Updated: Feb 9, 2020
In the southwest corner of Montana lies one of the most scenic valleys in America. Hay fields, orchards and vast pastures are watered by the Bitterroot River as it meanders the ninety-five mile length of the Valley, which comprises most of Ravalli County and a portion of Missoula County. Surrounded by the theatrical backdrops of the Bitterroot Mountains and Sapphire Range are unique towns and villages rich in history. Home to more than 55,000 residents, the Valley has an abundance of accessible public lands offering a wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities.
Health care facilities are excellent, there is a wide range of housing choices, and an array of services and shopping venues. Although the cost of food is higher than the national average because of the Bitterroot’s relatively remote location, utilities and transportationare significantly less expensive. According to bestplaces.net, the overall cost of living in the Valley is below the national average.
The Bitterroot College campus of the University of Montana offers higher education to graduates of the Valley’s excellent public school system. Live theatre, concerts, art shows, professional sporting events, rodeo and horse shows, festivals and celebrations are part of the growing cultural scene.
Tourism is strong player in the economy of the Bitterroot Valley, creating a market for unique products such as art work, antiques and locally made crafts. Principal industries include agriculture, retail, health care, medical research, log home building, and wood products. Changing consumer demands have encouraged farmers who raise specialty crops such as herbs and organic vegetables, and specialty animals such as llamas, ostriches and emus. Recreational opportunities include hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding; fishing in blue ribbon streams; boating and swimming in the lakes, rock climbing in the mountains, white water rafting on the Bitterroot River, and birding most everywhere. The Valley is popular with hunters stalking big game, upland birds, and waterfowl. There are two ski resorts an hour’s drive from Hamilton, in the heart of the Valley, and another one two hours away. For golfers there are three courses, two public and one private. Two wildlife refuges present opportunities for wildlife studies and photography. Two hot springs resorts offer naturally fed hot pools, lodging and camping, dining, and guided activities.