Three rivers run through it along with recreation and culture
written by Ryn Pfeuffer photography by Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development
Missoula, Montana, is nicknamed “The Garden City” for its lush, green landscape and numerous parks. Located at the confluence of three rivers—the Clark Fork, the Bitterroot and the Blackfoot—you may be familiar with this mountain town from Norman Maclean’s book A River Runs Through It, which chronicles his experiences fly-fishing on the nearby Blackfoot River. When locals aren’t floating or fishing, they can be found biking, hiking and running; exploring Glacier and Yellowstone parks; and enjoying food and music at numerous downtown venues.
Kick off your trip by exploring downtown Missoula. The city of roughly 76,000 people offers a variety of boutique shops, restaurants and galleries. Also check out the Missoula Farmers’ Market on Saturdays from May to October. In its fifty-first year, the long-running community-based market offers a wide range of locally grown produce, artisanal crafts, and live music.
Save room for a plate of St. Louis-style barbecue at The Notorious P.I.G. This smoked meat lover’s paradise serves slow-smoked meats, sandwiches, and sides, as well as a selection of local beers and cocktails. Order the beef brisket with deviled egg potato salad and pit baked beans.
After exploring downtown, head to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which features exhibits on elk and other wildlife, as well as a large sculpture garden. If you want to explore more, swing by the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, a showcase of a diverse range of art from Montana and worldwide.
Wind down your afternoon and check into C’mon Inn Hotel and Suites. The property features a large indoor atrium, two indoor pools, hot tubs and log balconies.
Grab a coffee, quick pastry or sandwiches to-go at Catalyst Café. Then start the day with a hike in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area, which offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The main Rattlesnake Trail is a popular option, offering a moderate hike that winds through the lush forest and alongside Rattlesnake Creek.
After hiking, head to the Missoula Art Park, which features sculptures and installations by local artists. Take a stroll through the park and enjoy the unique artwork on display.
It’s no secret that Missoulians love beer—look at its booming microbrew scene. End your day by enjoying a pint (or two) at one of Missoula’s dozen breweries, such as Kettlehouse Brewing Company or Bayern Brewing. The latter is home to Edelweiss Bistro. Tucked above the taproom, the German bistro serves everything from schnitzel and bratwurst to Bavarian meatloaf. All of the mustards, pickles, condiments and seasonings are imported from Germany. The sauerkraut is made in-house daily.
Start your final day by exploring the University of Montana campus. Founded in 1893, the state’s second-largest university offers various historic buildings and beautiful outdoor spaces.
After exploring the campus, head to the National Bison Range, which offers a chance to see bison, elk and other wildlife in their natural habitat. Take a scenic drive through the park and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
End your day by taking a sunset paddle on the Clark Fork River, which flows through Missoula. Then, rent a kayak or paddleboard and enjoy a peaceful float as the sun sets over the mountains.
In his road-trip memoir Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote, “I’m in love with Montana. For other states, I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana, it is love.”
It doesn’t take long to fall under Montana, specifically Missoula’s charm, beauty and hospitality. Give it a few days, and you’ll feel less like a tourist and more like a local.
Kettlehouse Brewing Company
The Notorious P.I.G
C’mon Inn Hotel and Suites
Clark Fork River Rafting
Missoula Art Park
Missoula Farmers’ Market
National Bison Range
Rattlesnake National Recreation Area
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
University of Montana