Known as the Skalkaho Highway, this primitive road connects Philipsburg/Flint Creek Valley with the Bitterroot Valley/Hamilton, MT., and is open from June to September. From Highway 1 south of Philipsburg turn right onto Highway 38, commonly known as the Skalkaho Highway. Highway might be too strong a word to use for this rough, rutted gravel road but Highway it is. It is a short-cut which connects the Bitterroot Valley to Philipsburg. The pass sits at 7,260 ft., and it is a good idea to make sure the pass is open before setting out. There are times during the summer when, due to weather, the pass is closed. It should be noted that there are no facilities anywhere on the Skalkaho Highway, nor is there any cell phone service.
A challenging road to be sure but you will find the Sapphire Mountains to be quite scenic with hiking options, many photography options, Skalkaho Falls, and some camping. It is not recommended to pull a trailer if unfamiliar with the road. There are many hair-pin turns, and you will encounter oncoming traffic.
There are two campgrounds along Highway 38, Black Bear Campground with 6 camping sites in the Darby Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest and Crystal Creek Campground with 3 camping sites in the Pintler Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Skalkaho Pass sits at 7,260 feet above sea level.
Crystal Creek Campground
There are 3 sites available on a first come, first served basis. There are fire rings for each site. There is no fee for this area. Vault toilets. There are some excellent opportunities for cutthroat trout in the creek. Mud Lake (above) near the campground with very good fishing. There are nearby hiking trails leading into the Sapphire Mountains. There is no garbage service at this campground so please pack out what you pack in. Generally available from July 1 – September 30.
Black Bear Campground
Black Bear Campground is located in Bitterroot National Forest at an elevation of 4,500 feet. There are 6 available campsites, which can accommodate trailers up to 50 feet long. Accessible vault toilets, fire pits and picnic tables are available. This is a pack in/pack out campground. The campground is adjacent to Skalkaho Creek, easily accessed from each campsite. Please limit your stay to 14 days. Season of operation depends upon weather conditions and accessibility but is generally available from June 1 – September 15.