7 Fun Things to do in Missoula, Montana

7 Fun Things to do in Missoula, Montana by BoozingAbroad
Missoula, Montana is a small city with a lot of activity and fun waiting to be had. From drinking some local beers to surfing in the middle of downtown, there is no shortage of things to do in Missoula.

Psst: We have a bunch of guides about Montana. Browse them all here or see the post below:

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Map of Things to do in Missoula

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Overview of Missoula, Montana

downtown - things to do in Missoula MT

Missoula has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Artifacts show that people inhabited the area as far back as 12,000 years ago — Native American tribes were some of the first people known to live in the area, primarily the Salish tribe.

The tribe named the area “Nemissoolatakoo,” which is where the name “Missoula” comes from. 

In 1805, Lewis and Clark visited the area and brought the first Europeans to Missoula. 

In 1860, two men named C. P. Higgins and Francis Worden established a trading post in the area, with a sawmill and flour mill opening shortly thereafter. In 1883, the Northern Pacific railroad opened, turning Missoula into a thriving trading center for produce and grain. 

The first university in Montana, the University of Montana, opened in Missoula in 1895. This drew people from all over Montana to attend college. 

Now, Missoula county has a population of over 119,000 and is a popular tourist destination for hunting and fishing, however, the things to do in Missoula go far beyond that! 

Getting to Missoula, Montana

Getting to Missoula is simple because it has its very own airport. The Missoula County International Airport (MSO) has 6 different airlines that fly to numerous major cities, such as Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and more. 

The Missoula airport is in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and it’s conveniently located only a few minutes from Downtown Missoula. 

If the Missoula airport doesn’t fly to your city, check out the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) which is only about a 3-hour drive to Missoula. Bozeman airport has 9 airlines that fly to most major cities in the US. 

Things to do in Missoula, Montana

1. Missoula Art Museum

missoula art museum FB

Are you looking for fun, educational things to do in Missoula? 

Well, the Missoula Art Museum is a free, non-profit museum located in downtown Missoula. The museum showcases art from both local and international artists and it hosts over 24 exhibitions every year and has over 1,600 pieces of artwork in its permanent collection. 

Missoula Art Museum also holds film screenings, art classes, literary readings, performances, and artist lectures. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor sculpture park as well! 

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 AM to 5 PM.

2. Montana Natural History Center

montana natural history musuem FB

If you’re a nature lover and wondering what to do in Missoula, this one’s for you! 

The Montana Natural History Center is a non-profit organization located in Missoula. The center has numerous exhibits for kids focusing on ecosystems, the solar system, fossils, and more.

The center also features a Nature Adventure Garden that offers a natural, unstructured way for children to play. If you’d like a more in-depth learning experience for your little ones, there are summer camps available from June through August. 

For adults, the Montana Natural History Center is always offering classes, events, and lectures about various topics ranging from art to geology. 

The center’s visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 AM to 4 PM.

3. Caras Park

Caras Park - things to do in Missoula MT

Out of all the things to do in Missoula, visiting the beautiful parks is a must, especially Caras Park. Caras Park is a park located in downtown Missoula along the Clark Fork River. 

The park has a pavilion that hosts numerous events like the International Wildlife Film Festival’s WildFest, Celtic Fest, GermanFest, Brewfests, and more. Caras Park has hosted more than 1,000 events through the years and has greatly helped the downtown Missoula economy. 

The park also holds private events like weddings and dinner parties and is available for rental.

4. Missoula Farmers Market

missoula farmer's market FB

One of the best things to do in Missoula is the Missoula Farmers Market. Located in downtown Missoula, the Missoula Farmers Market has been bringing the community together since 1972. There are almost 100 vendors that sell dairy products, baked goods, canned goods, and snack mixes (Yum!). Plants and flowers are available for purchase as well.

Our absolute favorite local treats are Dixon Melons and Flathead Cherries. Go out of your way to find these. You can thank us later. 

The farmers market is open 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM on Saturdays from mid-May to mid-October and 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM on Tuesdays from July to early September.

5. Hiking the M on Mount Sentinel

all trails hiking the M - things to do in Missoula Montana

If you’re wondering what to do in Missoula, the Mount Sentinel trail isn’t a bad idea. The trail is often called the “M” trail because of the huge concrete “M” that was created in 1908 to symbolize the University of Montana, which sits right behind it.

Hiking the M can be a bit steep and strenuous, but the view is well worth it. You’ll see spectacular views of the University of Montana, the Clark Fork River, and the mountains surrounding downtown Missoula. 

If you decide to climb to the top of Mount Sentinel, the views get even better with Mount Jumbo to the north and the Bitterroot Mountains to the south. 

From the University of Montana campus, the hike is ¾ mile to get to the “M” and 1 ¾ miles to get to the top of Mount Sentinel. There are 11 switchbacks with benches at each one if you need a break.

6. Whitewater Rafting

lewis and clark trail adventures FB

Zootown Surfers

Zootown Surfers has been in business since 2004 and offers many adventures such as river surfing, kayak tours, and whitewater rafting. 

Zootown Surfers offers whitewater rafting on the Alberton Gorge section of the Clark Fork River which is one of the best places to raft. Clark Fork is one of the biggest rivers in Montana and it’s full of waves and whirlpools. Plus, you’re sure to see some beautiful views and wildlife during your adventure. 

Higher flows are typically from mid-April to the end of May but you can still have a great time even into late August. 

Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures

One of the great things about Lewis and Clark Trail Adventures is that they offer 3 different rivers based on your needs. Lunch is available on some of the trips as well. 

The Lochsa River (literally meaning “rough waters” in Nez Perce) offers the most extreme rapids for those that want a thrill. You can experience this river on Saturdays from May through June. 

The Alberton Gorge River is perfect for families and beginners. There’s also a variety of trips available. You can choose either a full-day trip with a lunch stop or a half-day trip that has no lunch stop. This trip is available May through September but the best time to book is June through August. 

The Blackfoot River is for families, beginners, and those who are looking for a more relaxing float as it has little white water. This trip is very scenic with tons of canyons and wildlife to see. The best time to book this trip is May through June. 

10,000 Waves Raft and Kayak Adventures 

Something unique about 10,000 Waves is that they let you paddle your own boat, so this is a great choice for those that want a little freedom. There are 3 rivers to choose from: Tarkio Gorge, Blackfoot River, and Hellgate Canyon. 

The Tarkio Gorge sits just below the Alberton Gorge and it’s a great option for those who just want to sit back, gently float along the river, and watch all of the wildlife. However, there are a few exciting rapids mixed in there as well (so keep your beer steady)! 

As previously mentioned, the Blackfoot River is known for being scenic and relaxing. However, you can experience many different types of rapids on the river depending on what time of the year it is. If you want more exhilarating waters, the best time to visit is May through June. After that, you can expect calmer rapids. 

Hellgate Canyon is a canyon created by the Clark Fork River. This canyon offers beautiful scenery and wildlife and has a rich history of Native American battles.

7. Drink Local Beer

dram shop missoula montana

If we could choose just one of all of the things to do in Missoula, you know it would probably be to enjoy some of the local beer.

Did you know that Montana is ranked #2 in the country for its breweries per capita?

Let’s explore some of them. We have a more in-depth guide of the breweries in Missoula

Overall – Things to do in Missoula, MT

Missoula is a place where you can spend one day engulfed in nature and the next saddled up to a bar drinking beer and listening to live music downtown.

With all of the things to do in Missoula like art museums, parks, trails, farmers markets, and whitewater rafting, there’s never a dull moment. The things to do in Missoula are endless! 

For more info on Montana, click on the picture below:

Guide to breweries in Missoula Montana by BoozingAbroad
The Top Places to Visit in Montana by Boozing Abroad
The Best Things to do in Bozeman, MT by BoozingAbroad 2

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