The Best Hikes in Missoula

Gabi Wilson, Reporter

As people who live in Montana, many of us tend to take our access to open space for granted. We should be grateful to have so many trails surrounding us that we can get to with no problem. There are many hiking places around Missoula that you need to check out! 

A view of the town from the top of the ‘M’
Photo Courtesy of Maggie Vann

The ‘M’ is one of the most popular trails which is right downtown. The ‘M’ stands for the University of Montana. It is right next to the University and not hard to find as it is a large ‘M’ on a mountain. The hike is pretty simple and can be really good for a quick, easy hike. It only takes about 20-30 minutes to get to the top and the way down is a lot quicker. There are many benches along the way where you can stop to take a break, drink some water, or look at the views from the mountain. The view at the ‘M’ is beautiful as you get to see the whole town of Missoula. This is the best place to eat a snack, and hang out with the glorious view of our beautiful town. If you want more of a challenge with this hike, you can take the pathway to the left. Many parts of this trail are steep, so be careful. If you are looking to do a bit of a longer hike, you can continue up past the ‘M’ to the very top of Mount Sentinel. 

A view of Missoula from the ‘L’ trail
Photo Courtesy of Gabi Wilson

There is the “M” and of course there is the ‘L’. The ‘L’ stands for Loyola Sacred Heart Catholic High School. The ‘L’ is a simple hike. I would say this hike is a calf burner and slightly harder than the ‘M’, but it is still definitely a good one for the view at the ‘L’. When you are on this hike, you can almost always see paragliders as they frequently fly around these hills during warmer times of the year. There are many buttercups and yellow bells along the way that bloom in the early spring. 

The peace sign by the Waterworks trail
Photo Courtesy of Gabi Wilson

Waterworks is a classic hike. You can access this trail from a few different spots which all lead to the top. My favorite access point is just before you get on the highway. There is a small parking lot to park in. This hike is slightly difficult in the beginning, but once you are past the switchbacks, it is pretty easy-going. You can see an old Montana homestead along the way. The top is very beautiful as you get a view of town from a different angle than the ‘M’ and the ‘L’. You can choose to hike to the large peace sign on this hike as well. 

The Rattlesnake has many great hikes, but I recommend the one in Lincoln Hills. The 4-mile loop is a really great hike with a few different views. There are some places along the way where the hike gets a bit more difficult, but it is pretty manageable the whole way. I really recommend this hike because it is so different throughout, but beautiful everywhere. There are some spots in the shade and some in the sun. This hike is very beautiful in the late spring when many flowers are blooming. You can typically see sunflowers and prairie fire flowers all along the trail. 


Pattee Canyon has many great hikes, but I recommend the one at the beginning, the Barmeyer trail. It can be a difficult hike, but it is worth it for the great workout and the chance to be outside. This hike is another one that is better to do in the late spring because it is more green and has more flowers. There are many great views along the way as you can see into Pattee Canyon at some places. There is also a lookout near the top of this hike to view the town of Missoula. 


The Ravine hike is a great trail to go on on a hot day. The trail is very shaded which makes it great to hike on a scorching day. During the summer it can be hard to hike because it is too hot outside. This trail is very shaded, which makes hiking easier. You can access this trail in Grant Creek. If you go past Snowbowl, the parking for this trail will be on the right up the road a bit. There is limited parking as there are only about six spots. 


Make sure to get outside and take some hikes during the nice spring weather sometime soon. When you are on the trails, be kind and respectful to others and the trail. Where is your favorite place to hike around Missoula?