The rough cut of a slideshow from our recent (6/29-7/8) tour of southwest Montana (turn up the volume):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7-k2ZMFL_I
Flew into Missoula from Philaelphia and set out from the KOA the next morning.to Darby using the Old Darby Alternative. If you do this portion of the Trans Am route, I highly recommend the alternative for scenery and lack of traffic, and Red Barn Bicycles is worthy of a visit. The road surface presented no problems on 37c tires. Continued on the Trans Am over Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Passes to Wisdom. Continuing on the Trans Am, we picked up sandwiches to go in Jackson and then climbed Big Hole Pass, were the historical display area a short walk from the road made for a great lunch stop. Near the bottom of the descent we turned left onto the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, which is on the GDMBR, ending up at Elkhorn Hot Springs when it turned out that nearby USFS Grasshopper Campground was closed. From there it was on to BLM Divide Bridge Campground along the Big Hole River. We rolled into Twin Bridges on July 4th via
the 20 mile unpaved Melrose Bench Road. Next stop Butte via Pipestone Pass, where we made an obligatory stop at Pork Chop John’s. Then Philipsburg via
Anaconda and Georgetown Lake. (The Inn at Phillipsburg, which is located across from a good grocery store and is a short walk from the center of town, has a nice area for tent campers, complete with shade, a clothes line, picnic tables and wooden lounge chairs, and the proprietor is awesome.) The original plan from there was to ride the Skalkaho Highway back to Hamilton, but it was officially closed due to a washout. AC staff member Casey, who we fortuitously met at Elkhorn, told us of an alternative to our planned detour through Drummond to Ekstrom’s Stage. It utilized the very scenic Rock Creek Road, which involved 30 miles of unpaved riding, just as much (if not less) dirt than we would have had on Skalkaho. From Ekstrom’s Stage it was a short (but headwindy) 26 miles back to Missoula, where we were treated to ice cream at AC’s world headquarters.
The route (except for the areas in and immediately surrounding Butte) was as scenic as it was challenging. Met several cyclists riding the Trans Am east to west, including a Scot who had made it all the way from VA to Lolo in about five weeks. In addition to the usual deer, we saw a mommy moose with her calf, two sandhill cranes, a couple dozen antelope, two snakes a bald eagle, and osprey or two and countless other species of birds. Send me a PM if you would like route and services specifics. With some modification of the daily distances, this loop can be done "credit card" style.