Mullan Road–Bearmouth to New Chicago

  • Length
    • Bearmouth to HW 1: 17 miles
    • HW 1 to gate past New Chicago: 4.1 miles
  • Mostly dirt road
  • High point: 4731 ft
  • Owner: private range land (Stay on the road's right-of-way)

This drive features a hilly segment that Mullan engineered to avoid steep cliffs along today's Clark Fork River. Today's road follows closely Mullan's original route through a remote area allowing you to easily imagine travel in earlier times.

To start at the western terminus, leave I-90 at the Bearmouth exit, (exit 138). Head east to a junction near Bearmouth. That road, labeled Mullan Trail on most maps, continues to Montana State Highway 1 where you can continue east to New Chicago or head back to the freeway at Drummond.

If starting from the east, take the first Drummond exit you come to. Follow the abundant signs to Montana Highway 1 and head towards philipsburg. After 2.7 miles, you will arrive at Mullan Trail Road. You can proceed either east to New Chicago or west to the Bearmouth exit.

An optional hiking trail begins about halfway along this drive, the Beacon Hill Trail. It is 2.5 miles one way and dogs and hunting are prohibited. Be sure to take the trail down to the spring and then climbs 700 feet up Beacon Hill.

Present Mullan Trail Road passes through New Chicago which once had a population of 1300. Most of the buildings were moved to Drummond after the Northern Pacific railroad came through in 1883. Just past New Chicago, Valley cemetery provides a quiet reflective space. Mullan Trail Road ends about 4 miles east of Highway 1. The only way out is the way you came in.

Highway 1, which bisects this drive, leads to philipsburg and Anaconda—both interesting destinations for the historical traveler.

In Drummond, the old New Chicago School, built in 1874 by John Fetherman, is home to the local Historical Society. The building has several historic photos of the area and other interesting displays.

This route is dirt and gravel and passes through a handful of sections that will likely have pooled water and mud through late spring. In summer, these areas present deep, dry ruts. High clearance vehicles, ATV's, and mountain bikes are best suited for this road. As always, know your capabilities and pay attention to present road conditions. When in doubt, stay away.

Drone aerial of a dirt road winding through a sage-brush valley
Link to an elevation profile

© 2015–2023 Kristopher Townsend