Missoula to Swan River Valley/Flathead Valley and Back + ADD NEW ROUTE
16 in Montana Montana228 Miles
on July 1, 2008
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tart by heading east out of Missoula, MT on I-90 east Get off the freeway at the Bonner exit and head east on State Route 200. Follow the road around through Bonner. Continue on route 200 east/north about 40 miles until you get to Clearwater Junction (This will be marked with a giant cow). Turn left onto Highway 83 North. Follow this road past Salmon and Seeley lake and you will eventually come to a small town called Swan Lake (approximately 75 miles past the cow). Travel about another 17 miles past this and you will be in Bigfork, MT, right at the northern end of Flathead Lake. This is an excellent place to stop and have lunch. Take a break and browse some of the many shops in this quaint little village.
After leaving Bigfork, head south on Highway 35 approximately 50 miles to Polson, MT. Highway 35 is a slower winding 2 lane highway that winds around the east side of beautiful Flathead Lake. You will wind through many cherry orchards, so feel free to stop and get some fresh cherries while enjoying this spectacular ride.
At the south end of the lake, you will arrive at Polson, MT. This is another good place to stop and take a break. There are a lot of good places to eat and fuel up. Then head south on Highway 93 towards Missoula. This will take you through the beautiful Mission Valley, with the spectacular Mission Mountains rising high above the valley. There are many towns to stop along this route and many places to pull off and take in the scenery. Continue following Highway 93 south until you get back to Missoula, MT. You can either take I-90 to get back to downtown Missoula or simply follow 93 around as it turns into Highway 10. .
Scenery is excellent! On the first leg of the ride, you will be surrounded by beautiful mountain ranges with snow capped peaks on either side. Thick pine forests and mountain lakes are scattered throughout the ride, providing excellent places to stop and take in the scenery. On the east side of the road, you will see the Bob Marshall Wilderness with all of it's jagged peaks and dense forests. On the west side, you will see the back side of the beautiful Mission Mountain range.
The second leg of the ride winds down the east side of Flathead Lake, providing for some spectacular riding and breathtaking scenery. Cherry orchards line the route. In the later summer, be sure to stop off at one of the cherry stands and enjoy some fresh Flathead cherries.
Once you get past Flathead Lake, you will be graced with the spectacular Mission Valley, with the Mission Mountains sticking high above the valley. There are many places to pull off and take in the scenery along this road..
Road quality is fairly good. The roads are mostly 2 lane paved highway and are in fairly good repair. On Highway 83, you will find pretty few cars and should have a pretty easy ride. The road along the east side of Flathead lake is somewhat windy and narrow and is limited to 50 MPH. You will most likely find a little more traffic on this road. Highway 93 out of Polson is a good highway, but has quite a bit of traffic as this is the main road between Missoula and Kalispell, MT.
The first leg of the ride is a bit more limited on places to eat and fuel up, providing stops only about every 30-40 miles. The second half of the ride has small towns scattered throughout the route, so fuel (the bike or yourself) is a bit easier.
Special note: At Bigfork, MT, you can turn Right onto Highway 35 and follow it north and eventually arrive at West Glacier, MT. This is the main entrance to Glacier National Park and the beginning of the Going to the Sun highway. The entrance is about an hour past Bigfork makes for an amazing ride on bike.
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