It is a new year, which means it is the perfect time to plan for all the adventures you can have in 2023! Don't call it a resolution, but instead a commitment to explore all the peaks and valleys, rivers and shores, and all other nooks and crannies of wonder that Missoula has to offer. If you are looking for the perfect way to thrive outdoors this year, look no further. Here is our ultimate 2023 recreation checklist.
January is the perfect month to hit the slopes and enjoy some downhill skiing or snowboarding in beautiful western Montana. Missoula is surrounded on all sides of mountains, and it should come as no surprise that there are several ski areas in the general vicinity of town. Located north of town, Snowbowl is perhaps most commonly thought of as Missoula's local ski hill. Heading just east of town you will find Marshall Mountain, and southeast sits Discovery Ski Area. All of these are fantastic choices and your selection all depends on what exactly you are looking for. Check out our skiing and snowboarding page to learn more.
February is typically the peak of winter in Missoula which makes it the perfect time to try out ice fishing. While the famous Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot rivers are the hot spots in the summer, these are not the locations for ice fishing. Instead, a short jaunt out of town will provide you with beautiful scenic lakes to enjoy this exciting winter pasttime. The Seeley-Swan Valley has a number of locations including Salmon, Holland and Placid lakes; Georgetown Lake in Anaconda is a scenic hour-dive from town; and the shore of Flathead Lake north of Missoula also provides opportunities for ice fishing. Know before you go and always practice safety on the ice. If you are in doubt, hire a local guide to assist you.
Unlike downhill skiing, cross-country skiing is a softer way to access the gorgeous winter landscapes of Missoula and the surrounding areas. It requires little to no training and equipment, and while challenging to get the hang of, once you know what you are doing it is more akin to walking than downhill skiing. There are many places to cross-country ski around Missoula including the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, Blue Mountain and Pattee Canyon, to name a few popular spots, or travel to Lolo Pass for some high alpine cross-country adventure!
As the weather starts to warm up, disc golf is a great way to leisurely enjoy the outdoors. Disc golf, also called frisbee golf, involves working to get a specialized frisbee into a netted cage. Think golf meets throwing a frisbee-- it is really that simple! Great for beginners and experienced disc golfers alike, Missoula's scenic mountains provide great venues to enjoy this fun pastime. There are four disc golf courses around Missoula: Pattee Canyon and Blue Mountain year-round and Linda Vista Gold course and Snowbowl in the off-seasons of golfing and skiing, respectively.
Late spring is the perfect time to hit the trails on two wheels and explore all the gorgeous trails, hills, and mountain valleys that Missoula has to offer. Mountain biking is a popular activity in Missoula, but you won’t be fighting for trail space thanks to the miles and miles of trails over multiple trail access points around and outside of town. Blue Mountain is a local favorite, as is the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, and you can find a comprehensive list here. Several shops in town offer mountain bike rentals for the day or even the week, so you will be all set to adventure once you arrive. Remember to heed all signage and to yield to hikers and walkers!
It is a fact that there is no place more beautiful than Missoula in June. The snow-capped mountains remain as the last sign of winter; the wildflowers dot the hillsides in an explosion of yellows, purples and reds; the hills surrounding down are a vibrant green, and the temperature is absolutely divine– not too hot and not too cold. June is the perfect month for getting out and exploring the mountains on foot. Whether you are looking for a casual jaunt or a more intensive experience, there is a trail for everyone in Missoula. Check out this guide to hiking in Missoula and pick a few favorites to add to your wish list! Certain areas of the trails might still be snowy or icy, depending on weather conditions, so know before you go and come prepared with layers and some extra socks.
In July, the best way to beat the heat is to hit the water. Floating the river is a popular pastime in the warmer months, and it is not hard to understand why. The snow-fed waters of the Clark Fork provide the perfect reprieve from the hot Montana summer sun. The beauty of floating is that it can be as short or as long as you’d like– all you need to do is plan where you would like to put in and exit the river. Grab your favorite beverage (in aluminum cans, no glass), pack your sun protection, and round up your crew for a fun day on the water. Tubes can be rented, though they are also inexpensive to purchase at Ace Hardware at Eastgate– and don’t forget a pump! For more information, check out our pro tips. Know before you go– make sure that the river is flowing at a safe level for tubing and never go out on the water alone.
Camping in Missoula means putting yourself in the arms of nature. You can spend the day hiking and exploring and then kick back and enjoy the warmth of the fire while you bask under Montana's night sky. Camping is the perfect way to spend the last days of summer in western Montana. Whether you prefer to relax all day by your campsite or just use it as a launching point for exploring and outdoor recreation, August is the month to experience all Montana has to offer. Whether you prefer RV camping, campgrounds or dispersed camping, you can find what you are looking for in and around town. Just remember to respect nature by packing out whatever you packed in. Fires may be prohibited in August due to wildfire danger, but in the event that they are allowed, remember to put out your fire at night or before leaving your campsite.
Name an activity more iconic “Montana” than fly fishing. Impossible! There is a reason that fly fishing is synonymous with Montana, and Missoula is no different. Sitting at the confluence of three major rivers (the Blackfoot, the Bitterroot, and the Clark Fork), not to mention Rock Creek and other blue ribbon fisheries, Missoula is paradise for fishermen and women. In fact, the novel-made-movie A River Runs Through It is based off of Norman Maclean’s experience growing up fishing the waters around Missoula. The angling is so good here that Forbes Magazine named Missoula one of North America's top ten trout fishing towns. For information on where to fish and obtaining a fishing license, read more about fishing here.
Fall in Missoula is seriously beautiful. The changing foliage contrasts with Montana’s bright blue skies, and there is a crispness in the air that makes you want to get outside and breathe in all the wonder that autumn brings. And what better way to access nature in the fall than on the back of a horse. Horseback riding in Missoula is one way to do some seriously fun exploring. Just you and your horse surrounded by natural wonders. If you would prefer to go with a guide, there are outfitters available to put together the perfect pack trip for you. Those seeking their own adventures on horseback can find trails to ride in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area on the north end of town or up in the Blue Mountain Recreation Area at the south end. Visiting Missoula and looking for a horseback guide? Dunrovin Ranch is your go-to for horseback riding adventures in and around Missoula.
As the weather turns colder and you are looking for ways to warm up while still enjoying all the scenic and natural wonders Missoula has to offer, consider taking a dip into a commercial or natural hot spring. While there are no hot springs in the town of Missoula, you can access several by a short drive. Lolo Hot Springs is the closest, and you can enjoy a soak in their indoor pool (between 102-106 degrees) as well as enjoying amenities in their restaurant bar and lounge. If you are up for an adventure, venture your way to the trailhead parking for Jerry Johnson or Weir hot springs. These require a short hike to access, but once you arrive you will find yourself sitting in a hot pool of water along a bustling river with stunning views of Montana’s mountains all around you. No matter which route you take, you are sure to find relaxation in your hot springs adventure.
As winter arrives and snow covers the mountains, there is no better way to get into the spirit of the season than with ice skating. Whether you are a newcomer or an old pro, there is an opportunity for every skater. Glacier Ice Rink, located at the fairgrounds, has both an indoor and outdoor rink. With reasonable rates on rentals and public skating available daily from September through May, the whole family will have fun gliding around the large arena. Another option for ice skating is in the Rattlesnake Area, at Pineview Park. Since 1975 the Rattlesnake Hockey Association has been flooding a portion of the park for winter skating. Hours vary due to the weather, and you'll need to bring your own skates. Remember to recreate responsibly as you explore all of the winter activities available in and around Missoula.