The Bridger Range Scenic Drive
The thirty-one mile long Bridger Range Scenic Drive is a paved route that runs between Wilsall and Bozeman, Montana. The scenic drive follows Montana Highway 86 (also called Bridger Canyon Road), for its entire distance. Highlights of the trip include the scenic Bridger Range, along with excellent views of the Crazy Mountains.
Beginning in Wilsall, at the junction of US Highway 89 and Montana Highway 86, the Bridger Range Scenic Drive follows Highway 86 to the west, toward the mountains. The views on this stretch of the drive are excellent, with the snow-covered peaks of the Bridger Range rising to the west while the higher peaks of the Crazy Mountains dominate the view to the east.
After passing through the valley, the road turns south and passes the junction with Flathead Creek Road. Those wishing a bit more adventure than a paved highway might wish to explore this road, since Flathead Creek Road climbs through the Bridger Range and crosses Flathead Pass.
Soon after the road junction with Flathead Pass, the route starts to gain elevation and enters the National Forest. Once the road enters the National Forest, the views are a bit more limited due to the thick forest, but there are still enough open areas to keep the drive interesting.
After about twenty miles, the road reaches Bridger Bowl Ski Area. During winter, Bridger Bowl is the place to come for superb skiing, as the ski area receives nearly 400 inches of now a year and has some of the best extreme skiing in the United States.
Beyond Bridger Bowl, the road starts losing elevation as it begins a scenic descent down the mountain toward Bozeman. The route ends at the junction with E. Griffin Drive.
Those beginning the drive in Bozeman might have a bit of difficulty locating the starting point of the drive, since Montana 86 runs underneath the Interstate and does not have an interchange.
When beginning the drive in Bozeman, get off the Interstate at exit 306, the corner with the Wal-mart and Holiday Inn. Go north on the I-90 Frontage Road a few blocks, then go east on West Griffin Road. Those starting this drive in Bozeman might want to check out this map on Google and print it out, to prevent any confusion. As perhaps an easier alternative, visitors should just follow the many signs that point towards Bridger Bowl Ski Area.
There are no services along the route, although a few small type vacation resorts are located along Highway 86 near Bridger Bowl. The best place to load up on supplies is in Bozeman, which has everything.
There are several campgrounds located along the drive where the route passes through the National Forest. Just keep in mind that these campgrounds tend to fill up quickly during the summer, especially on weekends.
Overall, the Bridger Range Scenic Drive is a pleasant alternative to going down Interstate 90. The drive provides excellent views of the Bridger Range and Crazy Mountains. The road is paved and in excellent condition, so it’s friendly to all vehicles, even those with trailers.
Map of the Bridger Range Scenic Drive
The map below shows the route and location of the Bridger Range Scenic Drive, as well as several other nearby scenic routes.
Where to Stay & Other Services
There are no services along the scenic drive. However, Bozeman has everything that a person will ever need.
Camping is available along the route at several designated campgrounds where the road passes through the National Forest. Additionally, by heading off onto some of the side roads, visitors should be able to find some nice primitive camping spots.
For lodging, Bozeman and nearby Belgrade have many lodging options. Except during peaks summer months (when a reservation is always a good idea), visitors shouldn't have problems finding a room in the Bozeman and Belgrade area except during times of "special events" at Montana State University.