Road Trip: Pintler Scenic Route, MT

If you’re heading to Butte from Missoula or visa versa, the 64 mile Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway is a great alternative to Interstate 90. It starts  in Drummond, a not at all scenic, 1-horse town (population 309) that bills itself as the “Biggest Bull Shippers” in the country. I “ship” you not. We stopped for gas and nothing else there.

Our next stop was historic Phillipsburg, a charming 19th century mining town in the heart of Montana sapphire country (population 820 as of 2010). We strolled up and down the short main street in about 5 minutes, grabbed a coffee and indulged in some Montana bbq for lunch.

Main Street Phillipsburg, MT         Population ~820

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We enjoyed the lovely views Georgetown Lake and Silver Lake (see top feature picture) along the way.  Georgetown Lake is famous for its fishing in the summer and ice fishing in the winter. Unfortunately, the sky didn’t clear for a good pic at Georgetown Lake.

Georgetown Lake, 3000 acres, ~6000 altitude
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Roadtrippin by “Painted” Rocks on the Pintler Scenic Highway

We didn’t stop in Anaconda, nearly named Copperopolis, it was named after the Anaconda Copper Mining Company and at one time this small town was the world’s largest supplier of copper, just as electricity became ubiquitous.

Overall, it’s a pleasant drive with a backdrop of conifer-carpeted mountains and sage-brushed hills along Flint Creek.

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Flint Creek Meandering Near the Roadside

If you’re into historic mining towns, ghost towns (3), and a sapphire mine this is your route. (There’s a waterfall out here somewhere too.) In any event, it’s certainly more interesting than Interstate 90. If you have the time to spare, just do it.

Local color, the Hungry Horse Reservoir & a scary attic

After working up an appetite on the Avalanche Trail in Glacier National Park, we stopped in for some sustenance at a local watering hole…It was very “colorful” as they say…Friendly barmaid and a handful of Montana mountain men.

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On the way back to Columbia Falls, we swung by the scenic  Hungry Horse Dam, the 11th highest concrete dam in the  US at 544 ft tall, 2115 ft wide, 39 ft thick at the top, and 330 ft at the base. There’s a 15 mile loop you can drive or bike, but it started pouring rain and visibility was poor so we opted out.

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Stopped for a cocktail at the Blue Moon Bar and Casino.

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Have I mentioned that it’s all about hunting in these parts? Taxidermy shops and small bars / casinos are as common as nail salons back in LA. When I walked into the Blue Moon, it was like walking into a natural history museum (and I’m not talking about just the patrons either).

 

Later, the granddaughter of the owner took me on a private tour of the attic that was jam packed with the owner’s “trophies” of big game from Canada, Alaska, Montana, etc…It was like something out of a horror movie, a bit creepy, and way over the top for this animal lover.