Our Towns: Missoula, Montana

Our Towns: Missoula Montana

Missoula, Montana, a study of contrasts

Like a patchwork quilt, the towns of Montana are pieces of a greater framework.

Taken alone, each town is a culture unto itself. But when you travel Montana and explore the cities and towns that make up the Big Sky state, you get a better sense of what it is that makes Montana such a special place. In any town you're likely to find a Stockman's Bar, a relic of the hardworking cattle industry that helped establish this state's economy, but they might be entirely different from one town to the next.

Visit the Stockman's in Missoula, and you're immersed in college culture where football players and co-eds stand shoulder to shoulder in a mass of post-adolescent hormones. Belly-up to a Stockman's in a town like Twin Bridges, though, and you're likely to find the true character of Montana towns: smalltown folk, easy going and friendly, the same in every town.

As a celebration of Montana Living's seventh anniversary this fall, we visit seven Montana towns and give you a snapshot of each one. Like the 50-some issues of Montana Living we've produced in the last seven years, each town has its own identity, but taken as a whole, you get to see a bigger picture of what living in Montana means. 

By Lindsay Rhynard

Missoula may be known for its trout fishing, but there is so much more than the push and pull of strong currents flowing through Montana's second largest city.

missoula  montana from mount sentinel, university of montana, montana living

While the enchanting Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers lure anyone who's ever held a fishing rod, Missoula's size, beauty, cultural scene and ever-friendly people charm even the most extreme city-goers. A doorway to "Glacier Country," Missoula is known as the Garden City and is the cultural center of western Montana.

There are dining choices from fine Mediterranean cuisine and gourmet wild game, to quaint breakfast cafes, oversized sub sandwiches and brew pubs and grills. The ebb and flow of college students and tourists keep Missoula in constant motion. It is a Mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and recreation options are as varied as the seasons. In the winter, professionals hit the slopes next to students, and cowboys hunt and fish with artists, writers and retirees in the spring, summer and fall.

Each year as the seasons change, fishing, hiking, hunting, skiing and riding whitewater fight a popularity contest. With mild winters, access to over four wilderness areas including the Rattlesnake, Selway Bitterroot, Pintler and Mission Mountains, and over 1,800 miles of trails in the Lolo National Forest, Missoula and the surrounding area offer a playground for the activity-obsessed.

Those less outdoor inclined will enjoy the finer side of the Garden City. The historic downtown is the heart of Missoula and offers excellent shopping, restaurants, entertainment and fun. The city is known for its diverse and laid-back social scene, and of course, the Montana Grizzlies football team of the University of Montana.

From local breweries and sports bars to small-scale dance clubs and Irish pubs, Missoula has nightlife to fit any fancy, every night of the week. Missoula really is a town with something for everyone and it will captivate you with all it offers.