I have been contemplating this road trip for quite some time and finally decided to sit down and figure it out. The goal is to visit amazing places in Montana while simultaneously drinking good beer. I stuck to western Montana to keep the driving times manageable, plus it is beautiful here and totally worth visiting. A caveat - I have not done this trip, so I don't have the logistics worked out. I am listing the high points and from there it is choose your own adventure. If anyone out there wants to do this trip and document it let me know! Don't forget to check out the Montana Brewer's Trail Map to help you find your way to good beer!
Here is the driving loop starting and finishing at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport:
The Magruder Road Corridor (MRC) is a 101-mile gravel road through wilderness spanning the Idaho-Montana border. The road travels between the Selway-Bitterrot Wilderness in the north and the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness in the south. These two wilderness areas make up the largest block of land with no roads in the contiguous US. The actual road was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's. The MRC was created when the Central Idaho Wilderness Act was passed in 1980 creating the corridor through the two wilderness areas.
The MRC spans from Elk City, Idaho to Darby, Montana. Along the way there are numerous campgrounds, lookout towers and other waypoints. The real draw of traveling this road is the difficulty is high enough most people either can't drive it or won't want to. The road is one-lane most of the way with limited turn outs for passing. You need a high clearance vehicle with 4WD, a dirt- or mountain bike or OHV. The average speed is 12-15 miles per hour in a vehicle.
Last month Jon and I, along with our pup Piper, needed to get from our home in Livingston, Montana to Boulder, Colorado for an event. Heading straight there we could do the drive in +9 hours, but the route travels through some uninspiring landscapes. We were able to get a few days off work to extend the trip. While we have explored many areas of the west, including the Pacific Northwest and Southwest, we somehow had missed most of Wyoming and Colorado.
Our route began in Livingston traveling south to Jackson, Wyoming on Highway 287, then Highway 20. We skipped traveling through Yellowstone National Park because we needed to make good time. Tourism in the summer keeps the park roads congested, but if you've never been there don't miss Yellowstone. It is one of the most amazing places in the west. Once we hit Jackson we continued heading south on Highway 191.
The first night we camped at Granite Creek just outside Jackson. Our timing was perfect to see the wildflowers and we were able to find a nice camp spot on the creek. If you continue up Granite Creek Road there is a developed hot spring called Granite Hot Springs. You can drive directly to the hot springs and there is camping within 1/2 mile. While we did not partake this time I will definitely be going back!
From Granite Creek we headed to the Flaming Gorge Recreation Area. The best way to experience this area is to go to Green River, Wyoming and head south on Highway 530. From this road there are many Forest Service roads accessing the reservoir which means free camping! We discovered many people set up their RVs and leave them for the week, so while it appeared to be crowded there were not a lot of people around in at least some areas. We camped right on the water which was warm and great to swim in. The air temperatures were peaking in the low 100s during the day so we were ready for some relief!
Amy Bowser is the co-owner of Paradise Overland with her husband Jon. In their free time they explore anywhere they can get to with their Toyota and roof top tent.