This page provides a revision to the Bitterroot Mountains access section which is on Pages 90–91 of the book (originally entitled “Lookout Pass South to Hoodoo Pass”).
This revision includes information from various sources, such as personal observations, reader input, land management agency data, internet mapping resources and tools (e.g., Google, Lists of John) and from local residents. Over time, road designations on maps may have changed, especially where a road or trail crosses administrative boundaries, such as those between states, counties, forests or other land management areas. At publication, this is the best information we have and we welcome any corrections and additions.
The following section covers access to Bitterroot peaks from the area west of Lookout Pass to Dry Creek Pass. Note: The name Dry Creek Pass does not show up on maps. The name is adopted from FS-342/Dry Creek Road which crosses the pass from Montana.
(B) Lookout Pass South to Dry Creek Pass. Primary access to this section of the Bitterroots is provided by I-90 and many secondary and Forest Service roads. Most of the Bitterroot Divide between Lookout Pass and Dry Creek Pass is traversed by the State Divide Road/State Line Road which is presented in detail in (B)(6).
(1) Lookout Ski Area Road. This road is accessed from I-90 at Exit 0 (Lookout Pass, MT). Lookout Ski Road extends a short distance from the exit to the south and leads to the Lookout Pass Ski Area.
(2) Willow Creek Road. This road is reached via the town of Mullan, Idaho which is located west of Lookout Pass. Leave I-90 at the Atlas Road Exit and head north. Turn east onto Friday Avenue which turns into Willow Creek Road at the east end of Mullan. Continue on Willow Creek Road south for 1.3 miles. This is the primary approach road for the Stevens Peak Alpine Lakes Area which is administered by the Forest Service.
- (a) FST-165, Stevens Lake Trail. FST-165 leaves Willow Creek Road and runs 1.1 miles to Stevens Lake at the base of Stevens Peak.
(3) Boulder Creek Road. This road is accessed from Mullan, Idaho west of Lookout Pass by taking the I-90 Atlas Road Exit, traveling north to Friday Avenue, turning west onto Copper Street, east on East Montana Street then south onto Boulder Creek Road. Continue on Boulder Creek Road for less than a mile to the National Forest boundary.
- (a) FST-128, Boulder Creek Trail. FST-128 begins at the end of the Boulder Creek Road at the National Forest boundary. The poorly-maintained trail climbs 2.75 miles along Boulder Creek to the ridgeline, where it joins a ridge trail that leads east to the Stevens Peak area and FST-278.
(4) Saint Joe River Road. This road leaves ID-3 on the west edge of the town of Saint Maries, Idaho and parallels its namesake (the Saint Joe River), stretches east and then south for 74.0 miles to Red Ives, Idaho. The Saint Joe River Road can also be accessed from Montana and I-90 as described in approach (B)(5). The road is paved from Saint Maries to Marble Creek which is located just west of Avery, Idaho.
(5) FS-506/Rolland Summit Road. Take I-90 to Exit 5 (Taft, Montana) and proceed south on FS-506/Rainy Creek Road. Follow FS-506 for 2 miles to the East Portal trailhead which is the start of the Hiawatha Rail Trail. Continue on FS-506 for another 2.5 miles to Roland Pass and the junction with FS-391.
Rolland Summit Road can also be used to connect I-90 with the Saint Joe River Road. To do so, from I-90 take Exit 30 (which is approximately 1 mile west of Saint Regis, MT) and drive south along the North Fork of Little Joe Creek to Rolland Summit. In 12.8 miles, descend to the Saint Joe River Road and eventually to Saint Maries, Idaho. The road is gravel for much of its distance and is suitable for passenger vehicles during good weather.
(6) FS-391/State Divide Road. This road begins at Rolland Summit and follows the Bitterroot Crest and the Idaho/Montana border south for over 50 miles to a point south of Little Joe Mountain at Hoodoo Pass. Because State Divide Road begins near the start of the Hiawatha Rail Trail (which is an extremely popular bicycle trail that follows the route of the defunct Milwaukee Road Railroad), there are several well-maintained access routes that can be used other than the Roland Summit Road. Note: The State Divide Road can also be accessed from Wallace and St. Maries, Idaho. The most direct access to the start of the State Divide Road is from Taft, Montana. Check out this link for details on the alternative access routes. The southern access to the State Divide Road is found at Dry Creek Pass. See (B)(7).
FS-391 stays near the Bitterroot Crest, passing Bald Mountain and then Dominion Peak. A 4WD road leads from FS-391 to the summit of Dominion, which was the home of an active fire lookout at one time. FS-391 continues south past Crittenden Peak, Quarles Peak, Wishard Peak, Craddock Peak, Ward Peak and Flat Top Mountain until it reaches Gold Saddle in 36.0 miles. From Gold Saddle, the road continues an additional 14 miles to Dry Creek Saddle and the trailhead for FST-738.
State Divide Road Camping, Travel Season and Road Conditions: There are no designated campgrounds along the road but there are undeveloped sites. Mid-May is the absolute earliest time that the road may be snow-free. However, mid-June is a more reliable time to find snow-free travel. I have not driven the road but reportedly it is passable by most passenger cars. Nevertheless, if you are considering taking a passenger car, you may first want to contact the Forest Service for their knowledge of current conditions.
- (a) FST-250/Eagle Peak Trail. This trail leaves FS-391 directly south of Ward Peak and runs north across the Idaho/Montana border and into Montana in 0.5 mile. From the border, the trail traverses Eagle Peak and Gold Peak before joining FS-3816 near Up Up Mountain.
(7) Dry Creek/Dry Creek Pass Road/FS-342. South access to the State Divide Road is at Dry Creek Pass. From I-90 take Exit 43/Dry Creek Road and turn south on the Dry Creek Frontage Road 69. Follow Road 69 to the junction of Dry Creek Road/FS-342. Turn west onto Dry Creek Road and drive 9.5 miles to the junction with Diamond Lake Road/FS-7843. Keep right at this junction and continue on to the Bitterroot Crest. At the pass, FS-391/State Divide Road runs north. See (B)(6).