You don't have to venture too far from Missoula to find great outdoor recreation and interesting attractions. You'll find interesting history, gorgeous scenery, and wonderful wildlife watching. Because of this, along with Missoula's own local attractions, this lively Montana town makes a great base for an active, extended vacation. It's easy to string several of these attractions together to create a day's driving tour.
Here are some recommendations.
Enjoy magnificent scenery and the charming towns of Darby, Hamilton, and Stevensville as you drive US 93 through this idyllic river valley. Attractions to check out include the Daly Mansion and the historic St. Mary's Mission. The Bitterroot River is great for floating, paddling, boating, and fishing.
AddressLewis and Clark Trail, Missoula, MT 59801, USA
Explore local sites along the Lewis & Clark Trail, including Travelers' Rest and Lolo Pass. The Travelers' Rest location is a place where Lewis and Clark camped both coming and going and is now preserved as a Montana State Park. The expedition faltered during their attempts to cross the Bitterroot Mountains; they eventually accomplished the feat via Lolo Pass. You can learn more about this episode of Lewis and Clark's journey at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center or by hiking parts of the trail.
Created by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 for the express purpose of preserving North America's bison, this wildlife refuge is home to a large herd. Visitors can take a driving tour through the refuge to view herds of bison along with other wildlife, including elk, deer, chipmunks, and coyotes. Resident critters that are more bashful - and therefore you are less likely to see - include mountain lions and bears. As part of your visit be sure to stop by the National Bison Range Visitor Center to view exhibits, to get current road and trails conditions, and to find out where the herds are currently grazing.
As you drive along the highways just west and north of Missoula, you'll see ample evidence of a vast lake that existed during the recent ice age. You might want to start your tour at the Montana Natural History Center in Missoula, where you can get an overview of Glacial Lake Missoula and the ice age floods and learn about sites to visit on your drive. These include the Eddy Narrows and the Camas Prairie. Interpretive viewpoints to stop at includes the KooKooSint Sheep Viewing Interpretive Site off of Highway 200 near Thompson Falls and the summit of Red Sleep Mountain Drive within the National Bison Range.
This historic site offers a visitor center and walking tour where you can learn about USFS pack animals and early forest firefighting practices, a little known and very interesting topic.
Experience nature and history as you explore the old abandoned buildings of this mining-boom-era town. This is a real ghost town - a once-thriving community that went bust and left abandoned. The buildings and artifacts around the property provide an interesting glimpse into everyday life during the early 20th century.