Montana Places To Live | Bitterroot Valley Lifestyle
Video blog by John Anderson, Broker Associate, licensed in MT, OR, ID
It is truly difficult to describe the lifestyles of those fortunate enough to live in the Bitterroot Valley, except to say, “There is something for everyone.” If you seek isolation and the peaceful serenade of wind whispering in the forest, you’ll find it here. If you’re a spiritual person, you’ll find camaraderie with those of like mind, whether your chosen place of worship or contemplation is within the walls of a church or atop a mountain. If you enjoy hunting, the teeming populations of mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, moose, bear, and waterfowl will call your name.
Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, a novelist, a painter, an entrepreneur, a retired person, or a nature enthusiast, those same species, plus countless more, will thrill and inspire you, Rock climbers, extreme outdoor sport seekers, skiers, swimmers, canoeists, fishermen, hunters, runners, equine enthusiasts, bicyclists, social butterflies, and the disabled will find a plethora of opportunity in the valley that satisfies their yearnings. The “Bitterroot Trail,” a paved pathway that mostly parallels US 93 from Missoula to Hamilton, is a scenic wonder, presently offering over 35 miles of paved navigation for walkers, bikers, and the handicapped. (It does parallel Highway 93, so one must contend with traffic noise, but for those who want a safe place to walk, run, or cycle, it’s a pleasure, and for the wheelchair-bound, it is fabulous.) If you are a visual person who yearns for spectacular views and a simpler life, a slower pace, and a locale where you will find friends, you will never find another place with more outdoor pleasures or eye appeal. As for nourishment for the human heart, nowhere can better accommodate that than the Bitterroot Valley.
Residents of the valley often refer to their home as the “Root” and to themselves as “Bitterrooters.” And unlike in many other places across the United States, newcomers are readily accepted. Walk into an establishment and say hello, or ask someone a question, and you will more than likely make a new friend. This happens in restaurants, small eateries, bars and grills while standing in line, or at the grocery checkout. The mindset of people in the valley is different than in so many other places. People here trust their neighbors, and in the “Root,” the word neighbor has a different meaning, not designating someone who lives right next door but everyone who shares the valley as their home.
From the towering apex of Trapper Peak to the charming beach of Lake Como, the awe-inspiring locales create a unique experience. Hunting, fishing, and hiking are a way of life in the valley with plenty of opportunities for entertainment, cultural enlightenment, shopping, and fine dining as well. The nine, tight-knit communities in the valley are populated by kindhearted individuals, always willing to lend a helping hand. In the Bitterroot Valley, recreation becomes a lifestyle and friends become like family.
This charming and spectacular valley appeals to most people, no matter their walk of life. Big game hunters will feel at home in the Bitterroot National Forest. Elk, mule deer, and whitetail deer are the most popular game and offer abundant opportunities for those who enjoy hunting. These same animals also captivate the amateur or professional photographer and nature enthusiast. Rarely does one fail to see something exciting in the Bitterroot Valley during a wilderness hike or leisurely drive. Just awakening of a morning in the valley is an experience. Few locations here fail to offer a view of the magnificent and regal Rocky Mountains. Very few landscapes anywhere else offer 360-degree, panoramic views like those you will feast your eyes on in this magical locale.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of peace while fishing and the valley offers abundant choices. Whether it’s on the winding banks of the Bitterroot River, the many mountain creeks, or the picturesque Lake Como, prepare to find inner peace with the abundant fishing opportunities here. And in addition to that peaceful feeling, you will enjoy a world-class fishing experience.
Sometimes we just want to reconnect with nature, and there’s no better way than to go for a hike. Some of the most beautiful vistas can be seen from the numerous hiking trails in the valley. The Blodgett Canyon Trail, in particular, gives a rare look at the gorgeous rock formations. On the other hand, few sights on this earth can compare to the Rockies soaring in craggy splendor toward the sky. To the east, the beautiful Sapphire Mountains also titillate your senses. To the treasure seeker, the Sapphires beckon. For an afternoon of fun, try digging for the sapphires for which these mountains got their name. Even today, those adventurous souls who wish to dig for sapphires can man their own shovels or pay for large buckets of dirt for stone sifting. Many people leave with a gorgeous sapphire and have a jeweler design them a ring or necklace to commemorate their “find.”
Setting aside all the recreational opportunities at one’s fingertips in the “Root,” one of the nicest things of all is one’s easy access to dining, shopping, nightlife, airline travel, historical enrichment, great medical care, and culture. And most places in the valley have adequate, if not fabulous, Internet connections available as well. Because Montana speaks to so many visitors, Missoula has become a convenient hub to “Bitterrrooters” who cherish the rural ambiance of the valley, yet still need a city nearby where they can easily fly to anywhere in the world, visit art museums, take in a play, or simply enjoy a memorable culinary experience. From the most southern reaches of the Bitterroot Valley, Missoula is within a comfortable driving distance, so residents can enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city for a few hours. The valley is a place where people need not sacrifice “city life” to enjoy their rural settings, walks along the river, abundant wildlife, a slower pace, and the peace that comes with true country living.
While the Bitterroot Valley is bursting with outdoor recreational activities, there are plenty of opportunities to socialize with your fellow neighbors and build long-lasting relationships. Because of Montana’s vastness, its contemporary residents still observe the traditions of old, gathering frequently in public places to visit, share the details of their day, or just enjoy a bit of jovial company. Visitors are normally impressed by the welcoming air of “Bitterrooters” and often leave an establishment feeling as if they’ve acquired new friends. This phenomenon is called “the Montana experience,” and few individuals fail to appreciate how quickly strangers are made to feel as if they belong. You will meet people from every social status–cowboys, ranchers, teachers, scientists, biologists, doctors, mechanics, and so on, and their apparel will be just as diversified. It’s an incredibly interesting place. Though you may be a financier, you might become best friends with a guy who will entertain you with stories about calving season. Living in the Bitterroot definitely enriches you and broadens your intellectual scope.
Nine small communities comprise what is locally referred to as the Highway 93 corridor, an incomparable scenic byway. Back in the day, a man could travel about twenty miles a day on horseback, so these towns are, on average, about that far apart. Valley residents think nothing of driving from one end of this picturesque valley to the other and often do so in order to enjoy community festivals or social events. Farmers markets. Dances in the streets. Flea markets in sectioned off parts of town. Locals who don’t choose to “raise their own” food can enjoy offerings from those who do for reasonable prices.
- The small community of Sula, the first town at the southern tip of the Highway 93 corridor, is the portal to Lost Trail Powder Mountain, a quaint and welcoming ski resort with slopes to accommodate beginner, intermediate, and skilled skiers. Normally, great powder.
- Conner’s location makes it the ideal town for launching your wilderness adventures, with, just to name a few, Ross’s Hole, the Chaffin Creek Trail, and Medicine Point Lookout beckoning to those who love history and the beauty of nature.
- Visit Darby’s popular Old West Candy Store, which features many antiques, and then enjoy multiple eateries and shops, the museum, or attend the annual summer rodeo, which draws competitors from far and wide.
- Hamilton is the largest town in the Bitterroot Valley with a state-of-the-art hospital, a variety of medical professionals, shopping to satisfy most needs, and numerous eating establishments, upscale or casual, where you can grab a bite to eat. Shopping opportunities abound. There is a theatre to enjoy the current box office hits, stores to avail yourself of almost any necessity or frivolity, and many quaint places to simply stop and browse. Incredibly beautiful offerings from artisans draw your eye, from those of famous artists to creations from local jewelry and decorative designers. One-of-a-Kind abounds in these shops. The Stock Farm Club offers guests fine dining and abundant recreation, including one of the longest outdoor seasons at their renowned golf course. Situated centrally in the valley, Hamilton covers the needs of most, yet it has retained its small-town charm.
- Corvallis, at the heart of the Bitterroot Valley, retains a Norman Rockwell ambiance with its many well-maintained, historical buildings and farms/ranches, yet it offers modern amenities as well.
- Victor, with its small community traditions, sports over 120 small businesses and offers a friendly atmosphere that newcomers may appreciate and always remember.
- Stevensville, “where Montana began,” is reminiscent of days long past with its well-preserved buildings, and St. Mary’s Mission, a must-see, offers tours for those who are intrigued by tales of old and how this great state began.
- Just a bit farther north, Florence offers access to the Threemile Wildlife Management Area, which is excellent for hunting and observing wildlife.
- Finally, Lolo is the northernmost town in the valley, home to well-known hot springs and minutes away from the city of Missoula, a cultural and shopping hub that is home to the University of Montana, which ranks among the most beautiful campuses in the United States.
The gorgeous landscape offers endless recreation to the entire Bitterroot Valley. Whether you’re an avid hunter, an ambitious angler or just someone who loves the Montana lifestyle, the Bitterroot Valley truly is where recreation and peace of mind becomes a lifestyle.
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