The “Burma Road” along the Big Hole River offers exquisite scenery. This is looking downriver and toward the Tobacco Root Mountains to the east in the far distance.
South of Butte, two routes connect I-15 from the west to Hwy. 41 to the east, but one, the southerly, is much superior for its scenic values. It is a very pretty, yet tame, gravel diversion that follows the Big Hole River from near Glen just off I-15 and empties onto Hwy. 41 just five miles south of Twin Bridges.
The optional northern cut-across, often called the “Melrose Bench Road” or the “High Road,” runs from just south of Melrose and comes directly into Twin Bridges on Hwy. 41 to the east. It appears on the state highway map (highlighted in orange here). It runs mostly through the foothills of the Highlands Mountains. This is arid and fairly featureless country. This road may be convenient, but offers little else in the way of entertainment. It can also have badly washboarded stretches.
We much prefer the more southerly river bottom route, referred to by locals as the “Burma Road” from the west or “Pennington Road” from the east (indicated by purple on the map). From the west, access it from the frontage road about five miles south of Melrose. The sign should indicate Twin Bridges. If coming from the east, take Hwy. 41 five miles south out of Twin Bridges and look to your right (west) for a fishing access sign for Pennington Bridge.
The road, either way, is decent gravel that will produce no riding challenges. Some sections may be a little rough or corrugated especially early in the year. You don’t take this route for the road; it’s all about the scenery, which is colorfully delightful in the fall.
In 2009, a sudden and icy cold front hit the state Oct. 1 and we saw temperatures near zero for several days along with some snow. No fall colors that year as the foliage went immediately from green to brown. 2010 was much better with almost summer-like temperatures into the middle of October. The trees and brush got to display their full fall palette.
By Cole Boehler
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