Beaverhead County has several natural hot springs, including Jackson Hot Springs Lodge and Elkhorn Hot Springs, which is located about 10 miles off Route 278 on a newly paved road. Go west of Dillon on 278 about 30 miles, then turn north toward Polaris at the sign. Follow the road through Polaris to Elkhorn Hot Springs, about 5 miles farther. These waters provide a therapeutic complement to various winter activities, most notably snowmobiling, downhill skiing, and cross-country skiing.
Outfitters & Organized Trips
Montana High Country, 35 miles west of Dillon at 7501 Pioneer Mountain Scenic By-way, Polaris, MT 59746 (tel. 406/834-3469; www.mhct.com), is operated by sixth-generation Montanan Russ Kipp. The company offers year-round guiding services, including fly-fishing, horseback riding, big-game hunting, and snowmobiling. Whether you're a sportsman looking to bag that elusive elk or a family longing for some quality time together, Kipp has plenty of experience in arranging a unique outdoor adventure. His most popular trips center on southwest Montana's classic trout streams, picturesque limestone canyons, and stunning mountain ranges. Prices range from $900 for a 3-day, 4-night snowmobiling package to around $3,500 for a 6-day moose-hunting trip. Kipp also operates an Orvis-endorsed guest lodge with rates starting at $150 per person per night, meals included.
Great Divide Wildlands Institute (tel. 406/683-4669; www.greatdividetours.com) offers a variety of scenic and historical tours, with a special emphasis on the route of Lewis and Clark and the Nez Perce through the area. Starting at $250 for two people, the packages include day trips to where Lewis first met the Shoshone and other customized historical and scenic tours in the Big Hole.
The Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Poindexter rivers are all within easy reach of Dillon, and Jefferson is only half an hour away by car. The fishing season begins early in the year when other streams may still be clearing, and extends into October. Big Hole fishermen can find several trout species, including eastern brook, brown, and golden. The Clark Canyon Reservoir provides good fishing for rainbow trout. Arctic grayling, ling, and whitefish also populate the waters of the Big Hole Valley. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, 420 Barrett St., Dillon, MT 59725 (tel. 406/683-3900; www.fs.fed.us/r1/b-d), can provide you with information on the lakes and streams in the forest.
For licenses, equipment, and advice on hot fishing spots, check with the locals in Dillon at Frontier Anglers, 680 N. Montana St. (tel. 800/228-5263; www.frontieranglers.com). You can arrange a trip on any of the local rivers with Tom Smith's Backcountry Angler, 426 S. Atlantic St., Dillon, MT 59725 (tel. 406/683-3462; www.backcountryangler.com). Smith has been guiding in Montana since 1983, and he also has a pair of kitchenettes and a private log home on the Beaverhead River available for rent (call for details). In Twin Bridges (just up Mont. 41), your best bet for fishing equipment and outfitting services is the Four Rivers Fishing Co., 205 S. Main St. (tel. 888/474-8377; www.4riversmontana.com). Aficionados of the fishing world should stop at the R. L. Winston Rod Co., also in Twin Bridges, at 500 S. Main St. (tel. 406/684-5674; www.winstonrods.com), for a look at some of the finest fly rods in the world. Free tours of the company facility are given each weekday at 11am; a showroom/museum is open weekdays from 8am to 4:30pm.
Hike along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness for interesting geologic discoveries, fabulous scenery, and views of wildlife: Elk, moose, mule deer, antelope, and even black bears are all indigenous to the region. Covering parts of the Bitterroot and Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forests, this 158,500-acre wilderness spans 40 miles along the Continental Divide over four counties. Highways with access to the area are U.S. 93 on the west, Mont. 38 and Mont. 1 from the north, and Mont. 43 from the east and south. The Wise River Ranger District, P.O. Box 100, Wise River, MT 59762 (tel. 406/832-3178), can direct you to the area's most traveled trails. You can also obtain a recreation directory, which describes many of the trails in the forest. The guide is available for free from Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, 420 Barrett St., Dillon, MT 59725 (tel. 406/683-3900; www.fs.fed.us/r1/b-d).
Diamond Hitch Outfitters, 3405 Ten Mile Rd., Dillon, MT 59725 (tel. 800/368-5494 or 406/683-5494; www.diamondhitchoutfitters.com), offers 1 1/2-hour rides, half-day trips, and full-day trips in the Pioneer Mountains. As an alternative, evening horseback rides include a campfire cookout. More adventurous overnight and extended backcountry rides are also available. Rates range from $30 per 1 1/2-hour ride to $1,050 for a 5-day trip.
In addition to Maverick Mountain, Dillon is fairly close to Lost Trail Powder Mountain.
The Wise River trail system features 150 miles of groomed trails in the Big Hole Valley area, including Anderson Meadows -- which leads to backcountry lakes and a rental cabin -- and Lacy Creek, with 10 miles of groomed and ungroomed trails to five high-mountain lakes. The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest's Wise River Ranger District, P.O. Box 100, Wise River, MT 59762 (tel. 406/832-3178), is a good source of information.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.