The state of Montana is known for its snowcapped mountains, wide-open spaces, and status as a haven for outdoor activities. Though Washington does not directly share a border with Montana, travel to “Big Sky Country” through northern Idaho leads through some truly spectacular scenery. It’s worth taking some extra time to enjoy the ride with the destination of Missoula in mind at the end of your drive. The city acts a fantastic hub for wilderness-centered journeys and has a lot to offer within its limits for solo travelers and groups alike.

Directions

Heading northeast from the Tri-Cities, you’ll take Highway 395 to Ritzville and then transfer onto Interstate 90, where you’ll stay for the rest of your drive. Continue up to Spokane, then cross into Idaho and continue east past the stunning Coeur d’Alene. If you’ve got plenty of time on your hands and are looking to beat the heat wave we’re currently experiencing, it might be worth a slight detour from here to check out the Boulder Beach Water Park at the Silverwood Theme Park. Otherwise, keep heading east through the Idaho panhandle and you’ll pass into Montana before you know it. 100 more miles and you’ll find yourself entering the city limits of Missoula where your adventures can start to take shape.

Background

The Missoula area had a lively history in Native American culture before being settled by William T. Hamilton in 1858. Today, it is the second-largest city in the great state of Montana, behind only Billings several hundred miles further east. For those who seek thrills in the form of hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking, fishing, whitewater rafting, and camping, there is perhaps no better place to explore. Home to the University of Montana, the city has a youthful spirit that is reflected in the friendly people and vibrant community surrounding it.

Places to Visit

Big Dipper Ice Cream: This Montana staple may have garnered national fame after making an appearance on Good Morning America, but Montanans have appreciated this well-kept secret for many years. Slinging up handcrafted deliciousness since 1995, this walk-up ice cream storefront now offers three locations across Montana (Missoula, Helena, and Billings), and should not be missed on any trip to the city.

Brennan’s Wave: A man made wave on the Clark Fork River that runs through downtown Missoula, this icon of the city is best viewed from the Caras Park Riverfront Trail. This wave gives kayakers, rafters, and even surfers a chance to hone their skills in a controlled environment before hitting the challenging rivers Montana has to offer.

The “M”

This short but steep hike will lead you 600 feet and three quarters of a mile onto Mt. Sentinel, rewarding you with stunning views of Missoula and the greater valley surrounding it. A large “M” is fitted into the side of the mountain, visible from the streets of the city below and recognized as a landmark of Missoula. It was originally constructed by University students in 1908 and has gone through several reconstructions and enlargements throughout the years.

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