Top 10 Hikes Around Missoula



About an hour and a half south of Missoula, past Hamilton, MT., sits Skalkaho Falls. A breathtaking portrait of nature at its finest, the falls will leave visitors shaking their heads and feeling a sense of ease and awe. Trails around the falls are a bit more difficult, but short hikes straight into the falls are an adventurer’s delight. The scale of the falls is enormous, and the thunder of water rushing downward is sure to leave a lasting impression. Bring a camera or video, especially the latter if you want to catch the roar of the falls. Good luck!

Waterfall during Summer


If there’s one easy, straight-forward, yet challenging place to hike around Missoula, it’s Blue Mountain Trail, located just southwest of our town, off Highway 93, the road to Lolo, MT. At first glance, it may seem like a formidable hike, with a peak way over head and a parking lot full of outdoor enthusiasts. But as your shoes first hit the trail, you may be pleasantly surprised at its ease and gradual ascent.

One of the greatest things about the trail is that there are so many directions you can go. Even the base of the trail has a number of options. If you follow the trail for about 30 minutes, you’ll come to a juncture that gives you the opportunity to either go straight up to the peak, or wrap around more onto the backside. I’d recommend either, but if you really want to get the full experience, keep hiking on the main trail, and then go towards the highest point on the mountain to get a wonderful view of Missoula. See pictures directly below.

Blue Mountain over Missoula

Dry grass on Blue Mountain in August

View from top of Blue Mountain

Number Three: LOLO PEAK

Looking for a challenge? Look no further than Lolo Peak. It’s easy to find– at least visibly. If you gaze south-southwest of Missoula, you will see a towering mountain that effortlessly dwarfs all around it. Lolo Peak is usually snow-capped– even into the summer! Just a thirty minute drive out of town down Highway 93, then west on Highway 12 from the town of Lolo, will get you to the base of the mountain. Then it’s a long, somewhat rugged ride up a dirt-road to get to the trailhead further up the mountainous terrain. As you step out of your car at the trailhead, you may become captivated by the sounds of nature. The hike from this trailhead to Lolo Peak is about four and a half miles, and if you skip over Carlton Ridge (okay, maybe not skip) you’ll eventually arrive at a small lake sitting at the base of both Lolo and Mormon Peaks. Must say that the lake is a great place to take a swim in the hot summer months. If you’re very brave, you may decide to summit either of these peaks, but if you’re like most of us, you may just want to settle for the nine-mile trek to and from the lake. Highly recommend!

Lake by Lolo Peak

Lolo Peak hiking trail


Are you more inclined to do an easy day-hike? If you do MacClay Flats, just off Blue Mountain Road west-southwest of Missoula, you may be surprised at how easy it is to immerse yourself in nature so close to the city’s edge… just three miles outside of Missoula’s city limits without too much effort. MacClay Flats is right next to the Bitterroot River, and has a steady 1.8-mile walking trail. Great place to take the kids, the dog, and even go fishing!

River path in Summer

Parking lot by river path

View of river from bank

Number Five: Lake MacDonald, Glacier National Park

Okay, being as it’s a 2.5 hour drive via US-93 North and MT-35 West, this isn’t exactly the nearest trek from Missoula. That being said, however, a trip to Glacier National Park, and my own personal favorite: Lake MacDonald, will be the experience of a lifetime. Peering down into waters so crystal clear that you can make out the shapes of rocks deep below gives us city-slickers a rare glimpse into what life was like for our ancestors. On the drive toward Glacier, you’ll also come across Flathead Lake– Montana’s largest body of water and also the largest body of fresh water west of the Mississippi.

There simply aren’t words here to describe it, so you’ll have to let the mystery of the park speak for itself.

Helicopter view of Glacier National Park


This tributary to the Bitterroot River is home to one of Missoula’s lesser-known hiking trails. Open year-long, the trail sits west of Missoula and north of the Blue Mountain trailhead (mentioned above). The full hike takes about four and a half hours, and is surprisingly beautiful. A hiker can see much in both the environmental and geological history of our small city along this short trek.

O’Brien Creek is a fantastic hike in the winter. Thousands of shadowy trees sticking forward from the bright snow in the daytime. The Creek isn’t a difficult hike, but some sections are steep, especially right off the trailhead, so it can be both fun and technically challenging. Bring your dog; this is a great place for family and pets!

Snow-covered mountains

View high from a Winter vantage point

Mountain hiking trail during Summer

Number Seven: RAVINE TRAIL

Ravine Trail is located up Grant Creek north of Missoula. This is probably my choice hike on a slow weekend– particularly in the winter. The trail starts out at a small parking lot at the base. If you hike up about three miles in, you will come to a bluff that overlooks the entire city of Missoula. The trail is a bit arduous, but a great way to get in shape and have a good time. Like most other trails in my town, Ravine is biker-friendly and fun to speed down if you want a thrill-rush. A noteworthy part about Ravine (although I’ve personally never done it), is that you can wrap around the hills until you get to the Rattlesnake hiking trail on the northeastern part of Missoula. If you have some free time, this isn’t something to miss out on!

Scene of snowy mountains through trees

Trail’s switchback through forest

Trail sign


If you’re trying to find a trail that goes through the heart of Missoula, the Kim Williams Trail is probably your best bet. The trail stretches 9.8 miles and borders both the Clark Fork River and Missoula’s famous Mount Sentinel. On your way, you can get a great view of Missoula’s downtown and the trail has many friendly people and photograph opportunities.

Walking bridge by University of Montana


Kelly Island is a 650-acre undeveloped piece of land sitting at the convergence of the Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers. It is home to one of Missoula’s finest boat landings and fishing accesses. The island is open all year with varying hours and is a relaxing site to get a view of the water.

River off of trail at sunset

Walking trail through tall grass

Trail leading up to water


I finish the list off with a park seated between the Clark Fork River and the University of Montana. Jacobs Island is a 6-acre park whose sole purpose is letting dog-owners spend time in nature with their pets. The park has off-leash access and is a wonderful spot to have fun with your K-9 companion.

Gate entrance to dog park

Man standing by sign at dog park



I am an energetic, yet laid-back freelance writer, photographer, hiker, and English teacher. I am also a self-published author, including prose and poetry. I love nature, backpacking, hiking, and adventure. Check out my work  on my website