From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being closeby definitely has its benefits.
The city of Missoula is located in Western Montana, and it’s known for its spectacular natural beauty and endless outdoor recreational activities, including blue-ribbon trout fishing (made famous by A River Runs Through It).
Of course, there are plenty of attractions to enjoy here too, including Caras Park, Fort Missoula, Splash Montana, Missoula Art Museum, and more.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Missoula has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Missoula, Montana? Let’s get started!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
Missoula isn’t all hustle and bustle! There are also plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Just a short drive out of Missoula is Council Grove State Park, which is situated on the Clark Fork River and has historical significance as the site of the Hellgate Treaty. Although it covers just 187 acres, this day-use-only state park is filled with fun activities to enjoy, including fishing, picnicking, hiking, wildlife viewing, and more.
Just a 20-minute drive from the city is the Traveler’s Rest State Park, which is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. Located along the scenic banks of Lolo Creek, the park is home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals and contains a cultural and historical significance. The region has been used for centuries by native peoples and visited twice by the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery. Enjoy activities here such as hiking, fishing, bicycling, bird watching, and more.
Beavertail State Park is another popular state park near Missoula and it is also located on the Clark Fork River, offering visitors some of the best fishing and floating opportunities within the region. The park's self-guided nature trail is not to be missed, while other recommended activities include camping, picnicking, and wildlife viewing.
Frenchtown Pond State Park is home to a small, spring-fed lake, making it the perfect destination for activities such as boardsailing, kayaking, canoeing, and snorkeling. It’s also a great place to fish, with sunfish, bass and bullhead frequently being caught from the lake. In winter, the lake freezes over, transforming into a fantastic place for ice skating.
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Missoula, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
Located within the K Williams Natural Trail Area is the “M” Trail, quite possible one of the most favorite hikes within the region. It’s rated as moderate and provides great exercise in parts where the trail is a little steep, but we hear the views from the top of the trail are totally worth the workout! It’s 1.9 kilometers in length, making it a great way to spend a few hours.
Also located in the K Williams Natural Trail Area is the Mount Sentinel via Hellgate Ridgeline, another recommended trail near Missoula. The "M" on the west face of Mount Sentinel has been a Missoula landmark since 1908 and many local athletes and fitness buffs run the "M" trail as a regular part of their regimen. It’s 5 kilometers in length and is often heavily trafficked, yet features beautiful wildflowers and views along the way.
Ready for one of the hardest hiking trails within the area? The Rattlesnake Trail is 54.6 kilometers in length and can be found in the stunning Rattlesnake National Recreation Site. Once an old logging road, the trail is now popular for day hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking. It parallels Rattlesnake Creek and beaver dams can often be seen in Rattlesnake Creek about 5 miles up from trailhead.
Missoula is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
If you’ve never been toPaul’s Pancake Parlor before, you’re in for a treat – literally. The Parlor features a full menu of high quality, large portion, breakfast, lunch and dinner items and is famous for its 18 different varieties of pancake. If you’re craving something a little different, don’t fret. The menu also features lots of variety, including a cornbread waffle with chili for lunch or a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings!
With its motto, “country fare with a city flair”, you know you’re in for a unique time at Pearl Café. It offers old favorites, a daily three course menu, and ever-changing seasonal dishes. Just some of the French-inspired favorites include Escargot, French Onion Soup, House Made Charcuterie Plate, Classic Filet Mignon, Duckling with Pomegranate Cherry Sauce, and Grilled Salmon with Mustard Butter.
Fancy some authentic Mexican cuisine in Missoula? The doors ofEl Cazador opened in 1995 and it fast became one of Missoula's favorite restaurants, now operating two food trucks as well! House specialities include the Carnitas Rancheras, Chili Verde, Steak Cazador, And Mole Ranchero, but you’ll have to try them yourself to understand why everyone raves about this place!
Opened in 1991 as Montana’s first coffee cart,The Catalyst Cafe has grown to become a favorite destination in Missoula. It’s open seven days a week and serves mouth-watering breakfast dishes all day, including Breakfast Burritos, Buckwheat Waffle with Butter and Vermont Maple Syrup, and House-Made Plant-Based Chorizo Bowl. Delicious!
Jakers Bar & Grill is a Best of Missoula 2020 winner, being awarded the Best Restaurant Service, Best Soup, and Best Appetizers! It was established in 1997 and is the go-to for stone-fired pizza especially as it offers a variety of 8 different flavor combinations. They’re also known for their delicious Lobster Bisque and fresh, hot scones with honey butter, so there’s something for everyone here! Enjoy the streamside patio in the summer, as well as a friendly resident duck who might just say hello.
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Missoula’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
When the weather starts to heat up in Missoula, there’s just one place on everyone’s mind:Splash Montana. This exciting water park is open June through August, while the Currents Aquatics Center is open year-round. Visitors of all ages will love the three-story waterslides, zero-depth entry swim zone, lazy river float-way with a wild river branch, Olympic-sized pool, on-site café, and more. Don’t miss it!
The University of MontanaspectrUM Discovery Area is Missoula's hands-on science center dedicated to inspiring a culture of learning and discovery for all. Each year, they reach roughly 200,000 people with fun, hands-on exhibits and activities at the Missoula museum and through their award-winning programs beyond the museum walls. Educational and fun? Count us in!
What should you do in Missoula once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery isn’t just one of the Northwest’s best vineyard and wineries, but it also offers live music and tasting hours 52 weeks year-round. It’s one of the most popular night time attractions within the region, as it lets you sit back, sip on high-quality wine, and enjoy local music acts. They have a small selection of light snacks, or welcome you to bring a picnic to feast on while you enjoy the show.
The Roxy Theater is a non-profit organization offering year-round cinematic and cultural programming at the Roxy, the annual International Wildlife Film Festival, the Montana Film Festival, and more. The venue hosts screenings and events seven days a week, including new releases nightly and a monthly calendar of independent, foreign and classic films, theater, and community events.
What can you do in or around Missoula that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
Fort Missoula was established as a permanent military post in 1877, however today, it is a place of protection for history and a wonderful home of knowledge about the fort itself, the surrounding area, and the people who have lived in the region. You can go on an educational walking tour of the historical attraction and view the exhibits on offer. Admission costs just $2 - $4 per person.
The Montana Natural History Center’s museum encompasses the flora, fauna, and natural history of western Montana. It's also home to the Ralph Lee Allen Environmental Education Library, a hands-on Naturalist Lab, and an extremely popular Kids’ Discovery Room. With admission rates of just $1 - $3, it’s a fun and affordable day out for all.
Looking to get the most out of your time spent within the city of Missoula? Whether you want a fun way to waste away a Sunday afternoon or a date idea that won’t break the budget – here are our most recommended things to do in Missoula that won’t cost you a cent.
TheMissoula Art Museum focuses on bringing together audiences, artists and community to explore, inspire and celebrate the art of our time. MAM exhibitions highlight contemporary Native art with a dedicated gallery and collection focus, as well as post-WWII Montana modernism and emerging art in a variety of media. With free admission, what’s not to love about it?
If you don’t know what a smokejumper is, you’re in for an educational experience, while for those also wanting to learn more about this profession, now is the time! TheSmokejumper Visitor Center is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day 7 days a week. It features displays explaining firefighting procedures, smokejumping history, and other fire related issues.
Alright, by now you’ve probably been on your feet all day exploring the sights and delights that Missoula has to offer. If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, or even a bit of pampering, these are two of the best spas in the region.
Not only doesSorella’s Day Spa offer extraordinary spa services, but you can also find an array of lifestyle products and active wear here too. Enjoy treatments such as massage therapy, body therapies, facials, skin care, spa nail care, and hair removal. Go on, treat yourself; you deserve it!
AtNettles Herbal Health and Spa, they believe in tapping into the natural therapeutic qualities of plants and minerals to promote total well-being. This is why their team is comprised of educated and licensed professionals, skilled in the health, wellness and beauty industries. Services on offer include Whole Health Herbal Consultations, Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, Waxing & Skin Care, Full Hair Salon Services, and Nail Services.
If rejuvenation for you is less about deep relaxation and more about sweating it out, then you’re in luck. Missoula is home to some of the highest-rated gyms and yoga studios within the region.
VRTX Fitness is a premier health and wellness facility that challenges every individual to “nurture your inner athlete”. They offer a wide range of classes to cover multiple fitness needs and desires, including HIIT, Cardio Pump, Kickboxing, BARRE, Yoga, Dance Cardio, Pump & Core, and more.
Ever wanted to learn yoga? Or perhaps you’re a yoga pro?Inner Harmony Yoga are a drop-in yoga studio located in the heart of downtown Missoula. They offer introductory classes for those eager to learn the practice, while other classes include Sun Salutations, Vinyasa, Handstand Conditioning, and more.
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Missoula without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these day trips next time you fancy a new adventure.
Around a 3-hour drive from Missoula is the city of Bozeman, which is filled to the brim with activities and attractions for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Just some of our top recommendations include the Museum of the Rockies, American Computer & Robotics Museum, Gallatin History Museum, Big Sky Resort, and Bridger Bowl Ski Area – just to name a few.
Helena is the state capital of Montana, so get ready for a jam-packed day – or few days – spent here. Of course, a visit to the State Capitol building should be on the agenda, while other popular attractions include the Cathedral of Saint Helena, Great Northern Carousel, ExplorationWorks, Broadwater Hot Springs & Fitness, Spring Meadow Lake State Park, and more. Don’t miss them!
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Missoula that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Missoula? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.