Great Drives: Montana's Pintler Scenic Route

Driving Montana One

MONTANA LIVING — The Flint Creek valley meanders south from Drummond, off of Interstate 90, toward Discovery Basin Ski area and Georgetown Lake. Large grey boulders punctuate the fields along Montana Highway 1.

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Pintler Scenic Route, Montana Highway One. Dave Reese photos

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Judy Hogan, owner of Hogan's feed store, stands in the doorway of her shop in Hall, Montana. The town is along Montana Highway One, also known as the Pintler Scenic Route.


Turning off of I-90 toward Philipsburg on Montana Highway One, the first paved highway in the state, the vast valley of farm land stretches out before you; but as you drive closer toward the Sapphire Mountains, the valleys narrow, forcing you upward, past Philipsburg and up over a small pass that flattens out at Georgetown Lake. Flint Creek meanders along the highway, beckoning the angler with its deep undercut banks that harbor brook trout and brown trout.

For the day traveler from Butte or Missoula, only an hour away, the drive up Montana Highway One along the Pintler Scenic Route is worth the effort. The route is only about 80 miles long, stretching from Drummond to the east to Anaconda on the west For the traveler on Interstate 90 between Butte and Missoula, the drive over the Pintler Scenic Route is a pleasant diversion from the concrete pathway of the Interstate.

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You'll find yourself stopping along Georgetown Lake, where you can easily cast a fly line from the shores.

Or, maybe you'll venture up to Discovery Basin ski area, where owner Peter Pitcher has created a dandy little ski area for this corner of Montana. Just a few miles south of Drummond on Montana Highway One lies the town of Hall. A feed store, post office and small restaurant remain as the town's only commercial operations, and a tiny grade school sits just off the highway.

Judy Hogan runs Hogan's Feed Store, a small ranch-supply store and lumber yard that offers the basic necessities for running the country farm or home. At the grain elevator across the street, the store workers will be glad to load your truck and stop to chat a bit about the weather. "Things are changin'," Hogan says from behind her counter.

There's more subdivsion of the local farms and ranches, afact of life not all Montanans are happy with but a fact that nonetheless reflects our ability to remain in this state. "There's still a good solid base of the old timers," Hogan adds. "Most of these places have been here forever."

Just down the block at the post office, the postmaster-in-training, Tina Johnson, sorts mail on a crowded workspace covered with letters and packages. South of Hall, the road winds through the Flint Creek valley among old ranches and homesteads crisscrossed by jackpine fences the ubiquitous railroad bed that once hauled the precious silver, gold and manganese ore out of the rich hills. Large granite boulders lie tossed about in the open fields. This is why the county was named "Granite County," and the rich mining history of the valley is displayed by Granite County's high school sports teams, the "Prospectors." (Interestingly, the Drummond High School mascot is the "Trojans.")

Along your drive on the Pintler Scenic Route you'll find remnants of fine architecture scattered throughout Philipsburg and Anaconda. Much of the finer architecture was created in the style of H.H. Richardson, an architect who studied at Harvard and the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in the mid-1800s. His style became known as Richardsonian Romanesque because of the parallels with Romanesque principles. It is a revival style based on French and Spanish Romanesque precedents of the 11th century.

Richardson's style is characterized by massive stone walls and dramatic semicircular arches. Continuity and unity are keynotes of Richardson's style. The style had a powerful effect on such Chicago architects as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright, and influenced architects as far away as Scandinavia.

Whether for a day or a weekend, the Pintler Scenic and Montana Highway One are worth the drive.


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