Kim Williams Trail: The Unexpected Wilderness in My Backyard

Publisher’s Note: Make It Missoula is publishing the writings of University of Montana students enrolled in Nadia White’s autumn semester 2014 Adventure Writing class. Each student was assigned a Missoula area trail to explore and write about. Read more about Nadia White, this assignment, and the University of Montana School of Journalism’s Adventure Writing class. Enjoy!

The Unexpected Wilderness in My Backyard


I felt a cool breeze on the back of my neck as I ventured further down the Kim Williams Trail one Friday in late September. I stopped and looked up at the sky. The light blues and whites of earlier that evening had transitioned to oranges, purples, and grays, and I was surprised to notice how quiet the rushing river was. It had seemed so loud when I started my hike. I could still see campus, but I felt completely free, away from the cumbersome difficulties of school, work, and social life that lie there.

Walking this trail that night had been a spur-of-the-moment decision, and I was captivated by the natural beauty of what I can describe literally as my backyard.


Photo by ©Martha Krebill

I wasn’t tired from the walk, which can only be described as an easy one, but I sat along the river and allowed the events of the previous weeks to catch up with me. It was the longest I had ever been away from home, and though I wasn’t homesick, exactly, there was a certain aching in my heart as I reflect on this long absence. I let it sink in that Missoula is my home, that this is where I will be spending the next four years of my life. I had only been here for a month, but I was already beginning to feel at home. And to make things even better, with little effort other than dragging myself out of my own bed, I was outdoors.

Growing up in Bozeman, I spent almost my entire life less than 15 minutes away from the “great outdoors.” Just miles away from rivers, mountains, lakes, and forests, a town that itself is centered on living life in the outdoors. Yet somehow, to me, that term has always meant something foreign, far-away, in short, something that requires a certain amount of effort.

Why this is, I’m not sure, but the fact is that before this year I had never experienced wilderness without driving somewhere first. It’s not that I haven’t spent any time in the wilderness. I go camping several times every year, and love hiking and the like. But until this year, being in the outdoors always meant at least some planning, a drive, and setting aside an entire day for it. All of this just made the concept of being in the wilderness far more daunting for me.


Photo by ©Martha Krebill

The Kim Williams Trail turned this perception on its head for me. Named in memory of the famous naturalist and frequent NPR guest Kimberly Williams, this 2.5 mile, completely flat walk along the Clark Fork River runs straight through the town of Missoula and east, beyond campus, into Hellgate Canyon. But despite this close proximity to the bustling town, the trail delivers an undeniable outdoor experience.

This trail taught me that taking time to appreciate nature does not have to entail any kind of travel or stress. It’s a simple trail, one that many Missoulians walk, ride, or run regularly, but this only adds to its beauty. Simply put, the Kim Williams Trail captures the essence of the town that I now can call mine. In Missoula, you don’t have to travel far to be in the wilderness, and you don’t have to plan a grand adventure in order to have a small one in your own backyard


Kim Williams Trail

Roundtrip Length: Up to six miles out and back

Total Elevation Gain: none

Trail Difficulty: very easy

Walk along the Clark Fork River for beautiful views of nature without leaving town

Trail Directions: From the University Center, head north towards the Clark Fork River. Before you get to the river but after you’ve passed the Adams Center, take a right on the trail immediately before the bridge. Head east on this trail for as far as you’d like to go, then return along the same route.


Krebill_MM_Selfie FeaturedMartha Krebill was born in Chicago, Ill., but her experience as a big-city girl ended before her first birthday when her family moved to Bozeman, MT. Now 18, Martha enjoys traveling, skiing, and watching Survivor in her free time.