If you’re looking for a great place to visit, Missoula, Montana is an excellent spot to explore! There are plenty of things to do in this charming town, from hiking and fishing, to skiing and shopping. In this post, I’ll list the best things to do in Missoula.
Whether you’re a local, or just passing through, be sure to check out these amazing attractions.
I grew up a few hours away from Missoula, MT – in Billings. I visited many times as a kid and always loved the feel of this town. As an adult, I lived in Missoula for 3 years and enjoyed every minute of it.
With the river in the center of the old town, meandering bike-friendly paths, its proximity to the mountains, and the quirky, kind people of Missoula, there’s a lot to love in this unique Montana town. Let’s dive in!
Here are the 15 top things to do in Missoula, MT.
1. Explore the National Bitterroot Forest
The Bitterroot’s deep, glacier-carved gorges provide stunning views of high mountains towering above the rippling streams and lakes. There are quite a few trails to choose from based on the level of difficulty you want to tackle.
When hiking in this area, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be crossing some river streams, and climbing over obstacles like boulders and fallen trees – all part of the adventure.
If you’re new to the area, grab an expert guide. They’ll provide you with snacks, lunch, and even a kayak so you can enjoy the relaxing mountain lakes. It’s a perfect way to connect to nature; a huge draw for most people visiting any part of Montana.
2. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
What better way to get a feel for a town than to explore it with a fun scavenger hunt? This is one of the most unique things to do in Missoula since it’ll allow you to experience, and see, a bit of everything in town.
Digital and self-paced scavenger hunts are quite popular these days. They are a great way to get the family or a group of friends together to explore and learn about a new place.
The standard scavenger hunt requires a car to get to each point. However, you can alternatively request a special carless version if you prefer.
3. Visit the Hot Springs
Did you know there are several natural hot springs near Missoula?
This Hot Springs Tour will take you on a short drive to some of the best-kept secrets in Montana. The tour includes amazing views, a soak in a hot spring, (more than one if you would like), and plenty of time to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
Popular hot springs like Lolo Hot Springs and Jerry Johnson hot springs are easy to explore on your own if you have a car. Jerry Johnson is my personal favourite because it also includes a short but beautiful hike in the forest.
However, most of the time you can expect to share these natural pools with a lot of other visitors. This is what makes a “private” tour a very unique experience!
4. Hike with Professional Photographer
Missoula has tons of options for exploring the great outdoors on foot. Why not hire a local hiking enthusiast that also happens to be a professional photographer? This is the perfect combination to get both amazing views, and photographs to document your experience.
The photographer will take you on a hike of your choice, from easy to moderate difficulty, and capture the beauty of the area through their lens. This is an excellent option for visitors that want to see Missoula’s natural scenery but might not be sure where to go.
Options for your hike might include:
- Pattee Canyon
- Rattlesnake National Recreation (part of the Lolo National Forest)
- Blue Mountain National Recreation
5. Go Fly Fishing
Montana is world-famous for its fly fishing. It was first made famous in the movie “A River Runs Through It” with Brad Pitt. There are many different rivers and creeks to choose from, including the Clark Fork River, Bitterroot River, Blackfoot River, and Rock Creek. I personally don’t fish, but my brothers and dear friends that do enjoy this pastime, love the Missoula area for fishing.
If you’re new to fly fishing, don’t worry! There are many professional guides in Missoula that can give you a crash course and show you the best spots. They’ll provide all the equipment you need, so all you have to do is show up and enjoy.
For a truly immersive experience, consider booking an all-inclusive lodging and fishing adventure. For any fishing enthusiast, this is a dream come true.
6. Go to a Show at the Wilma Theater
The Wilma Theater is a world-class theater located in the heart of Missoula. It’s one of the most popular entertainment venues in town and frequently hosts big-name performers.
If you’re looking for something more laid back, many smaller shows and events take place at the Wilma throughout the year. These include live music, stand-up comedy, film festivals, and more. I’ve had some fun times at the Wilma, attending both concerts and film festivals there during college.
No matter what you’re looking for, the Wilma Theater is sure to have something that will entertain you. Check their website to see what’s on during your visit.
7. Visit the Missoula Art Museum
The Missoula Art Museum, (MAM), is a fun art museum located in the heart of downtown Missoula. MAM features both permanent and rotating exhibitions, with many of them outdoors in an “Art Park”, as well as a variety of educational programs.
One of the most popular attractions at MAM is First Friday. This is a way to see a lot of the local art galleries, including MAM, for free. Just show up on the first Friday of each month from 5pm – 8pm, to sip wine, eat snacks, and enjoy art.
MAM also offers a variety of classes and workshops for both adults and children. These are excellent opportunities to learn new skills, or try your hand at a different type of art.
If you’re looking for a unique way to spend an afternoon, the Missoula Art Museum is a great option.
8. Ski at Snow Bowl
If you’re looking for things to do in Missoula in winter, downhill skiing is a great choice. Missoula is home to Snow Bowl, and you can get there in less than 30 minutes. The views from the top of the mountain are incredible, and there’s something for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. I’ve skied this mountain a handful of times and always enjoyed the bluebird days and powder.
If you don’t have your own equipment, no worries! You can rent everything you need at the resort and even hire an instructor. Once you’re all set up, head on up to the slopes and enjoy a day of skiing or snowboarding.
Snow Bowl actually offers plenty of summer activities as well, including hiking, biking, and zip line tours. No matter what activity you choose, you can decide to finish the day there, or stop for lunch at their lodge for local pub grub, like wood-fired pizza and burgers, accompanied by a brew.
9. Rent Snow Equipment and Go Explore
Go to the Last Best Ski and Paddle Shop for all of your outdoor rental needs for winter or summer. You can also reserve your equipment online and simply pick up what you need when you arrive.
Rent cross-country ski gear in the winter and prepare to explore local hiking trails. A local favourite is to head to Pattee Canyon. Other options include Rattlesnake National Recreation Area and Seeley Creek Nordic Ski Trails. I’ve found cross-country skiing in these areas is a great way to get in some much-needed fresh air during the cold winter months.
If you’re not up for cross-country skiing, you can also opt for snowshoeing. This is a much easier activity to pick up quickly and start enjoying. Plus, it can be done practically anywhere. Just be sure to avoid designated cross-country trails that are groomed.
10. Rent a Bike and Ride the Clark Fork Trail
The Clark Fork Trail is an easy paved trail that runs along the river – you can go even further east if you want to ride on gravel. As far as things to do in Missoula in summer, it’s a perfect spot for biking, walking, running, or rollerblading during warmer months. It’s great for all ages and gives you a great feel for Missoula nature without having to leave the city limits, or even downtown.
Wandering on this trail by foot or bike was always a favourite Saturday activity for me, before heading downtown for a meal, or meeting a friend for a coffee.
Biking is one of the easiest ways to get around in Missoula. In fact, you’ll see locals hauling their groceries across town this way. I’ve even seen couches and canoes on trailers behind bikes in town – quite a funny sight for sure. If you want to join the local bikers, then rent a bike and hit the trails.
Local bike shop Bitterroot Trail can rent you all the gear you need. They can also give you a map and show you where to ride before sending you on your way. Plus, they can give other recommendations for where to go if you’d like to ride something a little more technical.
When you’re ready for a break, you can stop at Caras Park, or the University of Montana, for a nap or picnic lunch – both along the trail. If you want to get in more exercise and work up your heart rate, try riding over to the base of Sentinal Peak, where you can hike the “M” for some spectacular city views.
11. Learn to Kayak
Missoula is the perfect place to learn how to kayak. With the Clark Fork River running through town, there are plenty of places to practice your new skills. Plus, the city created a “wave” – known as Brennan’s Wave – in the center of town where kayaking enthusiasts can practice their moves.
You can take a beginner kayaking class, or polish up your whitewater through Zootown Surfers. They’ll provide you with all the gear you need and teach you everything from basic strokes to river safety. Once you’re feeling confident, you can head out on your own and explore the river.
Be sure to avoid areas with fast-moving water, or where swimming is prohibited. If you want to explore these areas, always consider going with a guide who knows the river well. If you don’t want to kayak on the river yourself, I’ve always had fun going to Caras park just to watch the kayakers play on the wave.
12. Float the Clark Fork on an Innertube
You know it’s summertime in Missoula when you can spot groups of people floating down the river on tubes. This is a fun activity and perfect for hot summer days. You can rent tubes from several places in town, including Clark Fork Yacht Club. Unless you can coordinate with a group of people and cars, you should also book a shuttle ride with them to start and finish your float.
For tips on where to start and end your floating journey, talk to the company you rent your tube from. Otherwise, ask a local floating guide. I always loved floating the rivers on those days when it hit 90°F and above.
Whatever route you choose, be sure to pack sunscreen, hats, water, and snacks. Of course, always keep your safety in mind on the river. Make sure to double-check the river conditions, float with other people, avoid drinking too much alcohol, and most importantly, enjoy the float!
13. Go to the Saturday Farmer’s Market
The Missoula Farmer’s Market is a great place to spend a Saturday morning. It runs from May until October, and has tons of vendors that sell everything from fresh produce to flowers, mushrooms, and artisan goods.
You’ll also find live music, food trucks, and other family-friendly activities at the market. It’s the perfect place to spend a Saturday morning, whether you’re looking for something to do with the kids, your partner, or alone. Listening to music while enjoying some fresh produce is one of my personal favourite ways to spend a Saturday morning in Missoula.
The market is open from May – October on Saturdays, from 8am until 1pm, and is located at Caras Park downtown.
14. Visit Flathead Lake
If you’re looking for additional things to do near Missoula, there are plenty of options within a few hours drive. Montanans love spending hot days on a lake. Flathead lake is about an hour’s drive from Missoula and is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi in the contiguous United States.
This huge lake offers tons of opportunities for water sports. You can rent equipment such as jet skis, speed boats, and kayaks. Choose your perfect water sport mode and let the fun times begin. I personally enjoy paddle boarding along the shore.
Be sure to grab a box of Flathead cherries on your way back to Missoula – my family’s favourite road snack.
15. Go Whitewater Rafting
The iconic Glacier National Park is 2.5 hours, (137 miles), outside of Missoula. It’s well worth a trip for exploring if you’re in the Missoula area. Within the park itself, there’s plenty of hiking and scenic driving to do. When you’re ready for something more, try a full-day whitewater rafting trip.
This is a great way to see some of the most beautiful parts of Glacier National Park without the crowds. You’ll float down the river, stopping along the way to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. This is an excellent trip for families or groups that want to experience Glacier National Park in a unique and memorable way.
This tour includes lunch and all the equipment you’ll need; just show up with your sense of adventure and an extra pair of dry clothes!
FAQs About Things To Do in Missoula
Let’s review some of the most commonly asked questions about Missoula, MT.
Is Missoula Montana Worth Visiting?
Absolutely! Missoula is a beautiful town with plenty of things to do. It’s perfect for a weekend getaway or a longer vacation. Outdoor enthusiasts, families, foodies, and everyone in between will love the activities this town has to offer.
If you need some inspiration for getting fit, there’s nothing more motivating then getting out in the beautiful outdoors. And Missoula is a great place to do just that.
How Do I Spend a Day in Missoula?
There are many ways to spend a day in Missoula. For the outdoor enthusiast, there’s plenty of hiking, biking, and floating to do. Families can enjoy the river trail, farmer’s market, and museums, and foodies will love all the great restaurants and breweries in town.
To review, top favourites include:
- Explore downtown
- Go for a hike or bike ride
- Walk along the river
- Go to the farmer’s market
- Visit the local art museum
What is Missoula Famous For?
Missoula is most famous for its outdoor recreation opportunities. It’s also known for its thriving arts and food scene.
In a relatively conservative state, Missoula is known for being open-minded. In fact, Montanans that do not live in Missoula often refer to it as the “hippie” city. Missoula also has its own slogan of “keep Missoula weird.” The bottom line is that everyone is welcome!
Now You Know What To Do in Missoula
While most cities in Montana offer a large variety of outdoor activities, Missoula offers much more than that. You’re also sure to love the downtown area and all it has to offer. From there, take some time to pick a few of your favourite activities from the list above.
Now that you know some of the best activities in Missoula, it’s time to start planning your trip. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or just a relaxing vacation, Missoula has something for everyone. I always look forward to my Missoula trips and I know you’ll love them too!
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