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The Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive

Lower Rock Creek & the Sapphire Mountains
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Closely following the famed trout fishing waters of Rock Creek in Southwest Montana, the Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive is a remote voyage that no one in search of trout should ignore. Although the views from this backcountry drive can’t compare to many others found throughout Montana, the pretty country, the remote nature of the drive, and the superb access the road provides to Rock Creek make this route well worth taking.

The Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive is a forty-two mile drive that follows the Rock Creek Road between Interstate 90 (at the town of Clinton) and the road junction with Montana Highway 348. A journey down this road is not a fast one. The narrow width, numerous tight turns and frequently bumpy nature of the road insure that it is difficult to exceed the 20mph speed limit found along most of the route.

The Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive begins in the town of Clinton, which lies right on Interstate 90. If you’re planning on following this route, Clinton is the place to grab any needed supplies, since there are no services of any kind along the byway.

Rock Creek
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From Clinton, the byway heads south. The first eight miles of the road are paved. Enjoy this stretch, since once the road turns to gravel at the National Forest Boundary, speeds will dramatically drop and the bumpy, twisty nature of the road will test even the most patient of drivers.

Although the road will test the patience of drivers, anyone who enjoys fishing will love the remainder of the drive, since for the next thirty miles the road closely follows the famed Rock Creek, one of the best trout fishing streams in Montana. As the road cuts through National Forest, anglers can park anywhere to gain access to the river. In short, anglers will have unlimited access to explore over thirty miles of Rock Creek.

Since the Rock Creek Road passes through National Forest lands for most of it’s length, camping is abundant. There are several developed campgrounds along the road, all of which lie right along the river. Just be warned that the developed campgrounds are rather expensive and tend to be in “high-demand” during summer weekends.  Fortunately, there are tons of primitive camping spots available along the route, some of which are just a few blocks away from the developed campgrounds.

The best views found along the drive are located near Clinton and near the road junction with Montana 348. In these areas, the drive passes through more open, flatter terrain. The middle thirty miles of the drive passes through heavily forested terrain, with forested mountains crowding both sides of the road and river. As such, the middle section offers limited views.

Overall, the Rock Creek Road is a superb backcountry drive that follows one of the best trout fishing streams in Montana. And while Rock Creek Road is primarily used by anglers in search of trout, non-fishing visitors who enjoy slow, twisty drives through forested and remote terrain should enjoy a journey down the Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive.

Quick Facts

  • Length: 42 miles
  • Highlights : Rock Creek, John Long Mountains, Welcome Creek Wilderness Area, Sapphire Mountains
  • Road Type : Primarily gravel, with a eight mile paved section
  • Nearby Towns : Philipsburg
  • 4wd needed? : No, except during mud season or periods of extended wet weather
  • Traffic : Light
  • Trailers? : Yes
  • Season : Most of the drive is not maintained for winter travel

Map of the Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive

The map below shows the route and location of the Rock Creek Road Backcountry Byway in Montana, along with several other nearby scenic drives.

Map of the Skalkaho Highway Scenic Byway

Topographical Map Books

Montana Atlas & Gazetteer : If you plan on venturing off the highways in Montana, get this book - plain and simple. Maps cover the entire state in high detail.    More Info

Photos of the Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive

Rock Creek and Open Valley The Famous Rock Creek Rock Creek & Forested Mountains

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Where to Stay & Other Services

There are no services of any kind along the Rock Creek Road Backcountry Drive. Supplies and gasoline can be picked up either in Philipsburg or at the northern beginning point of the drive at the junction of Interstate 90 and Rock Creek Road. But once on the drive itself, plan on being self-sufficient!

Camping areas are abundant along the drive. Numerous designated and primitive camp sites, most right along Rock Creek, are located along the route.

For those wanting their Internet and coffee, the best place to find lodging is in Missoula, which is about thirty-miles from the northern starting point of the drive.

Lodging in Missoula

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