds through a wide fertile valley of farms and pastureland. The heavily wooded humped arch of the west-lying Bitterroot Mountains rears back to reveal precipitous canyons and jagged peaks. The Sapphire Range to the east is characterized by relatively low forested peaks. Historic, quiet old towns slumber in a purposeful way: There are comings and goings, but no commotion.
Opportunities for recreation are almost limitless. The Bitterroot River provides great fishing, and the streams flowing out of the Sapphire Mountains have better fishing than the Bitterroot drainages, which debouch from alpine lakes in rounded valleys scooped out by glaciers, then fall quickly through narrow canyons gashed through the resistant mylonite rock.
The Bitterroot National Forest offers thousands of acres of wilderness, with more than 1,600 miles of maintained trails to dramatic peaks, pristine lakes, and wildlife viewing. Across the valley to the east the Sapphire Range offers gem hunting and more wildlife habitat.
Proximity to Missoula lends sophistication to the services in the Bitterroot, but suburban sprawl also engulfs the lower valley with residential subdivisions.
© W.C. McRae & Judy Jewell from Moon Montana, 7th Edition