The Bitterroot Trail is a paved pathway largely paralleling US 93 between Missoula and Hamilton in Montana's scenic Bitterroot Valley. The trail provides a safe transportation alternative to the busy highway and a treasured recreational asset. Along its more than 50-mile length, trail users are treated to stunning views of the Bitterroot Range to the west and the Sapphire Mountains to the east. With towns dotting the route every few miles at which to rest and refuel—as well as several campgrounds offering drinking water, toilets, and places to stay overnight for multi-day excursions—the trail makes an ideal way to explore this beautiful area at your own pace.
The north end of the trail begins in central Missoula, where it meets the Milwaukee Trail near the Clark Fork River and McCormick Park. From there, the trail travels southwest following still-active railroad tracks and then Ronan Street as it heads out of town. As you pedal through Missoula, it's worth a quarter-mile side trip to visit the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula (3400 Captain Rawn Way), a 32-acre site orginially established in 1877. Explore more than a dozen historical structures to dive deep into the regional and cultural heritage on display.
After about 2 miles, the trail meets US 93 and whisks travelers away into the rural countryside. The next community you will come to is Lolo. Here, you can take a short westward spur along US 12 to reach Travelers’ Rest State Park, where you can explore an area once used as a campsite by Lewis and Clark in 1805 and 1806. Today, the 51-acre park offers opportunities to hike, fish, picnic, and view wildlife.
From Lolo, it's 9 miles to the next town of Florence, where you will find a grocery store and eateries to fill up and recharge for more cycling. Just outside of Florence, the Chief Looking Glass campground offers a popular overnight stop for bicycle tourists and is also a fishing site along the Bitterroot River. The campground is located only a mile east of the Bitterroot Trail, straight down Chief Looking Glass Road.
A little over 4 miles south of Florence, you'll come to Bass Creek Road; you can turn right, heading west down the road about 2 miles to reach the Bass Creek Recreation Area, which has another camping option nestled among spruce and fir trees, as well as picnic areas, hiking trails, and access to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness.
A few more miles south and you will come to State Route 269. You can follow the roadway southeast and, after a half mile (after crossing the Bitterroot River), pick up the Stevensville River Trail, which parallels SR 269 into downtown Stevensville, a small town recognized as Montana’s first permanent settlement. Explore this history at the Historic St. Mary's Mission at the west end of 4th Street. The mission was founded in 1841 and its preserved buildings and artifacts share the story of the early days of both the state and the American West. The Stevensville trail also provides access to Fort Owen State Park, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two blocks from the trail's end, you'll also find the historical Stevensville Hotel (107 E. 3rd St.), which was built in 1910 and served as the first hospital in the Bitterroot Valley; today it's a bed-and-breakfast that offers bicycle camping in its backyard.
After about another 8 miles south along the Bitterroot Trail, you'll reach the community of Victor. Turn west onto the town's Main Street and travel just two blocks to visit the Victor Heritage Museum (125 Blake Street) housed in an old depot to learn about the railroad on which the rail-trail was built, the area’s mining and agricultural industries, and the Native Americans and pioneer settlers who once lived here.
At SR 363 (7 miles south of Victor), the trail switches to the east side of US 93. Continue along the state highway to reach the small community of Corvallis. Farther south (just north of the trail's crossing of the Bitterroot River), Blodgett Park offers a water overlook and shady spot to rest.
In Hamilton, the trail becomes a bit more difficult to follow—resembling a sidewalk at times—but stick to US 93 and you'll be fine. Hamilton offers scores of shops and restaurants, many of which can be found on W. Main Street/SR 531, just a block west of the Bitterroot Trail.
The trail ends south of Hamilton at another highway bridge over the Bitterroot River. Here, the locally-famous Angler's Roost acts as an informal trailhead. Stop in to purchase food, drinks, maps, books, and hunting and fishing gear. RVers and campers may want to begin their trail trek here as the site offers a large RV Park and camping right along the Bitterroot River.
Parking for the Bitterroot Trail is available at several park and ride lots along US 93. Refer to the TrailLink map for specific locations and directions.