After the dog exercise at the reservoir we headed out without a plan except to explore. When we landed back on Highway 38 I took a left and wanted to go up the east side of this road (which connects Philipsburg with Hamilton). Now don't get excited that this is a State Highway - it is but it is NOT! This is paved for a bit and then turns into a backcountry road that is not paved, is in some spot single lane and a bumpy bouncy road (that said we saw more traffic on that road than any we traveled). I had hoped of completing the part of the road to the waterfall since I'd been up the west side to that point (it is also nasty). However once we got to the top of the pass (a few miles short of the falls) I was over it and we stopped and had a picnic lunch and headed back down as there were some ghost towns we wanted to go find.
Don't get me wrong it was beautiful but if you are planning to go over it, it will be an all day affair especially if you want to go both directions and honestly make sure you have a higher clearance car.
The one thing that made it well worth while was that we saw these two boys right along side the road (as in take photos from the truck window my favorite option). I mean come on! We'd seen the signs saying there were bighorn sheep but generally you never see any and after the moose sighting I was shocked at our luck. (Still no bear shots though - sigh).
On the way back down the pass I did take some time to stop and take some photos of the creek as well.
Here's more information on the highway from the Visit Montana website:
PLEASE call 511 for road conditions and closures along this highway before traveling Highway 38, a primitive seasonal road three miles south of Hamilton also known as the Skalkaho Highway, links Hamilton and Philipsburg.
Trailers are not allowed as there are narrow curves with limited pull-outs.
This drive into the Sapphire Mountains takes you on some of Montana's least traveled mountain roads. The road was once a heavily used trail for Indians. A road was built over the route in 1924 to link the mining areas in the mountains with the agricultural communities of the Bitterroot Valley. This is a narrow winding drive that offers some excellent views and takes you past Skalkaho Falls. There are two campgrounds along Highway 38, Black Bear Campground with 6 camping sites in the Darby Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest and Crystal Creek Campground with 3 camping sites in the Pintler Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Skalkaho Pass sits at 7,260 feet above sea level. Since only the first 10 miles (on the Hamilton side) of Montana Highway 38 are plowed and this area becomes a popular snowmobile destination during the winter months. Skalkaho Pass Area offers 26 miles of groomed trails.