Going Off-the-Beaten-Path in Montana on the Big Sheep Back Country Byway

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Are you looking for a scenic drive to experience Montana’s empty spaces and big skies? Alan and I recommend adding the Big Sheep Back Country Byway to your Montana road trip itinerary.

Big views are the goal on a drive along the Big Sheep Back Country Byway in Montana. #boomertravel #adventure #montana
Big views are the goal on a drive along the Big Sheep Back Country Byway in Montana.

Located in the far southwestern corner of Montana near the Idaho border, this 50-mile scenic dirt road, administered by the Bureau of Land Management, travels between Dell on Interstate 15 and Highway 324 near Clark Canyon Reservoir. You’ll discover a mostly 2-lane road that’s in good condition, although a short portion near Highway 324 becomes a quagmire after a good rain. The road is open from May to October.

Looking back as the Big Sheep Back Country Byway climbs out of Big Sheep Canyon in southwestern Montana. #boomertravel #Montana
Looking back as the road climbs out of Big Sheep Canyon.

Alan and I drove the Big Sheep Back Country Byway while on a road trip that also explored the Pioneer Scenic Byway near the Big Hole Valley.

Starting in Dell, the drive travels through an open valley before following Big Sheep Creek into Big Sheep Canyon. For the next 10 miles, the road winds through the canyon following the course of the creek. If you have a Montana fishing license, stop to test your luck with the trout. Although bighorn sheep and deer also make the canyon their home, we saw no signs of them during our drive.

A sign along the Big Sheep Back Country Byway points the way to a fun off-the-beaten-path drive in #Montana. #boomertravel
Big Sheep Back Country Byway follows the arrow to Cabin Creek.

At mile 17, take the right fork that points to Cabin Creek. Here, the vast Medicine Lodge Valley is the center of attention.

You'll see the remote Medicine Lodge Valley on a drive along the Big Sheep Back Country Byway in #Montana. #boomertravel #roadtrip
Medicine Lodge Valley is one of the most remote spots in Montana.

A power line and a fence are the only reminders of human habitation. It’s as if you’re looking back through time, sharing the view with a Native American band of hunters or a group of wanderers from prehistoric days. Alan pulls the car over several times so that we can sit and take it all in, including the dramatic rise of the Beaverhead Mountains to the west.

A sign points to Old Bannack Road on the Big Sheep Back Country Byway in #Montana. #roadtrip #boomertravel
We want to come back for a drive on The Old Bannack Road.

At the top of a steep hill, a sign designates the Old Bannack Road. It’s a temptation for another day—one we plan on taking.

We used the Montana Benchmark Road & Recreation Atlas to plan our route. The atlas includes highways, secondary roads, byways, four-wheel-drive roads and hiking trails.

Eventually ranches appear and the dirt becomes a country road. At Highway 324, Alan follows the signs to Bannack State Park where we walk the streets of Montana’s most well preserved gold mining ghost town for a historical end to an adventuresome day.

Are you a fan of out-of-the-way places? Read our off-the-beaten-path in Montana recommendations.

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