Spring weather starts to get nicer and nicer as the pages on the calendar turn, but sometimes it’s still iffy whether your hike will take you into a snow flurry or shorts weather. Enter: the spring drive. And when you take it to the ultimate scenic level, it elevates your road wandering experience. Here are some of the best scenic drives around Three Forks that’ll get you out churning miles and burning rubber—in the best way possible.
We talk about Norris Hot springs a lot over here, but that’s just because we love it (and with good reason). Beyond the soothing soaking mineral waters, there’s good food to enjoy, and an even better view on the drive there. You don’t have to just head there and back on the highway—although the view over to the Tobacco Roots on Highway 287 is one you don't want to miss. You can also loop back around on some back country roads if your vehicle feels good about gravel. See another (off-highway) side to the area when you take Madison Road.
Check two slices of Montana small-town life off your list when you take the loop from Cardwell to Pony and back to Three Forks. The road out of town links up with 287 south, and then it’s just a quick jaunt to catch Highway 2 past Lewis & Clark Caverns (a nice pit stop for cave tours from May to September). After the park, the road takes you through windy Jefferson Canyon where you can ogle the towering limestone cliffs lining the river. LaHood Steakhouse checks dinner off the list, just in time to link up with Highway 259 to take you back through Harrison, a quick jump from Pony. As the nights lengthen toward the summer solstice, you have time to enjoy the views, along with a brew or two at Pony Bar, before you head back to the Sac.
North to Helena
Helena is more than just the state capital. It’s a cute little city that is less than an hour of driving through striking scenery between the Elkhorns and the Big Belt Mountains. Zip up on Highway 287, and then enjoy your time in town before you head back via Boulder on I-15 to 69 for a little change of scenery.
Ennis to West Yellowstone
There’s a saying in these parts—it’s not “all roads lead to Rome” but “all roads lead to Yellowstone.” And sure enough, Highway 287 takes you all the way south to the west entrance of the park. You can mosey through and exit at Gardiner to come back via Livingston for a full day’s loop of natural beauty.
State Parks Loop
The cluster of three state parks around Three Forks frames the town perfectly, and hitting them all in one day is well within the realm of possibility for a scenic drive. Missouri Headwaters is the closest to town, but start at Madison Buffalo Jump to make a loop back through Trident to Headwaters, and then on to the Caverns. Even if you’re not looking to head underground, the overlooks along the park road are a perfect drink-in-the-view stop.
If you enjoyed this blog, take a look at some of our other related articles:
- An Itinerary for the 20-Hour Getaway to the Sacajawea Hotel
- Taking to the Water: Floating and Canoeing Around the Missouri Headwaters
- Fishing the Missouri Headwaters: What You Need to Know
- Headwaters Adventure Guide