The best coffee in town is locally roasted at Black Coffee Roasting Company. Before breakfast, this is the stop to truly start the day. Stop by the Le Petit Outre for another cuppa and a fresh pastry; while you’re there pick up a baguette for lunch (or use the 2-3 foot long bread “loaf” to fend off bears on the trail.) If you want to sit down for a more substantial breakfast try to snag one of the outdoor tables at the Catalyst Café or Hob Nob. If not, don’t worry; they still serve the same great food inside.
Head toward the University of Montana along the riverfront trail from downtown. This is where you’ll find the trailhead for the “M”, yeah, the big white one on Mount Sentinel that you’ve been looking at while sipping your coffee. The trail has a fairly easy grade that rises 600 feet in about ¾ of a mile. It is still shaded early in the morning and the best views of the Missoula valley abound this time of day. If you’re feeling energetic continue another 1,400 feet up to the summit of Mount Sentinel. It is well worth it as you’ll look down on Hellgate Canyon to the northeast, the Rattlesnake recreation area to the north, the Missoula valley and Clark Fork River drainage to the west and the Bitteroot Valley and Mountains dominate the southern vista.
Lunch is burrito time! Taco del Sol has locations on Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula, on Russell Street, and Reserve Street. The mission supreme or fish burrito is the go-to menu item. My personal favorite burrito in town: a grilled mahi mahi burrito from El Diablo.
Summer: As the day heats up it is time to cool off. Buy an inner tube at Ace Hardware or most local tire shops and put in near East Missoula and float into town or simply walk down to the river in town and jump in. Be careful at Brennan’s Wave where kayakers and surfers use the artificial wave.
Winter: After lunch it is time to grab a half-day pass at Montana Snowbowl and rip down 2,600 vertical feet of steep snow slopes.
Dinner and drinks
The Old Post is the spot for dinner. If you’re in Missoula on a Monday, take advantage of Burger & a Beer Night during which you get a discounted local brew with a beef or veggie burger. In the mood for pizza? Then Biga Pizza is the place. Choices like the Fennel Marmalade, Bacon & GoudaPizza will make you trip worth it.
Missoula is not the place to come to and not sample the local beer or spirits. There are half a dozen breweries right in town. On Mondays fill up a growler at Draught Works and get a free pint. Kettle House Brewing is a staple in Missoula with community pint nights every Wednesday night at their Northside location that benefits local nonprofits. New breweries such as Imagine Nation and Great Burn are with the short trip out of downtown for a taste. If beer isn’t your style then check out Montgomery Distillery for custom crafted cocktails with gin, vodka, or whiskey produced on site.
A few nights a week there are big name artists playing at The Top Hat or Wilma Theatre. If you’re looking for drinks check out Charlie B’s or The Rhino with a nearly life-size Rhino head that appears to be busting through the wall. Or for a more mellow night grab ice cream at the Big Dipper — be aware that on hot summer nights the line is long. The Crystal Theatre and the Roxy Theatre also host plays, film festivals, and independent films.
10 Tips for Missoula
- Take the Bus, its free.
- Play one of the street pianos along Higgins Avenue.
- Walk along the river.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to the locals.
- Be prepared to want to come back (or never leave) as it is a black hole of sorts.
- It might be hot and smoky in the summer. Come in June or September.
- Take note that the Grizzlies posters that you see everyone aren’t referring to the wild animal. It’s the local college team.
- Do not wear anything with a Montana State Bobcat on it, which is NOT the local college team.
- If you’re driving keep an eye out for cyclists.
- If you’re biking down Higgins Avenue follow the funky bike lanes that are between the sidewalk and parked cars. This is the only street in town with these lanes.