United States

Missoula, MT

A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Places to Run in Missoula

Missoula, Montana became known as “the hub of five valleys” for its strategic trading post along the Clark Fork River, where five mountain ranges converge. The second largest city in Montana, Missoula sprang up around a lumber industry surrounding the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters, and the flagship University of Montana. Though the lumber industry has diminished, Missoula maintains a strong culture of outdoor recreation, including a great running scene. For flatter, less challenging running, the best bets are the Clark Fork River Trails and the area around the University. The area’s mountains and canyons have trail running options for all abilities.  The Missoulian’s Hike and Bike App is extremely useful for navigating local trails.

In the heart of the city, the Clark Fork Riverfront Trails, the verdant Greenough Park, and the neighborhood surrounding the University of Montana offer great centralized running routes.Because Missoula is surrounded by National Forest, trail running is extremely popular. The go-to trails include Mount Sentinel and Pattee Canyon, Blue Mountain, and Rattlesnake National Recreation Area.

Missoula is a relatively small city that is easy to get around on a bike or by foot. However, a car may be useful for accessing some of the farther-off trailheads. Within the city, the Mountain Line Bus System offers a convenient and affordable means of transportation.

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Greenough Park

Missoula, MT

Greenough Park in the northeast of Missoula has multiple trails, including the paved “City Drive” and dirt paths along the Rattlesnake Creek. Combine them for a 1.5 mile loop. Adjacent trail running in the Waterworks or Mount Jumbo paths.

Blue Mountain

Missoula, MT

The Blue Mountain Recreation Area in the southwest of Missoula features incredible views and not-too-steep trails, making it a local favorite for trail runners. The 1.75 mile Maclay Flats Trail is a popular choice.

Rattlesnake National Recreation Area

Missoula, MT

Trail runners will find plenty of inspiration in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area north of Missoula. There The 515 Trail and the Stuart Peak Trail are both popular, runnable options. There are some steeper, more challenging trail running options too.

Missoula has hot summers and cold winters. Summers are hot but fairly dry, with daytime temps reaching the mid-80s (29C) but nights that cool off to 50F (10C). A layer is needed for summer evenings and early mornings! Winters are cold, with average high temperatures around freezing and lows of 18F (-8C).  It’s a dry climate, with only 14 inches of rain annually, spread fairly evenly throughout the year. Winters average 36 inches of snow.

Most Missoula hotels are located near downtown, on the north bank of the river. Other clusters. can be found outside of town in Westview Park (near the airport) and Southgate. See DestinationMissoula.org for more on where to stay.

The Runners Edge is the top independent running store in Missoula.

Run Wild is the go-to organization for group runs, running classes, races, and more.

Runners can see a list of upcoming races in Missoula at RunWildMissoula.org.