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Big Hole National Battlefield is A Short Drive from the Bitterroot

bighole sign
The entrance sign at the Big Hole National Battlefield. (NPS Photo)
The Big Hole National Battlefield is right along the highway on Montana 43. It is part of the Nez Perce Trail that tells the story of Chief Joseph and his 1877 attempt to get his people to Canada, away from the US reservation system. Pursuing soldiers caught up with them here August 9th, 1877.

The Visitors Center has been refurbished with new exhibits, so if you haven’t visited recently, you need to make the trip.

It’s not a long drive. From Hamilton, you head south on US 93. At the top of Lost Trail Pass, you turn left onto Montana 43 and almost immediately cross Chief Joseph Pass. The road makes a gentle descent into the Big Hole, a spectacular Montana landscape in its own right.

Only 16 miles from the top of the pass, you see the sign off to the left. Turn onto the road and you’ll immediately see the visitors center. The battlefield is operated by the National Park Service.

You can learn quite a bit in the visitors center, but if you don’t mind a walk, there are three trails that take you to the actual sites of the attacks. It’s usually pretty sunny, so take some water.

After your visit, visit the friendly folks at Wisdom – down the road a piece. Of course, there’s the hot springs at Jackson, and farther along that road is the old ghost town of Bannack, which is bursting with western history.

You can visit any day of the week. The park hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

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