Highway 38, a primative seasonal road three miles south of Hamilton also known as the Skalkaho Highway, links Hamilton and Philipsburg. This drive into the Sapphire Mountains takes you on some of Montana's least traveled mountain roads. The road was once a heavily used trail for Indians. A road was built over the route in 1924 to link the mining areas in the mountains with the agricultural communities of the Bitterroot Valley. This is a narrow winding drive that offers some excellent views and takes you past Skalkaho Falls. Trailers are not recommended as there are narrow curves with limited pull-outs.
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 Pintlar Ranger District of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Skalkaho Pass sits at 7,260 feet above sea level.
This isolated, mountainous 23,000-acre wildlife area is forested with dense spruce and subalpine fir, amid beautiful lush meadows. The area is closed to hunting. In the spring and summer, look for Gray and Steller jays, dark-eyed juncos, Brewer's sparrows, olive-sided Flycatchers, and Hairy woodpeckers.
Visitors in the fall may see large concentrations of elk and hear bull elk bugle from the high basins in early morning or late evening, especially east of Fool Hen and Kneaves Lakes. Hikers can see mountain goats around Dome Shaped Mountain, near the junction of trails 313 and 86, which follow the ridge around Skalkaho Basin. Watch for moose along trail 321 in the Burnt Fork drainage. Mule deer, badgers, coyotes, and black bears are common throughout the area. Mountain biking is a good way to see wildlife, especially during the fall road closure period, October 15 through December 1. Trail 313 offers prime opportunities for overnight cross-country ski trips.
Since only the first 10 miles of Montana Highway 38 are plowed and this area becomes a popular snowmobile destination during the winter months. Skalkaho Pass Area offers 26 miles of groomed trails.
From Hamilton, travel 3 miles south on US Highway 93, then turn east on Montana Highway 38 (Skalkaho Highway) and proceed 26 miles east to the top of the pass (20 miles of gravel). Turn north on Forest Road 1352 (closed to all motorized vehicles October 15 through December 1) and drive for 5 miles into the Skalkaho Basin (past Dam Lake). A wildlife interpretive sign and orientation map is on FR 1352 right after turning off MT 38.
From this site.
We drove over Skalkaho today to Gem Mountain. It was a nice drive but I'm tired.