Nestled in the mountains of western Montana, there’s this place that is more than just a place. Sure, photographs will show that Missoula is truly breathtaking and a quick Google search will show that this mountain town is not only home to amazing recreation opportunities but is also a cultural and arts hub. Those things alone are worth a visit. But there is something intangible about Missoula that really makes it special–something that you have to experience to believe. Whether you spend a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime here, Missoula will grab ahold of you, settle into your heart, and never let you go.
It is 9pm and the sun is still shining. The birds swoop low, the osprey glide along the Clark Fork, and the clouds turn to cotton candy under the warm Montana summer sun. The day may have been hot, but the night is shaping up to be cool—perfect for a stroll along the river or a sunset hike in the mountains.
You will never be the same after watching the clouds settle low in Missoula valley, half covering the mountains above like a misty, dreamy blanket. This phenomenon, called the inversion, is unique to places like Missoula— the surrounding mountains create a bowl where the clouds can settle above the valley, especially in the fall and winter months. And if you are looking for an even more spectacular experience, hike up Mount Sentinel or Mount Jumbo above the inversion to see the mountain tops like little islands in the clouds stretching out across the skyline.
No matter the season, Missoula offers some pretty wild entertainment. The summer brings river surfers, kayakers, and tubers, wildlife is on display all year long from the elk migration on Mount Jumbo to the always-potential for black bear sightings in the mountains. The river freezes over in the winter, and in the spring, the snowpack from the surrounding mountains melts and drains into the Clark Fork, providing some seriously unique entertainment. The spring runoff makes for a higher and faster flowing river, often carrying huge logs and branches. As strange as it sounds, it is a mesmerizing experience to watch. No matter the season, Missoula's wild entertainment will leave you captivated and in awe of nature’s power.
There are 4 bridges over the Clark Fork in Missoula. It is an everyday regularity, a thing you will walk by and drive over, sometimes without even really taking the time to look properly and really appreciate how incredible it is. But when you do, it is humbling to take it in and realize that something so wild exists in such a vibrant city landscape.
[caption id="attachment_7881" align="alignnone" width="1400"] Photo credit: Neubauer Media[/caption]
Picture this: it is the end to another perfect Missoula summer day. You have spent the day at the market, on the river, on the trails, or on the streets of downtown, and now you find yourself in front of an outdoor stage, cold drink in hand, excited and happy people all around, getting ready to hear some live music behind a natural backdrop of breathtaking mountains. It really cannot get any better.
In Missoula, everything is about local. Eat local. Shop local. Drink local. Many places might have a local flare, but Missoula takes it to another level. The focus on local foods and supporting local businesses and artists is baked into the fabric of the community. It seems that nearly every grocery store, restaurant, brewery, gas station, and coffee kiosk has something local to boast. And the best part— Missoulians want more. They crave local. And you will find yourself craving it too and spreading that local love wherever you may go.
Every sunset in Missoula is photo-worthy. We are talking every. single. one. In the winter, the light reflects off the snow-covered mountains and the low-hanging clouds to create a sea of pinks that will stop you in your tracks. In the fall, the oranges and reds above are a direct replica of the changing leaves below. Springtime brings green grass and abundant wildflowers, and combined with the colorful setting sun creates something straight out of a painting. And of course, summer, with its long daylight hours and warmth, invites you to sit outside and watch the day turn to night under Montana’s big sky.
There is something about the good folks of Missoula that really cannot be understated. The locals move with little haste, know there is no such thing as overstaying a welcome, and seem to be tied by some invisible force that connects them all. Maybe it is the wilderness—it is hard to live around such rugged beauty and not get swept into a genuine appreciation for the land around you. Maybe it is the genuine kindness of Montanans, with their creative energy and bit hearts. Whatever it is, you will find that the locals radiate an energy that is palpable and infectious.