This particular roadtrip brought me to Missoula, MT for hikes and brews and generally checking out the area. Missoula is way west in Montana in the Clark Fork River Valley at the convergence of five mountain ranges. This natural circumstance makes Missoula a hub of sorts as roads lead up the various valleys between the mountain ranges. To the west is Lolo Pass on the route that Lewis & Clark traveled to to west coast of the U.S. Missoula is Montana’s second largest city with about 75,000 people and is a college town — home to the University of Montana. At about 3,200 feet altitude (978 m), it is not an unpleasant climate but still pretty damn hot in the sun in the summer.
My visit mixed up some town walking with some short drives out in the forest to find some hikes. I didn’t come to think of it as a place where you would hike out into the forest from where you were staying in town. It has the sprawley feel of many a town in the U.S. Walking in the older part of town was quite enjoyable though.
The old part of Missoula is blessed with some great old bones and most of its breweries are reasonably walkable in the center. It was market day one of the days during my visit and that made for a lively scene and some fun photo opportunities. A nice walking and biking route called the Milwaukee Road (named after a former railway) led from where I was staying into the downtown. The tree lined streets really helped with the heat. Several bridges over the Clark Fork allow for watching kayakers playing on the river. A highlight for me was my nightly visit to The Big Dipper, a classic ice cream stand that draws a crowd. The first time I visited I could tell it would be good by the line that stretched for a full block. People were patiently waiting and socializing and I was assured by the people in front of me that it would be worth the wait — I wasn’t disappointed.
Mount Sentinel – Pattee Canyon Hike
Just east of the town is Mount Sentinel – it dominates the view from town and has a giant “M” on it’s grassy side. The back side however is forested and I located a hike up that side from a starting point called Pattee Canyon. You get to the start point by winding up a canyon road for twenty minutes or so into the Lolo National Forest. The hike was through pretty forest before emerging on the bald peak with big views.
Rattlesnake Gulch Hike
Rattlesnake Gulch Hike thankfully did not live up to its name on the day I was there — no rattlesnakes and I’m not sure what a gulch is anyway. I think there is some kind of imaginary east-west boundary line in the western U.S. that you cross where an arroyo becomes a gulch, but I’m not totally sure about that. The walk follows a grassy route on either side of a stream that occasionally opens up to give big views.
Sampling brews and breweries in Missoula
Missoula proved to be a fine place for brewery touristing. I would have to say my favorite stop was Bayern Brewing — my kind of beers in a laid back tap room in what is the oldest active brewery in Montana. As the name suggests, they brew some old world styles and I understand that they run a brewer exchange with breweries in Bavaria.
Big Sky Brewing is the biggest brewer in Montana and is located in an industrial park away from town – unfortunately, their taproom wasn’t open when I went out there. Their flagship brew is the unappetizing sounding Moose Drool Brown Ale — I’m not sure if that sounds worse than Kettle House Brewing’s Bongwater Ale. Kettle House’s Myrtle Street taphouse is a comfortable, grunge-style place that was a comfortable place for a cool one. Following are some images from the brewery touring in Missoula. Click on any image to enlarge it and open a scrollable slideshow of all of the images.