The Ultimate Travel Guide To Jackson MT & Things To Do

Jackson, Montana, with a grand total of 36 people and five streets, isn’t the place to go if looking for wild nightlife and boutique shopping. But it is a perfect gateway to a deluge of outdoor winter and summer adventures. Jackson and the neighboring town of Wisdom (population 104) are situated in the Big Hole Valley between the Beaverhead and Anaconda Ranges and the Pioneer Mountains – considered some of the best recreational areas in the state.

These small towns in the Big Hole Valley still maintain vestiges of the Old West, but what really draws tourists to this area is the renowned fishing, abundance of snow sports, outstanding mountain hiking trails, relaxing hot springs and incredible panoramic beauty. Jackson, Montana, is an ideal weekend escape for nature and sports enthusiasts alike or for those who just want to breathe in fresh mountain air surrounded by the spectacular snow-capped scenic views.


Best Time To Go

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Big Hole River

The Native Americans referred to Big Hole Valley as “land of big snows” and for good reason. The valley and surrounding mountains receive a lot of snow during the months of winter and often during early spring and late fall.

Winter is a perfect time to go to enjoy the many winter sports available in the valley, but if fishing and water sports are the draw card, then spring and summer are the times to visit.

Average temperatures:

  • December, January and February can drop to between 26 and 11 F (-3 to -12 C)
  • March, April and May between 19 and 55 F (-7 to 12 C)
  • June, July and August can reach highs of 76 F (24 C)
  • September, October and November dropping again to between 41 and 10 F (5 to -12 C).
  • Spring receives the most rainfall and the driest months are during summer.

Related: What To Do In Montana, Depending On Which Month You Visit

What To Know When Visiting

  • Being aware of the weather in all seasons is important when visiting Jackson and the Big Hole Valley.
  • Plan ahead and always be prepared for fluctuating temperatures even in summer.
  • When camping or out in natural areas, be sure to dispose of waste correctly.
  • Be respectful of natural areas and the wildlife.
  • Minimize campfire hazards.

Best Ways To Get Around

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Big Hole Valley

  • If heading north into Big Hole Valley via Idaho Falls, take the I-15 until just before Dillon at the south of the valley. Take the County Road 278 47 miles west. Continuing on the 278 will take the visitor to Wisdom.
  • From Butte, in the north of the valley, drive south on the I-15 till Exit 102, then head west on SR 43 for 46 miles.
  • Finally, if coming from the Idaho/Montana border in the west, take the SR 43 for 25 miles to Wisdom.

For an authentic Old West experience, check out local accommodations in the small towns. Big Hole Valley is fully prepared for the needs of all types of tourists, offering a range of accommodations from RV and camping parks, lodges, hotels, and motels.

Keep in mind that the nearest gas station and store are in Wisdom, 18 miles North, or Dillon, 50 miles East.

Big Hole River RV Park

  • Full hook-ups with 30/50-amp service at each site and pull through sites for big rigs.
  • Tent sites available.
  • Clean showers and restrooms
  • Open June through September/October weather permitting.
  • 211 Park Street, Wisdom, MT 59761
  • $

Bunkhouse Hotel

  • Over 100 years old and recently refurbished
  • Modern conveniences with old western decor
  • Full Beer & Wine license at the Hotel
  • Next door to Rose’s Café.
  • Private Hotel Rooms
  • Hostel-style Queen Bed
  • Outdoor Campsites
  • Wi-Fi, TV lounge and bar
  • 207 Jardine Ave, Jackson, MT 59736
  • $$

Jackson Hot Springs Lodge

  • Hot Springs Pool
  • Fireplace with firewood supplied. Additional fire bundles $5 fee
  • Pool table & shuffle-board, foosball and playing cards
  • Hot Springs Grill
  • Cozy western-style room with own fireplace, refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker.
  • Swims and Soaks: Included in room rates but also open to the public // $10 per adult // $7 per child Towels: $1 rental for non-guests available at the front desk
  • Complimentary coffee available in the Lodge for guests
  • 4 pet friendly rooms $15 pet fee
  • TV in the lodge. Our rooms do not have TV’s.
  • WIFI: Available in the lodge only
  • Wedding Receptions: Call us at 406-834-3151 to book an event
  • 108 Jardine Ave, Jackson, Montana 59736
  • $$

The Montana Lodge, Wisdom

  • Beautiful one-room cabin
  • Spacious lounge area
  • The cabin has a kitchen with complete cooking facilities.
  • Private bathroom with heated floors
  • Queen size bed in the main room.
  • Wireless internet and satellite television.
  • The Montana Lodge is available for rent 7 days a week by reservation.
  • 2 Pine Street, Wisdom Montana 59761
  • $175/night for two people plus bed tax

Where To Eat

Big Hole Valley is cattle country, so where better to try out the delicious steaks and burgers? Enjoy the local cuisine in Jackson and Wisdom alongside the cowboy ranchers who probably raised the beef!

Jackson Hot Springs Lodge Dining

  • Appetizers, salads, sandwiches, burgers and chicken dishes.
  • Restaurant Hours: Thursday – Sunday, 8am – 9pm / Monday, 8am – 10pm
  • Breakfast 8am – 11am, Lunch 11am – 5pm, Dinner 5pm – 9pm
  • Bar food all day
  • Bar Hours: Thursday – Sunday // 8pm – 12:30am / Monday // 8am – 10pm
  • Live music!
  • 108 Jardine Ave, Jackson, Montana 59736

Roses Café and Cantina

  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Burgers, Steaks and more
  • 201 Jardine Rd Jackson, MT 59736

Fetty’s Bar and Grill

  • Homemade desserts, soups, bagels.
  • BBQ pork ribs on Friday nights
  • Prime Rib Saturday nights.
  • Call ahead and they will accommodate any baking needs.
  • Restaurant:
  • 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday
  • 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday
  • CLOSED on Tuesdays
  • Bar:
  • 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday 8 a.m. to close, Friday to Sunday
  • CLOSED on Tuesdays
  • Summer Hours:
  • Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday 8a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Friday and Saturday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Closed on Tuesdays
  • 327 County Road 43, Wisdom, MT 59761

Antlers Saloon

  • For Cowboys, truckers, ranchers, locals and tourists alike
  • Homemade pizza pie and ice-cold beer
  • Main Street Hwy 43, Wisdom, MT

Related: Summer Eats In Montana: How To Score All The State’s Best Bites

What To See And Do In Big Hole Valley

Photo: Rob Crandall/Shutterstock

Wisdom, Big Hole Valley, MT

There’s a hole… sorry, whole, lot of things to see and do in the Big Hole Valley! Visitors come to Montana for many reasons, but the most common ones tend to be for the spectacular natural scenery, the “Old West” experience of cowboys and ranching, adventure sports, and camping or fishing.

The Big Hole Valley offers all this and more.

Let’s start by looking at some of the towns in and near the valley, each with something unique to offer.

Towns In Big Hole Valley

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Bannack Ghost Town, Montana


If traveling north along the I-15, the first town to pass on the way to the Big Hole Valley (with a short detour) is Bannack. Bannack was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and is a wonderful place to start. It’s a chance to step back in time to when men spat tobacco and squinted at the sun.

It’s hard to believe Bannack once had a population of ten thousand at the height of its Gold Rush era of the 1860s.

Today the tumbleweed blows past 60 beautifully preserved log and brick frame buildings and every third weekend in July a re-enactment brings the abandoned town back to life for its “Bannack Days” celebration. It offers wonderful insight into how the gold miners lived more than 100 years ago.

  • Bannack Days, with historic displays, re-enactments, and activities, every 3rd weekend in July.
  • Open all year.

Summer Hours:

  • Memorial Day – August 10, 2022, 8 am – 9 pm
  • Shoulder Season Hours:
  • August 11, 2022 – September 30, 2022, 8 a.m. – Sunset

Winter Hours:

  • Oct 1, 2022 – Memorial Day 2023, 8 am – 5 pm
  • Closed December 24 & 25
  • Tours are conducted from the visitor center, which is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day.


Jackson was named after the town’s first postmaster, Anton Jackson, in 1896. Though the tiny town has seen bigger booming days, today it is one of the smallest towns in the US worth a visit.

But it is a fabulous place to enjoy the hot springs for which Montana is also famous and is a welcome stopping point for many cyclists who follow the Great Divide Trail (that spans the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico) as well as the Trans-American Route (from Astoria, OR to Yorktown, VA).

While the snow falls and the wind chills, a good soak in the hot springs at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge is a welcome respite. When feeling warm and cozy once more, head on over to the Buffalo Gal Hat Company for a handmade cowboy hat and other clothing.


Photo: melissamn/Shutterstock

Big Hole National Battlefield, MT

Wisdom is named for the Wisdom River before it became the Big Hole River. Today, the historic town includes a few tourist lodgings, a service station, a grocery store, a primary school, a post office, and a Forest Service office.

A ten-minute drive west of Wisdom takes the visitor to The Big Hole National Battlefield where a battle took place between local tribes and the US Army on August 9th and 10th during the Nez Perce Flight of 1877.


Technically, Dillon, capital of Beaverhead County, is part of the Beaverhead Valley, but if travelers are feeling the need for a little more large town vibe, then Dillon (pop. 3880), near the County Road 278 turnoff, is the place to take in one of the several museums dedicated to the local history, stores, as well as great restaurants and bars.

Don’t forget to check out the best of the local beer at Beaverhead Brewing Company. Early September is the time to catch the festivities in Dillon with music, rodeos, and competitions.

Exploring National Parks and Forests

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Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, MT

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest was originally two forests that were joined in 1996. It is now the largest National Forest in Montana extending 3.35 million acres over eight counties.

It’s a perfect place for viewing the amazing array of flora and fauna; bears, cougars, lynxes and wolves, wolverines, elk, moose, and bald eagles all call this forest their home.

Hiking and biking along the 1,500-mile trails are popular activities in the warmer months, as are boating, swimming, fishing, camping, and hunting, but be sure to check for any necessary permits first.

In winter, there are 250 miles of snowmobile routes as well as some of the best cross-country skiing trails in Montana.

Sheepshead Recreation Area is a great place for picnicking and lake fishing and is easily accessible for the disabled.

Fishing in the Big Hole River

Through the Big Hole Valley runs the wild un-dammed Big Hole River, one of the seven blue-ribbon trout streams in the state of Montana and renowned for its fly-fishing.

Fishing enthusiasts come from all over the world to try their luck at catching the rainbow, brown, and brook trout. The river boasts an impressive 3000 fish per mile, but it still requires skill to catch them.

Summer is the best time to wade when the waters are low, and during spring it’s advisable to find a boat.

Winter Adventures

Big Hole Valley, like so much of Southwest Montana, is a haven for the winter sports enthusiast, from downhill and cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowboarding to ice fishing, snowshoeing, and skating.

Then there are less familiar winter sports such as skijoring (like water-skiing but on the snow where a rider on horseback pulls a skier around an obstacle course), snow kiting (kite surfing on skis) and frozen sailing (wind surfing on the icy lake).

Whatever sport is humanly possible to do on snow or ice, it is being done in Montana! Just a 35-minute drive east of Jackson are the Maverick Mountain ski slopes and if visiting in February, be sure to time the visit for the Big Hole Winter Valleyfest to see their skijoring in action!

Cowboy Country

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Beaverslide, Montana

The idiom ‘Make hay while the sun shines’ is certainly true for Montana. Their cattle are sustained during the long harsh winters by the large quantities of hay produced during the warmer months.

Big Hole is known as the ‘Valley of 10,000 Hay Stacks’ as well as for the unique ‘beaverslides’ that dot the plains. These large metallic structures are used as giant haystacks, capable of containing up to 20 tons of hay, 30 feet high.

Far fewer are still in use these days, but it’s possible to catch one or two of them in action late July.

Big Hole Valley is an authentic cowboy country. With more cows and horses than people, the ranches on this land are some of the oldest in Montana, passed down from generation to generation.

Roping, herding, and branding have been going on for more than 150 years and rodeo events, cattle drives and plenty of horseback riding opportunities are available in the valley.

Related: 10 Most Unique Montana Tours To Experience The Best Of This Iconic State

How To Spend A Perfect Day In Jackson And The Big Hole Valley

Photo: Tracy Grazley/Shutterstock

Big Hole River in fall

It’s easy to fill this guide with superlatives to describe the natural beauty and the plethora of activities in the Big Hole Valley.

The area epitomizes the ideal getaway for sports enthusiasts, nature lovers, history buffs, Wild West aficionados, and thrill-seekers alike.

For a perfect day or two, try beginning with a scenic drive around the Big Hole Valley Loop for an overall impression of the area.

The drive is 162 miles and takes around 3.5 hours (not including stops) passing through Jackson, Wisdom, Wise River, and Dillon with wonderful views of the mountains and river.

Or take the shorter Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway from Wise River to Polaris. This 38-mile paved road passes through the Pioneer mountain of coniferous forest, several campsites, and the historic ghost town of Coolidge.

Participate in some fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, or wildlife spotting. Finish the day at the Jackson hot springs and later with some Montana grub at the local pub, rubbing shoulders with authentic cowboys. Montana’s more famous attractions such as Yellowstone National Park lie in the southeast of the Valley, Glacier National Park in the north, and limestone caverns in the east.

Not forgetting the many exciting cities and small towns dotted around this amazing state, but the Big Hole Valley is truly a perfect year-round little-known destination well worth the trip.


Q: How can I protect myself from dangerous wildlife in the National Forests?

The Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest has a mandatory forest-wide Food Storage Order. Bears and other potentially dangerous wildlife generally keep away from the public. But always keep food in sealed containers and carry bear spray when walking the trails.

Q: How far is it from Big Hole Valley to Yellowstone National Park?

It is 335 miles (539 km) from Jackson to Livingston, the gateway to Yellowstone National Park following the I-15 and the US-191 highways.

Q: Where is the best place to fish in the Big Hole River?

One of the best places to go fishing in the Big Hole River is the 25-mile section that runs parallel to Hwy 43 because it is easily accessible and has some of the best wade fishing on the river.