THE PIONEER MOUNTAINS AND CRYSTAL PARK

Map of The Pioneer Mountains and Crystal Park

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Biking Photos (14K)Location: Wise River Drainage
Type: Road Ride
Rating: Moderate
Mileage: 16 miles

This 16-mile road ride, rated moderate, follows the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway, one of the finest stretches of pavement in all of western Montana for road riding. You consistently climb as you ride south on the road, fairly steeply at times. (If you opt to ride south to north that changes to an "easy" rating.)

The scenic byway begins in the Big Hole River-side settlement of Wise River, heading south first through open sage flats as it takes aim at the big dark bulk of the Pioneer Mountains. By the time you reach the recommended beginning point, you're well surrounded by the East and West Pioneers, steep, timber-and-scree-covered slopes that occasionally give way to lush meadows.

The ride's terminus/turnaround point is Crystal Park. Here there are mining claims that are open to the public. Families and individuals come from near and far to dig for crystals - using hand tools only - in the area's decomposed granite soils. Crystals of both smoky (brown) quartz and amethyst, a purple-hued quartz, can be found here, generally ranging in size from about an inch up to six inches long. There's also top-notch picnic facilities at the site.