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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.
We started in Missoula and found that not all of the trail to Lolo is complete. It was a great ride all the way to Hamilton and back and plan on doing it again. One bad thing to report is that some of the bridge approaches have sunk below the bridge decks. About thirty miles from Missoula on the way back I destroyed my wheel because of the problem
I ride the bitterroot path on my Tour Easy Easy Racer LE. I park at Anglers roost where the path starts at the south end of the Bitterroot valley just soith of Hamilton.Unload my bike and enjoy a nice smooth ride from Anglers roost headed north toward Hamilton.About 2 miles up the path "All asphalt" you can stop at Murdochs Farm supply and look around then continue on towards Hamilton
When you get to Hamilton the path ends but you have sidewalks or you can veer off and work your way around town on nice treed back streets.If you stay on the sidewalk on the south end of town you can stop in at Valley Bike and Ski and look around.Lots of shops and restaurants on main street.You can head north up main street "no path" to the Bitteroot river or keep going north on 93 and cross the Bitterroot again and go all the way to LoLo if you like! Its along 93 all the way bit there is plenty of beautiful scenery
Specially on my recumbent!
My family and I were just out there and the trail is now complete from Lolo to Hamilton.
Except for a 2 mile gap south of Victor, this trail is complete all the way from Lolo to Hamilton and will be 35 miles long when the gap is paved this summer (2012). Parking is available at a few Park and Ride lots or fishing access sites along US 93. The trail switches to the opposite side of US 93 at the Highway 373 traffic signal in Woodside. There are no signs indicating this change. The good views of the Bitterroot Mountains to the west and Sapphire Mountains to the east are the highlights of this trail. US 93 traffic noise is the downside.
This is the 2nd time I've been to this area and rode the trail. It seemed like a nicer ride this time. Just as much highway noise, but it is still a nice ride. The paved trail ends about 4-5 miles north of Victor, but paving is being done, and it will be complete to Victor in 2010, and complete to Hamilton in 2012.
Enjoy the ride,
I rode this trail last weekend. It is a very nice setting, except it varies from 4ft to maybe 20ft away from US93. The bridges are grooved for winter driving, and every time a vehicle goes over them, the tires "zing".
But the scenery is great, lots of fields with crops or cattle grazing. I parked at the Lolo Post Office, for lack any better place to park. On my way back, i stopped at the fire station and asked "where do folks who use the trail park", and I was told---just next door at the Lolo Community Center. Lots of parking, it's run by the city so you don't have to worry about your wheels being towed. On the south end of the trail, on the north end of Stevensville, on the corner of US93 and North Kootenai Creek Rd is a Trailhead with parking. As mentioned in the writeup, there are Park and Rides lots along US93, some with tunnels to get to the trail.
According to locals, this is not a Rails to Trails trail. There was never a RR where this trail is---not that it matters---kudos to whoever decided to put it here :)
I will ride this trail again when I'm in the area,
Parking in Wal-Mart Parking Lot N46.83281 W114.04761 on East side of Brooks St/Hwy 12/Hwy 93. Staring from the south end at Miller Creek Rd on concrete surface, parallel to the Montana Rail Road.
At 39thSt., trail turns east then crosses 39th St and continues on a concrete path that appears to lead up to the back of “Safeway”, but it passes through and continues to Reserve St.
Follow Reserve St north 0.1 mile to Old 93 S. to bypass the Honda Dealer Lot which encroaches on the RR right away.. Turn northeast on Old 93 S., and rejoin the Rail Trail at McDonald Ave. Continue 0.8 mile to just before South Ave where a short gap is bypassed through private parking lot or rough gravel across rails.
Use South Ave bike lanes east to and take Garfield St north to rejoin Rail Trail at North Ave.
Trail continues 1.5 mile where it meets with Milwaukee Trail and in an interesting little park with historical plaques and the Zero Mile Post. N46.87053 W114.00772 This Trail was well utilized this Friday afternoon. Noel Keller 17 Apr 09
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