This university town and cultural hub retains a rugged, northwestern charm, with hiking, climbing, fishing and rafting all within minutes of the town center.
Take advantage of the abundance of natural beauty around the town of Missoula in Montana and head for the designated wilderness areas nearby. Hike trails, climb rock faces or go tubing down rivers. Head into the town for gentler pursuits, where several galleries, funky shops and informative museums offer their various charms.
Originally known as “Hell Gate” because of warring native tribes, Missoula was founded as a trading post. The town soon grew into the hub of the Glacier County Region, which encompasses an area between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains in north west Montana. The city has an abundance of outdoor attractions on its doorstep as well as one of the most attractive university campuses in America and a liberal, arty downtown area.
Take in a view of the city by hiking to the “M” on Mount Sentinel. The large letter is a symbol of the University of Montana. If you’re feeling energetic you can carry on up the trail for even better views of the city and the nearby Rattlesnake Wilderness Area.
Downtown, don’t miss Caras Park, which features the historical Missoula Carousel as well as good fishing, walking trails and children’s areas. It’s also the location for several food and music festivals throughout the year.
Art lovers will appreciate the contemporary collection at the Missoula Art Museum. The town has a reputation for great art, and you can explore this for free on the First Friday’s events. The city’s galleries are free of charge and open late on the first Friday of every month. Learn about the area’s past in the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula.
Driving around the city can be confusing for the first time visitor, so use the excellent public bus system. Buses even run out of town to wilderness reserves where you can hike, fish, climb or raft down the rivers.
When the cold winters set in swap your hiking boots for a pair of skis, or take a trip to the nearby Lolo Hot Springs.