Missoula is everything water, mountain, music and beer
written by Abby Lynes
A laid-back college town nestled in the hub of five mountain ranges, Missoula has a little something for everyone. With several big concert venues, art museums, a winding river and hiking trails in its backyard, there’s always something to do.
Missoula has nearly every indoor and outdoor activity you could dream. It’s located at the confluence of three rivers and surrounded by seven wilderness areas, and you can kayak, raft or paddleboard your way through town. Missoula is also known as a cultural hub for the state, hosting concerts throughout the year and a monthly art walk downtown that the whole town seems to turn up to.
Everything in Missoula centers on the Clark Fork River. For those looking for adventure, there’s Brennan’s Wave, a manmade wave you’ll see surfers and kayaks on year-round. If a relaxing day in the sun is more your style, you can float down the Clark Fork or nearby Bitterroot or Blackfoot rivers on your chosen mode of transportation.
Missoula has nearly every indoor and outdoor activity you could dream. It’s located at the confluence of three rivers and surrounded by seven wilderness areas, and you can kayak, raft or paddleboard your way through town.
When you’re ready to dry off and gain some elevation, there are plenty of trails in Missoula to take you right into the mountains. Among the most famous is the “M” Trail, which zig-zags up to the big, white “M” on Mount Sentinel, right by the university. Just short of a mile long, hike this trail just before sunset to get beautiful, panoramic views of the valley below.
Trailblazers should also be sure to check out Blue Mountain, Pattee Creek and Rattlesnake recreation areas, all within a fifteen-minute drive of any point in Missoula, with opportunities for hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. And for those willing to venture a little farther, the Bitterroot Valley to the south and the Mission Valley to the north are surrounded by mountain ranges with pristine lakes and endless peaks.
Once back in town, there’s plenty of shopping, eating, music and fun to be had. If you’re here on a Saturday, be sure to check out the farmers markets at multiple locations downtown. After, head over to the Hip Strip to buy vintage clothes at Betty’s Divine and stop by Bernice’s Bakery for a slice of cake.
Foodies will also find a home in Missoula. Biga Pizza is always a crowd-pleaser, featuring locally sourced, handcrafted pizza. If it’s in season, ask for the Flathead Cherry Pizza—you won’t be sorry. For large servings and good beer, Tamarack Brewing is the place to be, and you can’t beat Caffé Dolce for brunch.
If there’s one thing Missoula’s known for, however, it’s its beverage scene. For a classy cocktail in a casual atmosphere, hit up Plonk, a wine bar, or Montgomery Distillery. If you’re looking for beer, Missoula has endless options. Start with a Cold Smoke Scotch Ale from Kettlehouse Brewery and let the locals tell you where to head next.
Looking for more of a caffeine buzz? Missoula excels at coffee and tea alike. Black Coffee Roasting Company, Clyde Coffee and Butterfly Herbs are all sure to get you ready for a day of adventuring.
If you’re in search of a cultural experience, Missoula has plenty to offer. You’ll see public art installations across the city, and Missoula Art Museum has free admission. The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula also provides background on the area, with lots of walking opportunities to wear out kids.
Listening to live music is also a must in Missoula. National acts regularly headline at The Wilma theater and Kettlehouse Amphitheater, and you can see local and up-and-coming artists at the Top Hat most nights. There’s nothing better than ending a day of Missoula adventures than stomping your feet to some tunes at one of Missoula’s many music venues.
Burns St. Bistro
Big Dipper Ice Cream
Shady Spruce Hostel
DoubleTree by Hilton
The Ranch at Rock Creek
Missoula Art Museum
at Fort Missoula
Rattlesnake National Recreation Area
A Carousel for Missoula
Draught Works Brewery
The Union Club Bar & Grill