Parents and experts agree that active outdoor play is an essential part of raising healthy kids. There is a growing body of evidence that today’s kids are spending more time indoors or in structured activities, and much less time exploring the natural world.
The Missoula Children and Nature Connection (MCNC) is a network of local organizations that works to connect children with nature through education, recreation and special events.
Here are some outdoor family activities in Missoula for any week of the year:
Bolle Birdwatching Trail: Greenough Park
This 42-acre park near the University of Montana is one of Missoula’s oldest parks and features picturesque Rattlesnake Creek, picnic facilities, trails through a natural riparian area, and three footbridges. The Bolle Birdwatching Trail is named for Arnold Bolle, the former dean of UM’s School of Forestry. Interpretative signs along the trail describe the dozens of birds who make their homes in the park. From the parking lot on Monroe Street, take the footbridge across Rattlesnake Creek and follow the path to the right. The trail crosses the creek again and returns through a forest on the east bank of the creek. Greenough Park is located at 1001 Monroe Street.
Oasis In The City: Old Children’s Fish Pond
The Children’s Fish Pond is a riparian oasis in the center of Missoula, located at Bancroft and 34th. This lovely wetland area, fed by Pattee Creek, is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including many species of waterfowl and other birds, plus turtles and frogs, and it’s often visited by deer, muskrat and raccoons. Several flat trails wind around the pond and creek. It’s a wonderful place to bring the children or take a restful “nature break.” Please don’t feed the ducks and other birds who make their home there—human food is like junk food for wild animals; it doesn’t have the nutrients they need!
Start at Pineview Park, off Rattlesnake Drive at 1220 Pineview Drive. Visit Tom Green Park, a natural area with a trail along Rattlesnake Creek, on the southwest corner of Pineview Park. Cross the Mountain View pedestrian bridge to the north and saunter north along the Mountain View trail bordered by Rattlesnake Creek on one side and a community farm on the other. At the trail’s end, cross Duncan Drive to continue on to the North Hills Open Space, or continue north for a short distance on Duncan Drive to cross the footbridge over Rattlesnake Creek. From there, you can head north to the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area or south along the Rattlesnake Greenway.
Take a Ride on Dasani Blue Bikes
Missoula Parks and Recreation offers free loaner bikes in McCormick Park. Check out a free Dasani Blue Bike at Currents Aquatics Center and explore Missoula’s Riverfront Trail System and downtown. The single-speed “cruiser” bikes are available to anyone—and a bike ride is a great way to explore Missoula’s natural world. Pick up a guided bike tour map of the Riverfront Trail system when you rent your bike.
To check out a Blue Bike, you will need to be 18 and have a credit card; a legal guardian can check out a bike for kids. The bikes are available daily during Currents Aquatic Center’s hours of operation. (Visit www.missoulaparks.org or phone 721-PARK.) Blue Bikes cannot be used overnight, but there is no limit on the number of days you can borrow one. This is a great way to show off our beautiful city to out-of-town guests.