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The Bitterroot Valley - Montana

General Information about the Bitterroot Valley

The Bitterroot ValleyLocated just 45 miles south of Missoula, Hamilton, Montana, lies in one of the most scenic and beautiful valleys in the country. To the west, the Bitterroot Mountains offer a dramatic backdrop with steep canyons and pine forests, while the Sapphire Range, to the east, provides a more gentle, though equally impressive views of the mountains high ridges and open meadows. Scattered throughout this landscape are ranches amidst acres of lush fields fed by the magnificent Bitterroot River as it meanders north along the length of the valley.

The Bitterroot Valley is a wide open valley drained by the Bitterroot river. It starts up near Lost Trail Pass (Connecting Montana and Idaho) and comes down through Sula, Darby, Hamilton, Corvallis, Victor, Stevensville and Florence, Montana, ending with Missoula Montana.

The Bitterroot National Forest manages much of the mountainous lands on either side of the valley. One of the most beautiful features of the valley is the view of Blodgett Canyon to the west of Hamilton. These awesome cliffs are a sight to see as they catch the early sun on a clear day.

The Bitterroot Valley is named after a delicate flower which grows in the valley and was a staple food of the local native tribes. Another, still popular, edible local plant is the morels mushroom which sends crowds of happy morels addicts out into the woods each spring in gathering hunts.


Hamilton, Montana

In the heart of this beautiful valley lies the community of Hamilton. With a population of approximately 4,000, Hamilton is the largest of the communities that make up the Bitterroot Valley. Due to its central location, Hamilton is the business hub of the valley, providing an array of businesses and services. Hamilton is also the county seat of Ravalli County where all of the county services and the county Fairgrounds are located. The city has an abundance of recreational facilities, including a rodeo arena, outdoor tennis courts, numerous sports fields for football, soccer, baseball and track, along with spectator stadiums, and a new aquatic center with both indoor and outdoor pools. Private facilities include health clubs, racquetball courts, indoor tennis courts, bowling alley, movie theaters and a community playhouse. On the east side of town are two 18 hole golf courses surrounded by magnificent vistas.


Other Communities

Other towns which make up the Bitterroot Valley Community are:


Local Events

Check out the list of upcoming events in the Bitterroot Valley (
Check out some of the Bitterroot Valley's Annual events (



Each community in the Bitterroot Valley is home to a school district. Located in the Hamilton School District are the following schools: Grantsdale Elementary School, Daly Elementary School, Washington Elementary School, Westview Jr. High School, and Hamilton High School, as well as the private schools of: Bitterroot Christian High School, Hamilton Christian Academy, and Evergreen Montessori School. In addition, the University of Montana in Missoula offers extension courses for adults and students.



The Bitterroot Valley offers a wide range of health services, including: medical, dental, mental, homeopathic, eye care clinics, cosmetic and reconstructive surgery, chiropractic, nursing homes, home health care and hospice. Located in Hamilton, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital is the largest provider of comprehensive healthcare services in the Bitterroot Valley. The full-time staff of 37 physicians, with specialists from Missoula, provide clinics at the hospital on a regular schedule. The hospital also provides a surgery center, a 24-hour ambulance service and emergency department, a cardiac clinic, women's services, and home care and hospice service, as well as other health care services. In addition to the hospital, there is the Canyons Sports Rehab located within Canyons Athletic Club in Hamilton, and a Convenient Care Clinic for walk-ins within the Bitterroot Clinic.



The Bitterroot Valley has a dry climate and a low humidity factor with an average rainfall of 13.3 inches per year. The average growing season is 130-150 days, with the average frost free period being from May 14 to Sept. 20. Temperatures in the Bitterroot Valley will range due to microclimates found throughout the valley. These microclimates are the result of the variety of elevations and bodies of water located in this area. Average temperatures for the Hamilton area are:

Month Avg. Minimum Avg. MeanAvg. Maximum
January 18° 25° 35°
April 32° 48° 60°
July 50° 68° 84°
October 31° 46° 61°


Recreation and Attractions

World Class Trout Fishing

Cold, clear mountain streams, quiet lakes and secret creeks offer solitude, spectacular scenery and world class trout fishing. With its gentle currents and easy wading, the Bitterroot River is the ideal trout stream, offering the angler 70 plus miles of unsurpassed fishing. Native to this river are species such as Brook Trout, Brown, Bull, Cutthroat, Cutthroat/Rainbow cross and Rainbow Trout as well as Mountain Whitefish. State fishing access sites along the Bitterroot River are spaced at five to ten mile intervals, allowing wading anglers key entry points and providing floaters with options for full or half-day trips. Most streams in the valley pass through some private land; Montana law allows the public to make recreational use of rivers and streams between the ordinary high water marks. The Bitterroot River is well known as one of the finest dry fly fishing rivers in the state. The dry fly season begins sometime in March, depending on the weather, and ends in late November. Most waters are in prime condition, free of spring runoff from late June through October. Alpine lake fishing is confined to the summer months here in the Bitterroot Valley. Water freezes lower lakes in December and doesn’t let go until March or April, making ice fishing a popular sport.



Hamilton Golf CourseBlessed with Montana's best weather, golf in the Bitterroot Valley generally runs from March 1st through October 31. Montana's long summer days allow the golfer plenty of opportunity to enjoy this sport. Two 18 hole golf courses are located within the Hamilton area, both providing spectacular views of the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountain Ranges. The Hamilton Golf Club has long been listed as one of the best public courses in the Northwest and an outstanding golfing value. The Stock Farm Club is a private 18-hole executive golf course situated on the old Bitterroot Stock Farm on Hamilton's east side. In addition to these courses, there is Whitetail Golf Course, a 9 hole public golf course located within the boundaries of the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge in Stevensville. And for practice, there is the Bitterroot Driving Range, located five miles north of Victor.


Big Game Hunting

In Montana it’s been said there are only three seasons; summer, winter and hunting. There are few places in the world where our hunting heritage is as well respected and well represented as in Montana. The high country thrill of stalking elk in the Rockies on a crisp fall morning with a fresh sprinkling of powder snow is an awesome experience. The Bitterroot Valley offers the big game hunter an abundance of wild game, including deer, elk, bear, cougar, moose, bighorn sheep and a variety of smaller animals.


Hiking, Mountain Biking, Trail Riding, Water Sports

For the boater, water-skier and wake-boarder, there are two scenic lakes located in the Bitterroot Valley. The largest, Como Lake (916 acres), is the premier recreation destination for many valley residents. There is a protected swimming beach and day use area, a boat launch, campgrounds with water and restrooms, and access to miles of roads and trails for hiking, riding and dirt biking. The lake is a favorite for water sports and contains Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout. Painted Rocks Lake, a man-made reservoir created as a WPA irrigation project, is part of a 263 acre state park offering boating, swimming, fishing, camping, hiking and other recreational opportunities. Six species of game fish call Painted Rocks Lake home: Mountain Whitefish, Westslope Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, and Dolly Varden. For the rafter, the Bitterroot River offers more than 75 miles of floatable water, beginning about 6 miles south of Darby and ending at the convergence of the Clark Fork in Missoula. A float trip along any part of the Bitterroot River affords a perfect opportunity to witness a display of wildlife activities within a magnificent setting. For the more adventuresome, there is whitewater rafting. Some of the finest whitewater in the west is found northwest of Missoula. Hidden deep within the spectacular Alberton Gorge on the Clark Fork River is Western Montana’s premier whitewater and kayaking run. The Gorge is a fun filled day of roller coaster rapids, quiet pools and awesome scenery. To the south of Hamilton (90 miles) lies the dynamic and relentless Salmon River, which offers both gentle float trips and whitewater rapids. The Salmon River has many significant tributaries, but none rival the Middlefork for exhilarating rapids, stunning scenery, excellent trout fishing, pristine wilderness and worldwide reputation.


Snow Sports

Winter in the Bitterroot Valley is a season of exhilarating recreation and snug nights by the fire. As the first snowfall blankets the ground, the scene becomes one of profound beauty and wonders. Elk, deer, bighorn sheep and other wildlife move down to the lower elevations, making winter the best season to view much of Montana’s abundant wildlife. Snow creates a perfect stage in Montana’s back-country, making it easy and fun to identify animal tracks imprinted in the snow. Perfect powder snow and brilliant blue sky are some reasons why people say Montana is at its best under a blanket of snow. These are, of course, the skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers. At Lost Trail Pass, elevation, 7000 ft., you’ll find Lost Trail Powder Mountain Ski Area and Lodge . The ski area has the best snow depth (over 300 inches) and the highest quality natural snow found in the northwest. On the average, Lost Trail has 85-90% sunny days, with temperatures averaging 20 degrees throughout the season. Lifts transport fun seekers up 1800 feet from 6,400 feet to the top of the mountain at 8,200 feet. Choose from a total of 45 trails, with many well-groomed runs extending from Montana into Idaho. Other downhill ski areas within 1-1/2 hours of Hamilton are Montana Snowbowl located north of Missoula and offering 30 runs on 700 acres of extreme skiing; and Marshall Mountain, also located north of Missoula and offering 22 runs. For cross country skiers, the Bitterroot Cross Country Ski Club maintains the Chief Joseph Ski Course near Lost Trail Pass at the intersection of Hwy 93 and U.S. 43. Trails are groomed Thursdays, and there is parking along U.S. 43. The Lost Trail Winter Park Area also offers great mileage for the snowmobiles through Forest Service road systems, open parks, meadows, and rolling hills with little danger of avalanche. One of Montana’s least-travelled snowmobile areas, Skalkaho Pass, is also one of the most scenic. Closed to automobile traffic in the winter, this area offers privileged views of frozen Skalkaho Falls, tall peaks and deep canyons. Skalkaho Pass area offers 26 miles of groomed trails. From there, open areas and ungroomed trails offer a wide variety of terrain for all skill levels.


Cultral Attractions

The Bitterroot Valley offers an assortment of cultural attractions and activities for almost every interest. History buffs enjoy visiting the Daly Mansion, Hamilton, built by copper baron Marcus Daly; St. Mary’s Mission, Stevensville, the first settlement in the state of Montana; the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton; and points of interest along the Lewis and Clark Trail from Ross’ Hole in Sula to Travelers’ Rest in Lolo. Other museums within the Bitterroot Valley include The Darby Museum, the Victor Heritage Museum, the Stevensville Historical Museum, and Fort Owen in Missoula. Just 2 hours south of Hamilton in the Big Hole River Valley is the Big Hole Battlefield, a National Historic Site. It was here that five bands of Nez Perce Indians resisted attempts by the government to place them on reservations. This National Historic Site features an interpreted trail and historical center. Bannack Ghost Town, the First Territorial Capital of Montana and a preserved National Historic Landmark is also located in the Big Hole River Valley. For arts and entertainment, there is the Hamilton Playhouse, and the Hamilton Performing Arts Center, in Hamilton; the Chantilly Theater in Stevensville, the Bitterroot Youth Symphony, the Bitterroot Arts Guild, and the Treasure State Art Show. Along with these cultural attractions, Hamilton and the surrounding communities offer an array of fine dining establishments, unique shops, antique dealers and art galleries, many with the focus on the western Montana lifestyle.