Outdoor Weekend Getaway: 3 Reasons to explore Missoula, Montana

Explore Missoula Montana - green hillside

While Montana doesn’t always make it onto lists of top vacation destinations, the state and more specifically the city of Missoula is one of the Northwest’s best-kept secrets. It’s a perfect place for an outdoor weekend getaway - there are countless options including kayaking, camping, biking, and hiking. Missoula is also quite well known for being a prime fishing destination.

Missoula is also a college town and has all of the benefits that come from a larger college-aged population. There are many bars, restaurants, and things to do. If you’re planning a trip to the Garden City for an outdoor adventure, here are some recommendations for activities and destinations you can add to your itinerary:

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1. Great Food and Drink

Missoula, Montana has a wide range of culinary options that will satisfy every taste. It’s an up-and-coming trendy city and it has a growing foodie culture. And no outdoor weekend getaway could be complete without a good selection of fun and tasty places to eat after your 

If meat is your thing and you enjoy barbeque, the famous Notorious P.I.G. BBQ is a legendary option. The pitmaster here, Burke Homes, trained at various restaurants throughout the country before opening this restaurant. 

Caffe Dolce is another fantastic option. The menu here changes regularly as they use the freshest seasonal ingredients whenever possible. You can eat here throughout the day and try some classic American fare with a local and refined twist.

Tamarack Brewing is local to the area and has a brewpub in Missoula that features a sports pub ambiance. You can enjoy your beer with some of the incredible food they offer such as burgers and sandwiches.

 

2. Outstanding Hiking Trails

Missoula is set in the middle of a beautiful landscape and is perfectly situated for a thriving outdoor recreation scene. One of the best ways to enjoy the area is to hike through it. Here is a list of some amazing hiking trails to try:

 

The “M” Trail

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Distance: 1.2 miles

  • Time Needed: 1 Hour

  • Trail type: Out and Back

The “M” trail is a fairly popular trail that offers both an easy and a difficult option so you can find an experience that fits your skill and fitness level here. One of the benefits of this trail is its location - it’s not too far out of town which makes it fairly easy to access. At the highest point of the trail you can see incredible views of the surrounding area.

 

Rattlesnake Trail

  • Difficulty: Hard

  • Distance: 34 miles

  • Time Needed: This is a multi-day trip

  • Trail Type: Out and Back

While the Rattlesnake Trail is quite long from start to finish, many people complete portions of it for a day hike. The first nine miles or so of the trail are fairly gentle and there are multiple side trails you can try. This is a great option if you would like to see some of the flora and fauna in the area - for example, you may have the chance to see beaver dams along the trail! 

 

Maclay Flat Nature Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 1.7 miles

  • Time Needed: 1 hour

  • Trail type: Loop

This short trail is a great easy option for those who might not have time for a long hike but still want to experience the area. Informative plaques are located along the trail with information about the region and the trail is mostly flat and made of packed gravel. You walk through a flat meadow and along a beautiful river while enjoying views of the mountains. 

 

Waterworks Hill

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 3.5 miles

  • Time Needed: 2 hours

  • Trail Type: Out and Back

The Waterworks Hill Trail is a mostly gravel covered route that takes you up a hill and rewards you with incredible views. If you are traveling with dogs, they are allowed on this trail as well. This trail is fairly popular so if you would like it to yourself plan on coming early in the morning.




3. Scenic Cycling in Missoula

As Missoula is also a great spot for cycling, mountainbiking or road. There is a huge selection of beautiful routes for you to pick from. Here is a selection of three mountainbike trails, with varying levels of difficulty that are popular options:

 

Kim Williams Nature Trail

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Distance: 2.5 miles

This route is quite short and gentle, making it a great option if you’re pressed for time or are tired after a long day of exploring the rest of the Missoula wilderness. It’s a great option if you want to stop and enjoy some of the wildlife that lives along the trail.

 

Pattee Canyon Recreation Area

  • Difficulty: Moderate

  • Distance: 27 miles

This trail is mostly dirt packed and can be loose at points. There are some sharp inclines but you are rewarded with moderate downhill portions throughout the trail as well. This is one of the most popular bike trails in the region and you’ll likely see other bikes during your time here.

 

Blue Mountain National Recreation Area

  • Difficulty: Moderate / Challenging

  • Distance: Varies

There are several different trails and routes to pick from at Blue Mountain National Recreation Area, each varying in difficulty and maintenance status. While many trails are well-maintained, others are not so always pay attention to your surroundings as you bike. 

 

Put Missoula On Your List

Missoula, Montana is a wonderful place to go - it may be an up-and-coming travel destination and an established college town but it has the perfect balance of isolation and things to do. 

You can spend your mornings and afternoons exploring the wilderness on foot or by bike and finish off your days with an incredible meal and a cool beer at any of Missoula’s impressive eateries or breweries. Whatever your ideal vacation entails, Missoula has an option for you.