This little crossroads—more an outpost than a town—is a trading center for the cattle ranches and hay farms that stretch across the wide valley. Higher civilization is making inroads, however. As a sign of changing times, Wisdom supports watering holes for local ranch hands and a tony art gallery.
The nicest place to stay in Wisdom is the attractive Nez Perce Motel (406/689-3254, $50 and up), with some kitchenettes. It’s also worth considering staying down the road at Jackson Hot Springs .
Head 10 miles east of town on Road 31 to a small campground at the trailhead leading to Sand Lake and Lily Lake. Actually, keep going on the trail system here and you can cross the Pioneers, coming out north of Elkhorn Hot Springs .
The center of life in Wisdom revolves around its bars and restaurants.
Fetty’s Bar and Cafe (406/689-3260, less than $15) is a local institution serving three meals a day.
The Antlers Saloon is a popular place for a drink; it’s not unlike having a beer in a taxidermy shop.
Lurid green Conover’s Trading Post is the community’s all-around store and community center.
The really incongruous business in town is the Wisdom River Gallery (406/689-3800, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily). Here the art of the West rubs cheeks with the life of the West. This fine selection of blue-chip Western art—with some local talent—somehow finds a market in Wisdom.
The Big Hole Crossing Restaurant serves grilled entrées (7 a.m.–9 p.m. summer, 8 a.m.–8 p.m. winter, breakfast or lunch about $5, dinners top out at $15) in the back of the gallery.
Go 28 miles west of Wisdom on Highway 43 to pick up the Continental Divide Trail at Chief Joseph Pass. The Bitterroot Ski Club maintains an extensive network of groomed cross-country ski trails on the north side of Highway 43 at the pass. No dogs are permitted on the groomed trails.
The Wisdom Ranger Station can be contacted at 406/689-3243.