11 Best Hikes in Missoula

  • Besides its thriving culture, historic buildings, and spectacular museums, Missoula is also known for its scenic hiking trails.

    This tranquil city in Western Montana is a popular choice for a day of good, old-fashioned adventure exploring beautiful trails that overlook lush mountains, pristine clearwater springs, and flourishing wildlife. And with 60,000 acres of surrounding wilderness, the choices are endless!

    If you’re planning to take a hike in or near Missoula, then you’ve come to the right place. Pack your bags because these 11 trails are some of the best that Missoula has to offer!

    1. Mount Sentine

    Previously known as “Mount Woody”, Mount Sentinel is one of the most hyped hiking trails in Missoula. Near the University of Montana, the trail has a sharp elevation and remarkably scenic routes. It’s also known as the “M” trail thanks to the big, white concrete “M” that adorns the top of its approximately 5,158-foot peak. 

    Beginning near Washington-Grizzly stadium, the zig-zag route up the extensive mountain face packs a punch of adrenaline for every hiking enthusiast. If you love the magnificent view of sunsets from elevated vantage points, then Mount Sentinel is the perfect destination for you. 

    The wide-eyed view from Mount Sentinel offers the quintessential Montana experience and is one of the best trails for hiking near Missoula. If you’re in town for other reasons—or you’d just rather be golfing—this is “the one” hike to do while you’re here.

    People hiking with backpacks

    2. Waterworks Trail

    Also known as the North Hills Trail, the Waterworks Trail is an exquisite spot for a quick hike at any time of the day. Also recognizable by the massive peace sign on its mountain slope, the elevated terrain of this trail forms a silhouette on the northern side of the city. 

    This adventurous hiking trail in Missoula offers an excellent view of the surrounding valley as well as the city. If you want to enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the Rattlesnake Mountains to the west and the Bitterroot Mountains to the south, Waterworks Trails promises an unforgettable experience.

    3. Rattlesnake Mountain Trail

    Located near Missoula, the Rattlesnake hiking trail is a densely forested trekking area that is less than a five-mile drive from the city. Rattlesnake has several singletrack routes that serve as a common connecting trail for many other nearby trails and is a delight for mountain bikers.

    This hiking trail near Missoula also adjoins one of Montana’s best recreational areas. Besides hiking, there are many other things to do here. Go biking, horseback riding, or fly-fishing for trout.

    4. Sam Braxton National Recreation Trail

    Located in the Pattee Canyon National Recreation Area, the Sam Braxton Trail is a few minutes’ drive from downtown. With a designated outdoor playground that covers 3,200 acres of ponderosa pine and old-growth larch landscape, this hiking trail near Missoula is named after the multitalented skier and cyclist Sam Braxton, but you won’t need his full athleticism to take on this hike.

    With a scenic loop and total elevation gain of less than 500 feet, the trail is an enticing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

    5. Kim Williams Trail

    Kim Williams Trail follows the Clark Fork River that helms the town. Drawing its name from a well-known Missoula conservationist, this hiking trail near Missoula extends for about 2.5 miles along the river corridor near Mount Sentinel.

    There are ample bird-watching opportunities and numerous side treks along the Kim Williams Trail that are adventurous journeys for mountain bikers. 

    In addition, the challenging hike up Hellgate Canyon to Mount Sentinel’s summit is also a treat for adrenaline junkies who love the thrill of trekking.

    6. Morrell Falls Recreation Trail

    Nestled within the Lolo National Forest, this well-known hike to Morrell Falls is about a 1.5-hour drive from Missoula. One of the most alluring hiking trails that Western Montana has to offer, Morrell Falls is famous for being a family-friendly spot. 

    The route to the trailhead diverts straight from the highway near Seeley Lake, which offers an irresistible view of the landscape. With only a slight elevation, navigating the trek is quite easy. The slippery conditions near the waterfall prove a bit challenging at times, so watch your step as you go on this adventure.

    7. Ch-Paa-Qn Trail

    Otherwise known as the Sleeping Woman trail, the Ch-Paa-Qn trail is a challenging 1,700 feet uphill hike. Compared to other more popular hiking trails near Missoula, Ch-Paa-Qn isn’t that widely known among tourists, which makes it all the more appealing if you want to avoid the crowd.

    Reaching the trailhead can be painstaking on foot, but it can be easily traversed via a rental car because the roads are in good shape. The Ch-Paa-Qn trail is helmed by shoulder-high shrubbery and dense forest, and from the summit, you get a 360-degree view that is worth the rock scramble.

    8. Blue Mountain Loop

    The Blue Mountain Loop is a 3-hour-long hiking trail near Missoula that offers a barrage of crisscrossing routes with some lovely views. This trail offers opportunities for biking, horseback riding, and snowshoeing as well.

    Also, if you are a loving pet parent, Blue Mountain can be your go-to option to offer some off-leash fun for your friendly canine companion.

    9. Lolo Peak

    If you’re looking for challenging hiking terrains near Missoula, then look no further than Lolo Peak. When you gaze southwest of Missoula, this towering mountain with its snow-capped summit feels like heaven on earth. When you trek to the top, the entire world might feel like a place for the dwarfs. 

    Lola Peak should be in the top 5 of your ‘Missoula Hiking Trails’ bucket list. With an elevation of 9,000 feet, you can admire the entire southern horizon of the city. Mormon Peak is the starting point for the trailhead and is accessible from Highway 12 located out of the small but remarkable town of Lolo. 

    10. Mount Jumbo

    Located picturesquely across the Clark Fork River, the “L” Trail on Mount Jumbo is yet another eye-catching hiking spot near Missoula. The letter “L” represents the Loyola Sacred Heart Catholic High School. 

    Although the “L” trail is easier to trek than the “M” trail on Mount Sentinel, there are plenty of routes with elevated landscapes. After the “L” route, trekkers can also follow the “Jumbo Backbone Trail” and head down the South Face Trail. 

    The Backbone hiking trail in Missoula leads to the North Zone of Mount Jumbo, where there are other paths with subsidiary routes.

    11. Barmeyer Trail

    Barmeyer Trail is the way to go if you’re looking to hike near Missoula. This is another marvel of Missoula’s natural treks located on the south side. Barmeyer Trail marks the inception of a planned trekking network on Mount Dean Stone and the most typical route to reach the scenic viewpoint starts from Pattee Canyon Road.

    Person hiking on a gravel trail near mountains

    Easiest Way To Reach The Trailheads

    Though Missoula’s hiking trails are a treat for the senses, reaching them can prove challenging because of the rough terrain and weather conditions. We recommend renting a sturdy vehicle from a reputed rental company like Missoula Car Rentals. Pick one with ample space for your equipment and other necessities.

    With our easy pickup and drop-off service, you can have your car delivered to you exactly when you need it so you can enjoy all your hikes near Missoula. Go through our website to learn more about our services or contact us to book a vehicle for all your hiking adventures in or near Missoula.

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