The Pioneer Mountain Scenic Byway extends north from Hwy 278 between Dillon and Jackson, Montana, to Hwy 43 at Wise River. You will see mountain meadows, lodgepole pine forests, and broad “willow bottoms”, not to mention numerous varieties of wildlife.
The first sight on your tour is the tiny rural town of Polaris. Then the Grasshopper Creek Valley widens to spectacular views. Ranching is the economic mainstay for the valley and the valley is dotted with haystacks built by “Beaverslides”.
As you travel you will pass Maverick Mountain Ski Area, where visitors can enjoy the 18 trails, with a 2,100’ vertical drop and an average annual snowfall of about 200 inches. After a long day of skiing, you can then visit Elkhorn Hot Spring and soak in their out-door natural hot pools year-round. Traveling on you will come upon the meadows of Moose Park and Crystal Park.
Rock hounds come to Crystal Park in the summer to dig for quartz crystals and amethyst. The park is open to the public free of charge.
As you descend the 7,800-foot divide between Grasshopper Creek and Wise River, you will see the old railroad bed of the Montana Southern Railway, the last narrow-gauge railroad built in the U.S. The railroad served the Elkhorn Mine, one of the largest ore-mill structures in the U.S., It also served the town of Coolidge, which grew up around the mill. Elkhorn and Coolidge offer an interesting side trip from the byway.
The byway ends at the ranching community of Wise River, situated along the Big Hole River. Fishing enthusiasts arrive seasonally to try their skills on the blue ribbon river. This byway features great sight-seeing along with wonderful recreational opportunities.
Reprinted from Dillon Chamber of Commerce brochure.