The Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route is a scenic alternative to Interstate 90. The sixty-four mile drive, which runs between Drummond and Interstate 90 outside of Anaconda, is a “must-do” drive for anyone passing through Montana on the Interstate.
The route follows the northern shoreline of Georgetown Lake, a beautiful mountain lake tucked away at the base of the Anaconda Range. The route also passes through the beautiful Philipsburg Valley and follows Flint Creek.
The Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route is a designated Montana scenic route. The full length of the route is sixty-four miles (between Interstate 90 outside of Anaconda and Drummond, Montana). The actual designated scenic route, though, is fifty-five miles in length and runs between Anaconda and Drummond.
Beginning at the eastern start point of the drive, the scenic route follows Highway 1 toward the mining town of Anaconda. Visitors should not be discouraged by the terrain when driving the nine miles between the Interstate and Anaconda. This nine-mile part of the drive passes through the largest Superfund site in the United States, with barren gravel flats being the dominate life form. As such, the views are, to be charitable, less than inspiring, although the snow-covered peaks of the mountains beyond give a hint of what lies ahead.
The terrain changes dramatically after the route passes through Anaconda. To the west of Anaconda, the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route climbs steadily, with the gravel and barren flats of the valley below giving way to forested mountains. And soon the drive reaches the scenic shoreline and clear waters of Georgetown Lake.
For several miles, the route follows the shoreline of the lake. The tall and snow-covered peaks of the Anaconda Range rise beyond the lake and provide a picturesque view. Numerous campgrounds and scenic pullouts are available. The Discovery Ski Area, a great little ski area, also lies tucked away on a side route.
Beyond Georgetown Lake, the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route loses elevation quickly as it twists and turns down through Flint Creek Canyon. Old mining relics can be seen along this section of the drive.
Once the drive reaches the bottom of Flint Creek Canyon, the route heads north through the sprawling and scenic Philipsburg Valley, with the Flint Range mountains rising to the east and the Sapphire and John Long Mountains to the west.
The town of Philipsburg itself lies just a mile off the Highway and is well worth taking the time to visit. Philipsburg is an old restored mining town and has numerous shops that cater to passing tourists. The town is also the jumping off point to visit the Granite Ghost Town. Additionally, several scenic drives begin in or just outside of Philipsburg, including the Skalkaho Highway.
After passing Philipsburg, the drive continues to head north, closely following Flint Creek, which has fair trout fishing but also suffers from difficult access. Twenty-six miles north of Philipsburg, the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route crosses the Clark Fork and ends in the town of Drummond, at the junction with Interstate 90.
Overall, the Anaconda-Pintler Scenic Route is a very scenic alternative to Interstate 90. Anyone passing through this part of Montana (between Butte and Missoula), should spend the extra hour it takes to drive this very scenic byway.