Two high-speed highways -- interstates 90 and 15 -- intersect in the region, but the best roads to take are the well-maintained back roads: state and county highways that follow unlikely and out-of-the-way paths. Traveling from Anaconda to Dillon could be done via the interstate in just over an hour. But a better, less-frequented route through the Big Hole Valley runs east of the Continental Divide and the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area. A good stopping point is Wisdom, which has the dubious distinction of being one of the coldest towns in the Lower 48, and the turnoff for the Big Hole National Battlefield. Driving farther south on Mont. 278 takes you to Jackson, then Bannack State Park, before ending at I-15 south of Dillon. From Dillon, drive north on Mont. 41 to Twin Bridges and the junction with Mont. 287. This road runs south through the Old West towns of Sheridan, Laurin, Alder, Nevada City, and Virginia City, before ending in Ennis at the junction with U.S. 287.
Driving Tour 1; The Big Hole Valley
This short loop tour takes you through the Big Hole Valley, nicknamed "Land of 10,000 Haystacks." Begin in Dillon, the largest of the towns in this area, and keep your eye out for white-tailed and mule deer in the morning and early evening. Travel north on I-15 to Divide, then take Mont. 43 southwest to Wisdom. This is a tiny town with little other than its residents and the scenery to recommend it, but the Big Hole National Battlefield is a short drive west on Mont. 43 and is well worth the trip.
Then head back to Wisdom and take Mont. 278 south toward Dillon. Along the way, stop in Jackson for a soak in the hot springs, or tour Montana's territorial capital city, Bannack, in Bannack State Park just 28 miles farther, off Mont. 278. As you stroll the boardwalks you'll discover the ease with which you can lose yourself in the state's early history -- a microcosm that reflects the entire Old West. This drive is great during the summer, when haystacks fill the fields and the Bannack Days celebration re-creates early events in Montana's history. It's not so tame during winter months, though, when roads are icy and caution is required.
Driving Tour 2: The Pintler Scenic Route
This tour is best enjoyed during summer, when area attractions open their doors to visitors and long summer days extend daylight hours.
This scenic route takes you from the mining city of Anaconda on a loop tour with ghost towns, historic buildings, and wildlife. Starting in Anaconda -- where you can visit the copper-smelting display at the Copper Village Museum or admire an old Art Deco theater, the Washoe, which was ranked fifth in the nation by David Naylor (American Picture Palaces) for its architectural value -- you'll head on little-traveled roads into a mountainous area that rivals any in the state.
Northwest of Anaconda on Mont. 1 lies Georgetown Lake, a popular tourist destination in both summer and winter, when anglers and skiers flock to the lake and nearby ski area, Discovery. There are dog-sled races here on winter Sundays. Next stop is the charming historic town of Philipsburg, a good place for lunch or even an overnight stay. Continue on Mont. 1 to Drummond, known as the "Bull Shipper's Capital of the World."
Heading southeast on I-90 will take you to Deer Lodge, home to the state prison, historic Grant-Kohrs Ranch, and the Montana Auto Museum, which features a slightly depleted collection of 120 antique automobiles -- restored, original models from the early 1900s to the 1960s. County Road 273 takes you back to Anaconda.