For a lot of people, Skalkaho Falls is one of the favorite sightseeing destinations in the Bitterroot Valley.

For others, it's a white-knuckle wrestle with Montana's mountain roads. 

Yet, if you're willing to appreciate the wonderful vistas beyond the drop-offs, or have a driver you can truly trust, the climb up Skalkaho is a great experience, especially in the fall. That's not only because of the fall colors but the lighter amounts of traffic and dust on the road's upper reaches.

KGRZ Missoula logo
Get our free mobile app

It's easy to start your drive up the Skalkaho.

Just head south on Highway 93 and turn left toward the Sapphire Mountains where the road curves a few miles south of Hamilton. The road is smooth, and tame, as it winds through the reaches of the Southern Bitterroot along Skalkaho Creek. 

This is a very special corner of the Bitterroot, as you pass the nearly vanished community of Grantsdale, once a rival to Hamilton in the early pioneer days. The colors on the lower stretch are simply spectacular, and varied, as aspen and cottonwood vie for your attention. And later in the season, fiery maples dot the hillsides. 

If you're driving and trying to ease your passenger's fears, stop at the Centennial Grove Trail for a calm-inducing walk through the forest.


Because from here it gets, well, interesting. 

As the road turns to gravel, the adventure begins, as you wind your way along steep drop-offs to the primary destination at Skalkaho Falls. While the falls aren't as impressive in the fall, it's still a chance to really experience the drop up close. Just be careful climbing across the rocks. 

Photo; Dennis Bragg
Photo; Dennis Bragg

Would I recommend you keep going to Skalkaho Pass at 7.200 feet and beyond into the sprawling country along the West Fork of Rock Creek? It totally depends on your time and the anxiety of your passengers. For those of us with a lot of backroad experience, it's a piece of cake, although a rough one since the graders went through it at the beginning of summer. 

But if you've heard whimpering and whining, or even downright tears to this point? Turn around at the falls. Everyone will be a lot happier. 

When is Apple Day in the Bitterroot? When the pies are done!

Behind the scenes in Montana making the best pies under the Big Sky

More From KGRZ Missoula