Unique Western Montana Experiences

The Missoula area is a great place to visit and during your time you might consider some unique Western Montana experiences while you are here. Mix it up a bit and explore not just downtown Missoula, but destinations that are off the beaten path, low key, and may surprise you by their small intimate, quirky or distinct experience they can provide you.

Here is our list. It highlights our region and it’s healthy communities, high quality of life, robust diverse businesses, and vibrant outdoor places. Gain new insight, perspectives and enjoy unique Western Montana.

Consider a place-based approach when vacationing here in Missoula. Be mindful to leave no trace, and be respectful of our diversity and open lands; come back often.

Missoula Clark Fork Farmers Market features food, veggies, fruit, flowers, and locals. Taste the best of Missoula here on Saturdays May through October. Experience a glimpse of our Hmong population and their gorgeous agricultural crafts and foods.

Live Music is a staple here. You can hear local music on Thursday Evenings at Caras Park downtown while enjoying the tastes of our Food Truck delights. Kettlehouse Amphitheatre features nationally known bands, and if you’re lucky enough to be here in late summer/early fall, don’t miss the River City Roots Festival.

Whitewater Rafting Continuously voted the #1 Thing to do in Missoula, the Alberton Gorge is a special gem of world class family friendly whitewater. Located 20 minutes from Missoula proper, Adventure Missoula is the original outfitter since 1976 and we are located with private parking at the put in for the 12 mile 15 rapid stretch of class II and III whitewater. It features an epic calamity of sandy beaches, eagles, herons, hawks, otters, cliff canyon views and open vistas near the scenic float end of the trip. Reserve a full day or half day trip departing 7 days a week weather permitting April through October. The best time to go? July. There is an option to fish and river raft combo the special Alberton Gorge if you’d like to cross this angler bucket list trip off your list.

Fishing Experiences Every year, Adventure Missoula gets to introduce locals and tourists to Montana’s exceptional fisheries. We are grateful and respectful of our open lands and that we have this opportunity. Take a Learn to Fish trip, join a Women’s Class, or Book a Fishing Trip. Fishing is one of Montana’s leading economies and it would be important to experience it prior to leaving the state on your travels. You don’t need to be an expert fly fishing angler to come out with us and experience the joy and peace you experience while watching the famous movie, A River Runs Through It. Adventure Missoula strives to keep ’em wet as much possible (except for the photos you see on our site) and practice catch and release practices.

Arlee, Montana: Pow Wow Celebration Adventure Missoula acknowledges that we are in the homelands of the Salish and Kalispel people. The Missoula community offers our respect for their history and culture, for their ancient and continuing presence in this landscape, and for the path they have shown us in caring for this beautiful place for generations to come. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Nation is intertwined in Missoula’s culture and they welcome you to this annual gorgeous celebration each year during the first week of July every year. If you are passing through on your way to Glacier National Park, stop at one of the art galleries and mercantile locations and buy some fabulous Salish Art and stop to check out the Garden of One Thousand Buddhas while passing through Arlee.

Montana Bison Range Western Montana was once covered with bison. The Bison Range is a self-directed driving tour with two scenic drives. The primary drive is Red Sleep Drive, a 2 hour, 19 mile loop that goes up and over Red Sleep Mountain. It is only open during the summer (May-Oct) and has two walking trails. Visitors can usually enjoy seeing scenic views of the valley as well as possibly spotting bears, birds, and other interesting species. The second drive is Prairie Drive, which is the lower half of the Red Sleep Drive loop and is open all year. This is a 14 mile drive that goes out to a turnaround area and comes back to the entrance. Prairie drive goes along the scenic Mission Creek and is usually the best place to spot bison, elk, deer, and pronghorn.

Glacier National Park A showcase of melting glaciers, wildflower covered meadows, alpine lakes, and hiking trails. Glacier National Park is a national treasure. Vehicle reservations and an entry pass are required to experience this protected park, so plan ahead and don’t miss the Research Learning Center while there. Tip: Take the East Highway 35 at Polson and buy Flathead Cherries from one of the orchard stands during the summer. May you will view gorgeous blossoms, in July – the fruit.

Hiking around Missoula will allow you to take in the three river valley view. Waterworks hike provides the southern view. All Trails maps it out for you. Missoulians like their personal independence and be ok with dogs as you will encounter them for sure at any trailhead. The scenery and views are worth the time. Get some well deserved rest and relaxation and exercise. Missoula is a mecca of outdoor fit running groups and get those trail legs going. Missoula hosts the nationally recognized, Missoula Marathon annually.

Horseback Riding features ranch life and is another aspect to Missoula history and culture that you may want to experience. There are two great rides in the Missoula area, both about 20 minutes from downtown.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation offers fun and interactive exhibits to learn about elk. You are in elk country and hunting and conservation is truly a part of Missoula culture. Visit this awesome visitor center with free admission.

U-Pick Lavender Farm Experience There are a variety of U-Pick locations that feature excellent agritourism options for some local theme days that include wineries, lavender farms, cherries, berries, apples and flowers. Forsythe Farms is located on your way to or from rafting the Alberton Gorge, so it is included here for your low key U-pick options.

Kayak Adventure Kayaking on a sit on top kayak is a great way to get up close and personal individually with one of our three rivers flowing through the Missoula Valley. Paddling is big culture here in Missoula and will be evident by the whitewater kayaks you’ll see on top of local vehicles and downtown Cara’s Park at Brennan’s Wave. Paddlers see a mostly ponderosa pine environment typical of or surrounding Lolo National Forest with potential to see moose, deer, river otters, ducks, and fish.

Missoula Butterfly House Geared towards little people, this insectarium educational center teaches all ages about the insects in our area and features a tropical greenhouse filled with butterflies from around the world and an exhibit area featuring a wide array of insects, arachnids, millipedes, centipedes, and crustaceans. The Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium provides a truly unique Montana experience.

Adventure Cycling Association is a national bicycle travel organization and it just happens to be in Missoula. Stop by their place for epic Western Montana bike maps, future travel ideas, and superb bike travel adventures.

Sculpture in the Wild in Lincoln, MT; If you head East to Seeley Lake detour to Lincoln for art and to view world class outdoor sculpture artworks and then head across the street to view a gigantic grizzly at the Lincoln Ranger District office. Some artists are similar to those at the contemporary Tippet Rise in Fishtail, MT outside of Billings metro area and it’s free admission.

Art in Missoula features a few powerhouse locations for you to take in the works of local and regional artists. Grab a great breakfast and head downtown to enjoy the best: the Art Museum, Montana Museum of Art and Culture, the Radius Gallery, and the ZACC.

Watercraft Picnic Package Rental Enjoy a low key day renting a few watercraft and hanging out rural Montana beach style at Frenchtown Pond State Park.

Did we miss some things, probably. Check out our Things to Do for more unique Western Montana experiences. Find some Suggested Itineraries to start planning from, and happy adventuring in Missoula!