- Bitterroot National Forest lands begin in the foothills above the Bitterroot River Valley and extend into the Bitterroot Mountain range to the west and the Sapphire mountain range to the east. Scenery on the Bitterroot National Forest can only be described as breathtaking. The Bitterroot Range rises abruptly from the valley floor, dominating the view of all who live or travel in the valley. Vertical relief of about 5,000 feet is attained in 3 to 4 miles. Breaking this front at intervals of 1 to 3 miles are 30 deep, rocky, glaciated canyons. Vertical relief along the Sapphire Mountains to the east is less ruggedly spectacular, but much of the Sapphire Range is also in full view from the valley.
Beginning on the valley floor at an elevation of 3,200 feet, the forest ascends to an altitude of 10,157 feet at the top of Trapper Peak. Vegetation varies from high desert on the valley floor through various timber types and into alpine meadows and rock scree on the mountain tops.
A trail system of 1,600 miles (long enough to reach from Missoula, Montana, to Chicago, Illinois) is in place on the Bitterroot Forest. The 600 plus miles outside wilderness is open to a variety of uses, including motorized use and mountain bikes. Included in this system are portions of three trails of national significance: the Continental Divide Scenic Trail, the Lewis and Clark Trail,and the Nez Perce Trail. The use of saddle and pack stock is widespread.
Two rivers which are part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers system flow through the Forest. The Salmon and Selway Rivers provide a unique whitewater experience; the demand for use is great enough that a permit system is in effect.
Recreation - The Bitterroot Forest offers a variety of recreation opportunities with primary emphasis on backcountry or primitive activities! Hiking, horseback riding, and camping at developed sites and in dispersed areas, hunting and fishing and downhill skiing are a few of the more popular activities.
Developed recreation sites include campgrounds picnic areas, group camping and picnic areas, boat launch facilities, a downhill ski area, and rental cabins.
Climate - The summer climate in the Bitterroot Valley is mild, with summer daytime temperatures in the 70's and nighttime in the 50's. Temperatures at higher elevations are generally 10 degrees cooler, and frosty nights or snow are possible at any time of the year. Snow in the valley seldom stays very long. At higher elevations snow begins to accumulate in October and obtains depths up to 10 feet before disappearing in July.
The Bitterroot National Forest occupies 1.6 million acres in the Northern Rocky Mountains, surrounding the Bitterroot Valley in west central Montana and a portion of the Selway River drainage in east central Idaho. Primary access is provided by U.S. Highway 93 which bisects the Forest from north to south. The Forest Headquarters is located in Hamilton, with offices also in Stevensville, Darby, Sula and West Fork.