Sapphire Mountains in Montana

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Sapphire Mountains


The beautiful Sapphire Mountains, located in southwestern Montana, are home to the amazing cascades of Skalkaho Falls and miles of hiking and biking trails that open up to reveal breathtaking vistas of the Bitterroot Mountains.

  • Don't miss the amazing cascades of Skalkaho Falls.
  • The Sapphire Mountains flank the east side of the Bitterroot Valley.
  • The Skalkaho Scenic Byway leads you through amazing terrain and opens up to breathtaking scenic vistas.
  • Hop on your sled and hit one of the many available snowmobile trails.

Overview

The Sapphire Mountains in southwestern Montana, though not the tallest range in the area still boast a number of peaks above 8,000 ft including its highest point Kent Peak, 8,999 ft.

With a long logging history, the Sapphires Mountain Range is interspersed with an extensive road system. While logging is no longer practiced in the area, the roads provide easy access to hiking and biking trails, along with many vistas for amazing views of the Bitterroot Mountains.

Skalkaho Falls, one of the most popular attractions in the Sapphire Mountains and lies directly along Skalkaho Pass Road. You don't even have to hike in for a good view of these amazing cascades. 

Location/Information

Found in southwestern Montana, the Sapphire Mountains are accessible via Hwy 38 east, also known as Skalkaho Road. This will lead you to Skalkaho Pass and into the Sapphire Mountains.

The Sapphires are part of Lolo National Forest in the north, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in the south and also includes part of the Welcome Creek Wilderness Area, the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area, the Threemile Wildlife Mangement Area, and the Skalkaho Game Preserve.

Lolo National Forest
Phone: 406-329-3814
http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/lolo

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Phone: 406-683-3900
www.fs.usda.gov/bdnf

Activities

The abundance of roads makes the Sapphires a popular destination for snowmobiles and 4-wheelers. Yet, there is still plenty of hiking and biking trails to keep you busy.

Hiking/Biking
The Sapphire Mountain Range is a great destination, not only for the scenic hikes, but for the many vistas that open up to reveal breathtaking views of the Bitterroot Mountains and the Rock Creek Drainage. Below are two hikes to get you started.

  • Wyman Trail #226: This 7 mile trail will guide you above the Skalkaho Game Preserve before opening up to amazing views of the Bitterroots and Rock Creek. Let these amazing views be the scenic backdrop for a picnic lunch. From Missoula, take I-90 south to Rock Creek Road. Toward the top of the drainage keep your eyes open for the Sandstone/Wyman Trailhead.
  • Mud Lake: You will find the Mud Lake trailhead a mile east of Skalkaho Pass. Follow the trail along the provided boardwalk for views of this lake as it slowly turns into a peat bog.

Camping
Where there is hiking you will usually find camping and the Sapphire Mountains are no exception. There are a handful of established campsites, some providing more amenities then others. Spend the night at the convenient Black Bear Campground, 13 miles east of Hwy 93, after a day of sight seeing. This campground is located next to Skalkaho Creek.

Skalkho Pass Road
This 50 mile scenic drive connects two otherwise distant valleys and provides countless scenic views. The partially gravel road, starts in the west (or east, up to you) near Hamilton, the road is steep and forested before rounding out to the gentler eastern side that runs along the upper reaches of Rock Creek. If you are a fishermen, you may want to try your luck fishing in this premier stream.

For access to the Pass, take Hwy 93 south from Missoula to Hwy 38, also Skalkaho Road, this will lead you up and over the pass before dropping you off near Philipsburg.

Wildlife Viewing
Past logging and an abundance of recent wildfire activity have left the Sapphires with many rolling meadows and low-land brush that provide great habitat and protection, especially during breeding, for deer, elk, and moose.

Practice your tracking and maybe your keen skills will lead you to the dens of one of the two wolf packs in the area. If the wolves elude you, don't fret as a bit of birdwatching may be easier. 

Hunting
Hunting is allowed in the Sapphires especially for white-tailed deer and elk. Contact the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for information about seasons, regulations, and for permits.

Snowmobiling
With tons of abandoned logging roads, the numerous snowmobile routes will keep you busy all winter. Bundle up and hop on your sled for a bit of exploration. Keep your eyes open for some wildlife viewing as the many meadows provide a wintering habitat for elk.

Warning: The Sapphires do include two wilderness areas, no motor vehicle zones, so know your boundaries before you drive your way into a fine.


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