The Best Things to Do in Missoula, Montana

  • With its jagged Rocky Mountains and stunning Great Plains, Montana is a naturally exciting state that people come from far and wide to explore. If you’re flying into Missoula, you’ll find a variety of fun things to do. Known for its natural beauty and vibrant city center, this area has so much to offer. No matter which season you visit, Missoula has an array of enjoyable activities for small or large groups, couples, and families looking to explore. Read on to discover the very best things to do near Missoula, Montana in every season!

    Spring & Summer Specialties

    Summer is arguably the best time to visit Missoula, Montana, so if you’re looking for nearby things to do to fill those long, hot summer days, you’ve come to the right place! Enjoy these activities and experience all that spring and summer in Missoula have to offer.

    Explore Rattlesnake National Recreation Area

    Missoula’s easy access to the great outdoors is one of its best features. Found at the intersection of rivers, mountains, and beautiful wide-open spaces, there is a wide array of things to do outdoors near Missoula, Montana. Located just 4 miles north of the city, Rattlesnake National Recreation Area is home to more than 73 miles of trails for hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing. With an abundance of Montana-native flora and fauna, this area near Missoula can offer a full day of things to do for any group looking to explore the outdoors. Birdwatch, fish, or try to spot an elk or mountain goat, and don’t forget to bring your bear spray!

    Woman in blue on a hiking trail

    Tour Alberton Orchards

    This unique getaway lies only 30 minutes from Missoula, but it feels like a different world. Soak in the breathtaking mountain scenery and wander the vineyard and orchard. Alberton Orchards offers an agrotourism experience, allowing you to harvest directly from the vine and enjoy farm-to-table produce. If you’re lucky enough to visit in late August or early September, we recommend picking fresh Honeycrisp apples from the orchard.

    Visit Vibrant Downtown Missoula

    Missoula’s beautiful natural spaces aren’t its only offering. This university city is known for its vibrant downtown area which offers a wide array of shopping outlets, free museums, theatres, and more. As the second-largest city in Montana, Missoula’s bustling downtown will keep you entertained with things to do for days on end. Arrive in style and walk around the area’s endless shops, grab a bite to eat, catch a show at the historic Wilma Theatre, and ride Missoula’s famous carousel. Caras Park features public grounds for enjoying summer weather and picnic lunches. It’s the city’s outdoor centerpiece and is home to hundreds of events each year. Check to see what’s going on over the dates of your visit.

    Browse the Missoula Farmers’ Market

    The Missoula farmers’ market has gathered food and friends together since 1972. Supporting local farmers and neighborhood vendors has never been more enjoyable. The market strives to offer fresh, healthy, locally grown and produced food at affordable prices throughout the growing season each year. With such a wide array of fresh and local Western Montana favorites and things to do, this Missoula market will be a fun activity for everyone in your group. From fresh produce and locally sourced meats and cheeses to baked goods, fresh flowers, and crafts, you’ll be sure to enjoy a morning or afternoon of exploring the wide array of vendors. Luckily our rental vehicles are equipped with lots of storage space for all of your market purchases!

    People shopping at a farmers market

    Visit the Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center

    Smokejumpers are firefighters who parachute into remote areas of national forests to fight wildfires. This center located near the Missoula airport is the USA’s largest smokejumper training base and a great thing to do in to appreciate how we protect Montana’s wilderness. The center offers an in-depth look into the life of a Western firefighter, and their tours will take you all the way back to the advent of smokejumpers in 1939 up to the daily lives of these heroes today. Explore the facility and a reconstructed lookout tower, see where uniforms and parachutes are repaired and packed in locker areas, learn about all of the equipment, and even see the smokejumper planes. Visitors love learning more about forest ecology and wildfires, and the center offers free entry for non-guided tours.

    Fall Fun

    Fall is a beautiful time to explore Missoula, Montana’s natural landscapes with fun activities amidst the season’s vibrant colors. Experience stunning hiking trails and leisurely downtown attractions in the cooler weather!

    Hike the “M” Trail

    If you’re visiting Missoula, Montana, going for at least one hike is an absolute must-do activity! The city is home to hundreds of acres of nature to explore and endless hiking trails ranging from quick and easy to all-day summit climbs. The “M” Trail is located on Mount Sentinel and is a semi-challenging but extremely rewarding hike! At less than a mile long, this winding trail with 600 feet of elevation takes you up to a large letter “M” located halfway up the mountain. There, you’ll be rewarded with expansive views of the Missoula Valley, distant mountain peaks, and the city of Missoula itself.

    Missoula university building in fall

    Visit Garnet Ghost Town

    Fall is the perfect season to visit Garnet Ghost Town, Montana’s most well-preserved ghost town. Over a hundred years ago, Garnet was a thriving town for gold miners and their families, nestled between the Garnet mountains. Around 1000 people inhabited the town in 1898, and with minimal restorations and incredible preservation efforts, you can experience a look into what life might have been like in this once-bustling city. Explore the town on foot, but be prepared for some uphill walking and steep and bumpy sections of driving to reach the area! Not to worry, all of our rental vehicle options will easily tackle the area’s exciting terrain. This is a great outdoor thing to do in Missoula, Montana even on cooler fall days.

     Abandoned old ghost town

    Explore Lolo National Forest

    Established in 1906, Lolo National Forest surrounds Missoula on all sides and covers more than two million acres. One of the state’s most important areas for timber, Lolo has four designated wilderness areas within the forest which can all be reached from Missoula with a short drive or bike ride. The forest area near Missoula, Montana features an array of things to do including fishing, hiking, biking, trail riding, skiing, and snowmobiling opportunities along with a variety of camping sites. Western red cedar trees up to eight feet in diameter can be found in the forest, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a grizzly or black bear, elk, moose, or mountain goat. Be sure to come prepared with water, snacks, bear spray, and comfortable clothing in your spacious trunk or truck bed.

    Winter Warmers

    There’s no shortage of things to do in Missoula, Montana, even in the winter season. These activities can be fun for your group, even on cold winter days.

    Visit the Fort Missoula Museum

    Found at one of Montana’s first military posts, the Fort Missoula Museum is home to educational rotating exhibits surrounding the fort’s history throughout World War II and is a great thing to do on a winter day. The museum boasts a wing dedicated to the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps, a recreated Western town from the late 1800s featuring carriage houses and homestead cabins, and various exhibits surrounding Western soldiers and prisoners of war. Over 20 preserved historic buildings make Fort Missoula an incredible Montana attraction for any season, with candlelight tours offered around the holidays. Take a walking tour through the fort and enjoy low admission prices and the presence of friendly staff on site to answer any questions you may have.

    Sip at Big Sky Brewing

    Warm up with a variety of things to do inside Big Sky Brewing’s cozy atmosphere right in the heart of Missoula, Montana and sip a selection of local craft and specialty beers and spiked seltzers. Big Sky Brewing opened in 1995 and offers a tasting room, brewery tours, and apparel and bar supplies for sale. It even has an on-site amphitheater featuring concerts and events throughout the year. With a wide variety of seasonal and regular ales featuring Montana critter-themed names and artwork, one of Big Sky’s most famous creations, Moose Drool, is a must-try at this Missoula attraction!

    Brewery employee pouring beer on tap

    Explore the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation 

    Located right in Missoula, Montana, The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is a non-profit organization that offers educational and interactive exhibits surrounding elk and their habitats, many kid-friendly activities, and a nature trail, giving you an entire day of things to do. The foundation works to ensure the future of elk habitats and the state’s healthy hunting heritage. Since their founding in 1984, the foundation has worked to conserve more than one square mile of elk country each day! Your visit will help to support the mission as you have fun testing your wildlife knowledge, identifying animal tracks, feeling the weight of elk antlers, and more.

    Four elk in the grassland

    Ski at the Montana Snowbowl

    Looking for a thrill? Just a 12-mile drive northeast of Missoula, you’ll find one of the best local winter sports destinations. Seasoned snowboarders and skiers love the long runs and downhill excitement. Equipped with two lifts, a chalet, and a hotel, Snowbowl is a great local winter sports option that is also a more affordable choice than some larger Montana ski resorts. Enjoy the thrills of the slopes and the après-ski activities for a full day and evening of fun!

    We hope you enjoy your visit to Missoula, Missoula and experience some of these fun things to do. Whether your Montana adventure keeps you near or takes you far, we’ve got your transportation covered at Missoula Car Rentals. All of our vehicles are well equipped for Montana’s exciting terrain. Call us or request your quote today.