On the Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, you can travel the length of the Pioneer Mountain Range. Granite peaks topping 10,000 feet in elevation are to the east, and gentler, forested terrain stretches out to the west. You'll see mountain meadows, lodgepole pine forests and broad willow bottoms. The road gently ascends a 7,800 foot divide between Wise River, flowing north, and Grasshopper Creek, flowing south. Interpretive sites along the byway tell travelers about the natural scene and some of the interesting history of the Pioneer Mountains. You may also visit the ghost town of Coolidge and the abandoned Elkhorn silver mine
.Some of the best blue-ribbon trout fishing in the state can be found on the Big Hole River, which runs by the town of Wise River. Annually, locals and out-of-towners try their luck against the brook trout, rainbow trout, and cutthroat trout that can be found in the river and side streams.
You may even find some excellent fishing in one of the harder to get to high elevation lakes. Numerous trails leading into the Pioneer Mountains begin along the Byway. Most of these trails are for serious hikers and backpackers only. If you are able and have the time the experience of following in the footsteps of some of the early trappers, traders, and mountainmen is a rewarding experience. Afterwards you may want to relax your muscles in one of the hot pools at Elkhorn Hot Springs. The soothing water is naturally heated to a temperature around 100 degrees.
The winter months bring snow and excellent cross-country and downhill skiing. For a scenic drive with a slight twist try snowmobiling the Pioneer Mountains Byway. Closed for the winter it is a National Recreation Snowmobile Trail, offering great snowmobiling surrounded by beautiful views elegantly blanketed in fallen snows.
Directions: The Scenic Byway starts at Montana State Highway 43 in the town of Wise River and travels south approximately 49 miles over Forest Service Highway 73 to County Highway 278. From Wise River the Byway goes south up the Wise River Valley for a distance of 26 miles to Crystal Park where the Byway tops out at approximately 7800 feet above sea level. This section of the road is paved. From this high point, the road drops slightly to Price Creek where it turns into a lane and a half wide groveled and dirt surfaced road. This section of the road winds along steep forested hill sides descending into the Grasshopper Creek Valley, passing near Elkhorn Hot Springs and the Maverick Mountain Ski Area before reaching the open grass and sage brush covered hills near the valley bottom along Grasshopper Creek. Approximately 4 miles further down the valley lays the small settlement of Polaris, Montana. The Scenic Byway ends at the junction with Beaverhead County Road 278, 7 miles down the road from Polaris
.The road is officially closed from December 1 through May 15 between Pettengill parking lot to the north and Elkhorn Hot Springs to the south. During that time, the byway is a National Recreation Snowmobile Trail, offering great snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. Between Price Creek and Highway 278 the Byway is gravel or dirt, and narrows to 1 lane in some stretches. However, paving is currently underway on this section. Driving time is about1.5 hours and the length of the drive is about 49 miles.