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Two motorcyclist on the highway


Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway.
Photo courtesy Montana Office of Tourism.


Pioneer Scenic Byway/ Big Hole Valley

There’s a reason the 50 miles of the Pioneer Scenic Byway is relatively unknown to many motorcycle enthusiasts: It was just completely paved for the first time back in 2007. The northern and southern ends have been tarmac for as long as this writer has lived in southwest Montana but the center six miles had remained gravel.

One of the chief features that makes this route so attractive is ... you guessed it ... its extremely low volume of traffic. In fact, this road is closed and unplowed all winter so is enjoyed only by snowmobilers and cross country skiers from approximately October to May.

Also in the plus column are its remoteness, beautiful scenery and rugged country, diversity of topography, climate and wildlife, and relatively decent paving. This is one of our very favorite day loops at only about 220 miles.

If it’s early or late in the season, riders may want to contact the Wise River Club in Wise River, or Elkhorn Hot Springs near the summit or the Grasshopper Inn down below on the southern leg in the Grasshopper Valley to verify the road is open, or to learn if there has been recent snow which could mean lingering traces, ice or frost in shaded spots, or residual sanding.

Butte, at the junction of I-15 and I-90, is a reasonably good place to begin this trek, though others may approach it from the Bitterroot Valley to the west or perhaps Bozeman from the east. Fill your tank, though there is fuel (by card only) at the Feeley exit. Otherwise, once on the scenic byway, the next fuel is about 120 miles away in Dillon or Wisdom!

By Cole Boehler
the author and publisher of
"Motorcycling Montana"
http://motorcyclingmontana.com/