Missoula is a medium size city in Western Montana with a population of about 70,000. The hub of five valleys in the northwest region of the state, or Glacier Country, the town boasts the University of Montana, the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area, and a multitude of recreational opportunities, along with an active and colorful downtown.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 30 37 46 57 66 74 84 83 71 57 40 31
Nightly lows (°F) 14 20 25 32 39 46 50 49 40 31 24 17
Precipitation (in) 1.2 0.8 0.9 1 1.8 1.8 1 1 1.1 0.8 0.9 1.1

Though physically part of the Rocky Mountains region, culturally Missoula identifies closely with the Pacific Northwest. Home to the University of Montana and often considered by residents as the most liberal city in Montana, it's an interesting mix of ranchers, cowboys, hippies, yuppies, students, artists, athletes and recreationalists. Graduates from the University of Montana frequently remain in Missoula, creating a large over-qualified work force. A local barista or cook may have, at the very least, a Bachelor's degree. Tip well; they have loans to pay off!

Get in

The easiest way to Missoula is by air. Cities with year-round non-stop service to Missoula's Airport (IATA: MSO) include Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Oakland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle. There is seasonal non-stop service to Chicago, Portland (Oregon), and San Francisco.

Missoula can be reached by car via US Interstate 90, or US Highway 93, which runs north - south from the Idaho border at Lost Trail Pass all the way to Alberta, Canada. US Highway 12, which follows the Lewis and Clark trail on the west to and from Idaho, provides access to unspoiled wilderness areas and great scenery.

Be advised that road conditions in Montana can be very hazardous in the winter, and if you are not accustomed to driving winding mountain roads or in extreme snow/ice/sleet/hail/rain conditions, you should exercise extra caution.

Get around

Overview of the Missoula city center

Visitors to Missoula often remark that the city is hard to get around in by car, a fact Missoulians famously owe to conflicting city engineers at the turn of the century. The confusing roadways make the Mountain Line city bus system a great way to get around -- but with a little orienting, the city can be much more easily navigated.


Geographically, Missoula is dominated by the scenic Clark Fork river that flows through downtown and the mountains ringing the city. The Kim Williams Trail, which follows the waterfront, is an easy way to appreciate the former. Tubing, rafting, and canoe/kayaking are also good options in the summer.

Mt. Sentinel, on the east side of town, offers a scenic trail system. A trail starting at the University of Montana leads 700 feet up the mountainside to the “M,” which offers great views of the city. More adventurous hikers may continue another 1400 feet to the peak of Mount Sentinel, which offers great views of the city, the Rattlesnake Wilderness to the north, and Mount Jumbo to the north. Those with binoculars may perceive the ancient shoreline of Lake Missoula on Mount Jumbo, marking the edge of an enormous ice-age lake. One can also take the trail off the backside of Mt. Sentinel, which zig-zags down crossing the parasailing jeep road a few times to a sign which shows the lovely trail down thru forest on Sentinel's north side that ends at the old railroad tracks, now the Kim Williams hike/bike trail, and then back to the parking lot at the "M" trails base. Doing the loop in reverse is also very pleasant.

Manmade scenic attractions include the Missoula carousel in Caras Park, the historic courthouse, a fine old train station (closed to the public) and several fine art galleries. Lastly, if you enjoy history both of Missoula's historic railroad stations still stand, preserved, and in use. One, built by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad is currently used by the Boone & Crockett Club and the other built by the Northern Pacific Railway is used as office space by local businesses and home of the Missoula Farmer's Market during the summer months.


Missoulians enjoy a range of outdoor activities including hiking, rafting, "tubing", rock climbing, skiing, fishing, golfing, and just about any other activity that can be done outside. It's no wonder—in Missoula you can take a city bus to within walking distance of federally designated wilderness area. After hiking and returning to town, you can visit the historic downtown and enjoy some fantastic local food and drink.

There are a number of summer cultural events worth noting: the International Choral Festival, next scheduled for summer 2012, the River Roots Music Festival, Farmer's markets (three) every Saturday morning. Music and food festivals at Caras Park (off Higgins on the banks of the Clark Fork) Wednesday lunches and Thursday evenings and the Western Montana Fair in August.

Snowbowl, at 7,600 feet, is a great place to ski that is very affordable.

Year-round 'First Friday' finds art galleries open to strolling passersby with music and food offered for free.

The public library on Main Street has special talks and presentations, about Montanan history, for example. There is also a movie 'Cheap date' night with popcorn and a drop-in Scrabble Club Monday evenings.


Thanks largely to the city's vibrant arts community, the downtown offers a wide variety of unique shops. Visit on a Saturday if possible, when there is a street market and farm market.

The downtown Army Navy store offers good deals on an array of outdoors gear. Larger outdoor gear stores are available on Reserve Street, domain of Missoula's big box stores.

The best stores feature local goods from Montana artisans.




There are four breweries in the city with public taprooms:


Missoula wineries include:


Go next

Missoula's immediate surroundings offer a wide array of activities for all seasons, including the outdoor recreation afforded by vast tracts of public lands, the Old West flavor of several nearby ghost towns, several ski slopes, and a range of unique Montana businesses.

Hamilton, Montana

An hour south of Missoula on US-93, the small town of Hamilton offers several worthwhile attractions and proximity to the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains.

Hot Springs


Pattee Canyon has Nordic ski trails groomed regularly when there's enough snow by the missoulanordic.org club, for skating and classic techniques with mostly easy flat terrain, though its often icey. Lolo Pass, 45 miles southwest of Missoula, has good Nordic Ski trails groomed Saturday/Sunday early mornings by the Clearwater National Forest contractor, which offer excellent classic and skating tracks. Theres also a warming hut and a staffed lodge at the pass.

Other Sites

Routes through Missoula

Coeur d'Alene Superior  W  E  Deer Lodge Butte
Lewiston Orofino  W  E  Elliston Helena
Kalispell Polson  N  S  Hamilton Salmon

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.