Ok. So you’re heading out to visit the magical river town of Missoula, Montana. You’re sitting at home before your trip, wondering what you should do while you visit. Sure, you can hit the good ol’ interweb for some information, but do you really trust those internet reviews? Or that list of suggestions that are sponsored by the companies themselves? I sure don’t. I would rather find out for myself or pick a local’s brain on where to eat, drink, and recreate.
We present to you now (drumroll, please…!): our suggestions for THE BEST DAY EVER IN MISSOULA, straight from the perspective of a local.
The Catalyst by far is our favorite breakfast place! Great service, tasty potato casseroles (green chile + pepperjack cheese!), and really good coffee combine to make a great way to start your day.
If you prefer a bakery over a sit-down place, we recommend Le Petit Outre, located on Missoula’s Hip Strip. Delicious coffee and baked treats (try an almond croissant!) will get you going in the right direction.
Our buddies over at El Diablo know how to roll burritos and stuff them with ingredients that are prepared fresh daily. The cilantro lime sauce is our favorite!
The Top Hat serves a great lunch or dinner. The bar was renovated in 2013 and is a staple for live music, homemade food, and really good burgers. They also have a super fun tapas (small plate) menu!
If you’re looking for great cocktails, truffle fries, and sweet potato tater tots, look no further than James Bar. (For a rowdy nightcap: James Bar is connected to one of the most legendary bars in Missoula, Al’s and Vic’s.)
Located at the corner of space and time, Charlie B’s is perhaps Missoula’s most iconic drinking establishment. The Dino Café is hidden at the back of the bar and has some of the best cajun/southern-style food in all of Montana. (A word to the wise: you don’t need to ask for a double when you order a cocktail at Charlie B’s!)
Rattlesnake Recreation Area: Head north on from Missoula on Van Buren and park at the main trailhead. From there, you’ll find tons of trails that will lead you in all different directions.
Waterworks Hill: There are a few different access points, but try parking at the Orange Street exit and just start heading uphill for a great view of Missoula. You can make this hike as short as 30 minutes or explore its huge network of meandering trails for hours.
Kim Williams Trail: This trail parallels our beloved Clark Fork River. It’s relatively flat, so it’s perfect for cruising on a bike and checking out town.
The Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Bitterroot Rivers all confluence in the Missoula Valley. Getting out on the water is one of the most popular activities for visitors and local Missoulians.
Most of the local raft companies offer trips with departures throughout the day. We recommend going for the early trip (9:00) or afternoon trip (4:00) in order to beat the crowds. The classic whitewater experience is the legendary Alberton Gorge, just 30 minutes west of Missoula. For a more mellow and super scenic adventure, consider floating through the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers, making your way through Hellgate Canyon, with the trip finishing up in downtown Missoula.
Stand-up paddle boarding: If you can walk down a sidewalk without falling, YOU can stand-up paddleboard! And you can do it right in downtown Missoula! Rent your boards and get more info from Strongwater Mountain Surf Company, LB Snow, or The Trail Head.
Go fish! Our rivers are treasured and renowned trout fisheries. If you’re an angler, you’d forever regret passing up the opportunity to experience the fishing around Missoula. We recommend checking out Blackfoot River Outfitters.
OTHER MISSOULA MUST-DOS
Chill out at Big Dipper Ice Cream.
Walk through the University of Montana campus.
Hike to the “M,” halfway up Mount Sentinel, right above campus.
Watch the kayakers and river surfers do their best tricks at Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula’s Caras Park.