Granite peaks and alpine forest
What a View
The mountains you see to the west when you drive through Montana’s Bitterroot Valley are the Bitterroot Mountains.
They are also the mountains that you see in the images throughout this website, including the one above.
The Bitterroot Mountains are a large mountain range that extend from Wallace, ID, southeast to Salmon, ID.
The mountain range is approximately 165 miles long and 75 miles wide, and generally runs along the Montana / Idaho border.
The Bitterroot Valley borders the eastern boundary of the mountain range for its entire length.
According to Wikipedia, the Bitterroot Mountains encompass 4,862 square miles.
The highest point is Trapper Peak at 10,157 feet.
So, This is Confusing
Did you know that the Bitterroot Mountains and the Bitterroot Range are not the same thing? We sure didn’t.
It turns out that the Bitterroot Mountains are just one of five mountain ranges that comprise the Bitterroot Range.
In addition to the Bitterroot’s, the Bitterroot Range consists of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, the Saint Joe Mountains, the Beaverhead Mountains, and the Centennial Mountains.
And that’s not the only confusing part.
The Bitterroot Mountains are comprised of two sub-ranges, including the Northern Bitterroot Range and the Central Bitterroot Range.
So let’s get this straight. The Northern Bitterroot Range and the Central Bitterroot Range are both part of the Bitterroot Mountains, which is one part of the Bitterroot Range.
Ok, got it.
Then there’s the question of whether they are called the Bitter Root’s or the Bitterroot’s?
This one we can handle. It’s the Bitterroot’s.
How the Bitterroot Mountains were Formed
Well, we’re definitely not Geologists, so we’ll let someone who knows far more about this subject tell the story of how these Mountains were formed.
Here’s a great 5 minute video that tells the story of tectonic plates colliding, molten magma, batholiths, mountain tops sliding miles away, and glacial events that formed the canyons that we see today.
It’s quite a story and it’s worth the watch.
Bitterroot National Forest
The Bitterroot Mountains, along with the Sapphire Mountains to the east, are home to the Bitterroot National Forest.
The Bitterroot National Forest includes 1.6 million acres of spectacularly scenic public lands.
The forest is home to a wide variety of wildlife including deer, elk, bears, moose, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep.
Creeks, streams and lakes are full of fish, the sky is full of birds, and countless smaller animals live throughout the forest.
The Bitterroot National Forest is the playground for many Bitterroot Valley residents and visitors.
Camping is available at 18 improved campgrounds and there are 1,600 miles of trails for hiking and riding.
Popular activities include fishing, hunting, rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, horseback riding and skiing.
Selway – Bitterroot Wilderness Area
A large portion of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area is within the Bitterroot Mountains.
The Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area includes 1.3 million acres, which ranks 3rd in total size of wilderness areas in the country.
Only Death Valley Wilderness and Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness areas are larger.
1,800 miles of unmaintained and rugged trails wind their way through healthy populations of pine, fir, spruce, cedar and larch.
Only one 60 foot wide unimproved road separates the larger Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area from the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area.
Together, these two wilderness areas comprise some of the most expansive and rugged backcountry anywhere in the world.
That’s a Good Question
The mountains are located in southwest Montana, along the Montana / Idaho border.
Trapper Peak at 10,157 feet.