Pintler Scenic Route - MT Hwy 1

Sunday, July 11, 2010

If ever you find yourself traveling between Butte and Missoula on I90 take the Pintler Scenic Route. Go from either end, the miles are about the same and the road good enough for any size rig. The route is MT 1 running between the the towns of Anaconda and Drummond, It is the only way to get to Phillipsburg (or P-Burgh as the locals call it)

The road has more diversity then most of the longer roads we have been on. Small quirky towns, ski resorts, mountain twisties (mild but fun), creeks, ranches, shopping, wildlife, lakes, marinas, snowmobile areas, national forests, campgrounds and best of all, few people.

We started from the Anaconda side, rolling through downtown after passing the very large 585-foot (178 m) smokestack (Anaconda Smelter Stack). At one time the tallest masonry structure in the world. Big enough to fit the entire Washington Monument inside. Anaconda's history was based on mining, mostly copper. The name “Copperopolis" was once considered for the town's name.

A few days prior we ate at the Classic Cafe (Missoula to Butte Update) so we just cruised on through. Outside of town the area took on a much more rural feel as we started to head in to the more mountainous area. The climb was gradual and roads smooth and easy on the seat. Soon the area was filled with pines and smelling so refreshing. We were surrounded by the Beaverhead National Forest, filled with recreational resources. There were at least a half dozen campgrounds as well as plenty of lake access and marinas. The road went past two pristine lakes, one with very little development the other more so with some gorgeous lakeside homes and larger marinas. We were still amazed at the lack of traffic.

Just after the lake area we entered a mountainous area with a few twisties and wonderful views. The road through this area was like most mountain roads, sometimes wondering if you're going to see you own backside as you twist and turn. But all-in-all, I would not hesitate to take any size rig through this area. It was mild compared to other roads we have been on with the rig. This section was very short as well so any pucker factor you may have was gone before the first clinch got serious.

On to more open road, with ranches, creeks and great sights of old barns. I just love the way weathered barns seem to sag into the landscape. Makes me think of how they looked when new and how the ranchers relied on them for whatever purpose they served. I am sure these old barns helped these hardy souls scratch out a life.

Our first stop was Phillipsburg, a town with plenty of history, lore and some of the most friendly folks we have had the pleasure to meet. The historical section of town was filled with some terrific architecture dating back to the town beginnings in the 1800s. Many of the buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The use of the buildings have changed many times over the years, but the original structure, signs and exterior remains original. Mining was the economic engine that kept the town going so there are a few gem/jewelery stores. Plenty of Montana made crafts and of course a saloon or two as well as plenty of places to eat. We're not sure but we believe it is a state law that the saloons must out number churches in any given town, or so we have been told.

We had lunch at Doe Brothers 1920's Old Fashioned Soda Fountain and Restaurant. I had a unique Pretzel Bread Reuben and Donna had a Chef Salad with Huckleberry vinaigrette dressing, both were very good. As we ate at this very busy and lively place, we could not help but notice all the great ice cream being served at the counter. We decided we would stop for some on our way back. We had originally planned to make a loop and return on I-90 but decided we would run the route both directions.

After some more walking and window shopping (we kept our purchases to a bar glass and a coffee mug), we hit the road for Drummond. The road was rolling and scenic. More ranches and great views of the creek along the road. We arrived at Drummond and just turned around and headed back. Just didn't seem to be much there. I'm sure there was but we wanted to allow enough time for the return trip and not run into any dark riding. Deer-thirty can be deadly in Montana. Besides, the ice cream at Doe Brothers was calling our names... LOUDLY.

We had hoped to see more wildlife (deer-thirty aside), particularly some elusive (for us) moose but this was not to be. Seems no matter where we go in moose country, they just aren't there. We are considering hiring ourselves out to Montana for work in any Moose control project they may have. If they need Moose removed from an area, just call us and they will disappear as soon as we show up.

We headed back to Phillipsburg and some well deserved ice cream. I had Moose Tracks and Donna had Huckleberry (of course, we ARE in Montana). We sat out front and people watched while relaxing and enjoying our treat. Back on the bikes and headed to Anaconda. Thought we would just enjoy the beautiful weather, the road and cruise back to the rig. Well, we had a couple of pleasant surprises.

The first was a waterfall the we had missed on the way out through the mountain part of the route. Had we looked carefully in the our rear-view mirror we would have seen it earlier. As we rounded a turn...boom, there it was. We pulled over at an unmarked scenic overlook and got some pictures and let the area and sounds wash over us. Seeing the river/creek run out through the mountain itself was amazing.

The second was an "Alive after Five" event in Anaconda. More crafts and a small car show just off the main drag through town. We parked and walked the vendors as well caught some pictures of the cars. You don't see many GTO "Judges" anymore, so I was surprised to see three of them at such a small show. Not sure if any or all of them were original or clones but it was cool to see them regardless. The locals were hootin' and hollerin' and enjoying their event. Nice to see everyone having a good time.

Back on the bikes for the short ride home on I-90. We were chased by some showers but they held off until we got back. Great road, great ride, great time, great food, great state. Now for some rest and then off the the National Folk Festival in Butte tomorrow and Sunday. Get them walking shoes on!

Still rolling,
Stu and Donna

See all the photos here: Riding Pintler Scenic Hwy 1 - Anaconda to P'burg MT


  1. Nice blog, and nice ride! I wish I could have ridden it with you! but you did a good job of taking me along.

  2. LOVE THOSE BIKES!! I don't think I could hold one up by myself...We did have a Suzuki 750 once upon a time when we were lots younger! As for the Moose, if you really want to see one, go to upstate Maine...but be very careful. When they go through the windshield, they can kill you. Wish we were with you...enjoy your blog...

  3. It's amazing what you'll see off the beaten path. When we went thru that part of the country we stayed on I-90 and stopped at Deer Lodge. Time restrictions do that!

    I miss the huckleberries! In Spokane we'd drive over to Coeur D'Alene (Priest Lake) area to pick them for Huckleberry Jam. YUM!

    Stu, you gave me a chuckle. Every time I hear GTO I think of the movie RV. Gotta Love It!!!


  4. Glad you guys are enjoying our state--we got a chuckle out of the "state law" comment and it sure does seem that way, more bars than churches or at least the same number in any MT town.


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