Missoula is the second-largest county in Montana.
It’s surrounded by several valleys, with a topography full of mountains, forests, and rivers.
As such, Missoula County is packed full of interesting outdoor activities.
From water sports to hiking, there’s a lot to do here if you want to go outdoors.
If you prefer something more mellow, Missoula also has you covered.
The county is home to several cities and municipalities with many museums and interesting urban districts.
Planning a trip to Missoula County is going to require some prep work.
To get you started, here’s a list of the best things to do in Missoula County, Montana:
Go Fishing at the Scenic Bitterroot River
When you’re visiting Lolo National Forest, Bitterroot River is probably a destination that’s a must-visit.
Located in the Bitterroot Wilderness area of Lolo National Forest, this river is a paradise for fishing enthusiasts and serious anglers.
Even if you’re not fishing, hiking along its riverbank is a sight to behold.
It’s one of the prettiest places in Lolo National Forest.
The river is also popular for having a lot of gentler sections where waves are calmer, making it a safe place to visit.
Bitterroot River is found along Riverside Drive in Orchard Homes, but it also stretches to Lolo, one of Missoula County’s census-designated places (CDPs).
Check out the Festivities and Local River Activities at Caras Park
Caras Park is another outdoor adventure in Missoula, focusing on the Clark Fork River.
Unlike Bitterroot River, Clark Fork River runs right at the heart of Missoula City.
Hence, many locals have created fun activities along its riverbank through Caras Park.
The park features picnic areas with benches, shade, and restrooms.
One of the best places about this is a section that has river rapids.
Here, many locals go kayaking or tubing.
Many music, food, and cultural events are also held here.
It’s one of the gathering areas and tourist hubs in Missoula City, so be sure to check Caras Park along Carousel Drive.
Visit the Montana Natural History Center
Montana Natural History Center is a gem in the urban city of Missoula, as it offers invaluable knowledge about the state’s rich natural history and ecology.
One of the highlights here is its taxidermies of the wildlife found in Montana.
Kids and adults will love their bountiful exhibits, with some being interactive displays.
You’ll also find plenty of fossils and skeletons, with a replica of Sue the T-Rex being the showstopper.
The museum also acts as an educational learning center for both kids and adults.
They have well-rounded staff who can guide you throughout your stay.
Montana Natural History Center is located at 120 Hickory Street.
Explore the Trails of Lolo National Forest
Lolo National Forest is situated on the outskirts of Missoula City, the county’s seat.
It’s a massive forest that’s home to many wildlife animals and is one of the best to conduct animal observation or just immerse yourself in the wilderness of Missoula.
There are over 50 trails in this area which lead to various interesting spots in the forest.
While open for hiking, Lolo National Forest is mostly untouched.
You’ll be in awe of the lush trees here, along with other areas that include lakes, hillsides, and some peaks that offer stunning views.
Lolo National Forest is accessible along the southbound lane of Highway 12—or through the Rattlesnake Wilderness Area in Missoula City.
Learn about Local Aviation at the Museum of Mountain Flying
Another interesting museum you’ll find in Missoula is the Museum of Mountain Flying, dedicated to Missoula's flying history.
While it doesn’t have many aircraft compared to other flying museums, it’s a great stopover because of its elegant DC3 aircraft that allows you to enter and see the interiors for yourself.
Beyond that, the museum also has several smaller mountain plans that are beautifully maintained.
The museum has a lot of stories to tell despite its size.
Because of the geography of Montana, forest fires are common in the area.
Plenty of its exhibits focus on aerial firefighting and smoke jumpers.
With several aircraft and flying equipment packed in a small room, the Museum of Mountain Flying is one of the more Instagram-worthy places in Missoula.
You can visit it along West Broadway Street in Missoula City.
Go for a Swim at Currents Aquatics Center
If you want an alternative to Splash Montana, you’re in luck—Currents Aquatics Center is just around the neighborhood.
What makes Currents Aquatics Center different is it’s an indoor water park.
So, it’s a great alternative for those who want something smaller that has less sun exposure.
Like Splash Montana, there are fun slides here, too.
There’s also a lazy river, and the layout of the amenities makes it family-friendly.
It’s also geared for serious swimmers who want to go for several laps.
Overall, it’s a nice indoor water park that gives you more options during your stay in Missoula.
Currents Aquatics Center is located along Cregg Lane by the Clark Fork River in Missoula City.
Check the Artistic A Carousel for Missoula
Located just a few walks away from Caras Park is A Carousel for Missoula, located along Carousel Drive.
You might be wondering what’s so special about this carousel.
It’s a local symbol in the city of Missoula, as it was handcrafted by many volunteer locals.
A Carousel for Missoula is no ordinary carousel from an aesthetic point of view.
Here, you can appreciate the intricate sculptures done by the city’s artisans.
Some of the best sculptings are its dragon and horse sculptures.
The ride is pretty fast compared to ordinary ones, too.
Since it’s by the Clark Fork River, the breeze it gets is an amazing experience.
Of course, if you’re traveling with kids, they’ll enjoy the ride just as much as you’ll appreciate the art behind it.
The carousel is pretty fast in comparison to the usual ones, too.
Get Drenched at Splash Montana
If you’re visiting Montana in the warmer months, Splash Montana is another Missoula City attraction that offers lots of fun.
It’s the most prominent water park in the state and has all you can ask for.
It has large slides, a lazy river, and all sorts of contraptions scattered throughout that makes it an awesome place for the family.
If you want to swim in peace and do multiple laps while the kids play, they also have a sizable lap pool.
Although a local hotspot, this place has plenty of deck chairs and lounges to accommodate many people.
Splash Montana is located at 3001 Bancroft Street in the southern area of Missoula City.
Go on a Berry Hunt at Pattee Canyon Recreation Area
Another spectacular hiking area of Missoula is the Pattee Canyon Recreation Area, located along Pattee Canyon Road southeast of Missoula City.
Pattee Canyon Recreation Area has something unique that anyone will enjoy—you can pick wild berries in this area during the summer!
Huckleberries and strawberries are particularly common here, so it’s good advice to bring a bucket when you visit!
Beyond that, the place is also a beautiful snowy zone during the winter.
There are lots of hidden gems like creeks and hills.
Bringing your mountain bike is also recommended if you want an outdoor cycling experience in Missoula.
Plenty of exploration awaits you at the Pattee Canyon Recreation area, making it a no-brainer in your itinerary.
Appreciate Contemporary Art at Missoula Art Museum
Missoula Art Museum is another great destination located at the heart of Missoula City.
The museum mainly focuses on contemporary art and is a creative hub for many aspiring locals in Montana to have their artworks featured.
While not as big as other museums, there’s still a lot of artwork to enjoy here.
It’s also a great experience to know the minds and artisans behind the artwork.
Missoula Art Museum is also home to a permanent collection of contemporary Native American Indian Art.
They also have various featured collections from several well-known artists.
This museum is a great addition to your itinerary if you’re a fan of art or if you simply want to look for interesting places in Missoula’s urban districts.
You can visit the museum at 335 North Pattee Street.
Socialize Your Dog at Jacobs Island Bark Park
Jacobs Island Bark Park is one of the best areas in Missoula to take your pooch out and go on an all-out adventure.
A small island in the Clark Fork River, Jacobs Island Bark Park is an oasis at the heart of Missoula City.
Because it’s an island, your dogs are free to roam its vast lands and enjoy the beaches without any leash.
Just make sure your pooch is attended, as Clark Fork River has some areas with fast rapids.
Plenty of dog owners bring their dogs here, so it’s also a good opportunity to socialize your pooch with other dogs.
Jacobs Island Bark Park can be accessed via the Van Buren Street footbridge.
Relax and Have a Sip of Wine at Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery
Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery is one of the hidden gems in Missoula City.
The winery offers a complete dining experience and is well known for hosting events.
They have live music, delicious food, and of course—stellar wine.
As you sip their exquisite wine, you can enjoy the beautiful views of the surrounding grasslands and vineyards.
They also let you explore their vineyard.
You can check out the freshest grapes and even pick them out yourself!
You can visit Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery along Rattlesnake Drive, at the uplands of the northeastern part of Missoula.
Go Camping at Salmon Lake State Park
If you want a great campsite in Missoula, Salmon Lake State Park is arguably one of the best the county has to offer.
Unlike the more remote areas of Lolo National Forest, Salmon Lake State Park is complete with a wide variety of amenities without sacrificing its natural beauty.
There are electricity posts and water faucets on its camping grounds, and it has several hiking trails that offer scenic areas to take photography.
Of course, the main attraction here is Salmon Lake.
Fit for canoeing and fishing, the beauty of this lake is more apparent during noontime when you can see its rich dark blue color.
Salmon Lake State Park can be accessed along Montana Highway 83 at the county’s Seeley Lake area.
Watch an Old-School Movie at Roxy Theater
Located in Downtown Missoula City is the Roxy Theater—a charming vintage theater that still shows old-school films to this day.
When you visit this theater, you’ll immediately get the 70s-80s vibe because of its retro neon lights and architectural design.
Before you watch a movie, you can purchase their highly touted popcorn varieties along with alcoholic beverages as well.
Besides old-school films, Roxy Theater also hosts all sorts of film festivals throughout the year.
Overall, it’s a well-loved hidden gem that any movie lover would enjoy visiting. You can visit Roxy Theater at 718 South Higgins Avenue.
Explore the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula
The Historical Museum at Fort Missoula is a haven for history enthusiasts who want to learn about the development of Missoula County dating back to hundreds of years ago.
Originally a 19th-century military fort, exploring Fort Missoula’s grounds will lead you to many interesting vintage buildings, many of which have been restored.
Inside, they have several permanent exhibits, such as a look back to how the city started in the 19th century.
In their exhibits, you’ll see all sorts of artifacts that give a glimpse of how the county’s technology and local economy evolved over the years.
They also have other interesting temporary exhibits throughout the year, such as ones that focused on anti-Japanese sentiment during World War II, as well as the clothing industry of Missoula.
There’s a lot to unpack in the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, so add this to your Missoula adventure.
It’s located at 3400 Captain Rawn Way by the Bitterroot River in Missoula City.
Missoula is an interesting county full of the beautiful wilderness and scenic natural wonders.
It has sprawling rivers and bountiful hills where you can do all sorts of activities as a solo adventurer, with friends, or with family.
When you’re done exploring its rich nature, the local community is welcoming, and there is a lot of history and culture to unpack in its urban areas.
Before anything else, be sure to use this list of the best things to do in Missoula, Montana, to kickstart your adventure!