By K.P. Nichols

If you’ve spent any time in Montana, you’ve heard the saying, “The Last Best Place.”  Those words certainly ring true for those who know and love Missoula. This place tugs at your heart. So what is the appeal? What is it about Missoula that makes it an ideal place to live or visit? It’s definitely not one place, landmark, or institution that sets it apart. It’s a compilation of places, landmarks, institutions, scenery, landscape, organizations, businesses, and most importantly – people — all rolled into one big, beautiful package.

HISTORIC DOWNTOWN – Missoula’s downtown is vibrant, artsy, and chock-full of year-round events and activities. You wouldn’t have to leave downtown to have a fun, unforgettable experience. Take it all in – unique shopping, first-rate restaurants and bakeries, variety of live music at some very cool venues, notable art galleries and museums, the always popular farmer’s markets, and great bar-hopping.

BONUS: Make sure you hit the Hip Strip located just south of the Higgins Street bridge for additional shopping and dining, check for events or festivals scheduled at Caras Park, and stroll the River Front Trail.

Photo of Missoula taken from the M ©Carol Blodgett

Photo of Missoula taken from the M ©Carol Blodgett

MOUNTAIN & RIVER TOWN – Missoula sits in a scenic valley at the edge of Hellgate Canyon. Thanks to the surrounding mountain ranges and the rivers (Clark Fork, Bitterroot, Blackfoot) that run through it, Missoula’s adventures are endless. Whether you like to hike, run, mountain bike, river raft, ski, disc golf, etc., etc., etc., you will not be disappointed with the outdoor opportunities or with the town’s pristine beauty and feel.

COLLEGE TOWN – Missoula has a lively vibe. A lot of that can be attributed to the more than 13,000 bustling students who attend the University of Montana each year. UM’s campus has been recognized as the “most scenic campus in America” by Rolling Stone, and Outside Magazine listed the school “among the top 10 colleges nationally for combining academic quality and outdoor recreation.” The university sits at the base of Mount Sentinel and it’s within walking distance of downtown. Exploring the campus is highly recommended, and while you’re there, make a point to take in some of the student culture like art, dance, music or a speaking event.

Caras Park, Missoula Downtown

Caras Park, Missoula, Montana. Photo courtesy of

BONUS: Montana Grizzly Athletics – Some of the most popular, well attended events in Missoula include the University of Montana’s sports teams, especially the football and basketball teams.

THE M – The “M” is Missoula’s most well-known, signature landmark hovering over the special town. The large cement letter is located on Mount Sentinel situated just above University of Montana. You can switchback your way up on the short and steep M trail which begins just east of UM. Free parking is available for Mount Sentinel hikers. It’s ¾ of a mile to the M and another mile to the peak of Mount Sentinel. The views are sensational and well worth the trek.

ITS BREWERIES – The microbrew biz is hopping in Missoula. Missoulians like to brag that Montana ranks towards the top of list for most breweries per capita in the U.S. You won’t have to look far to find a good brew in Missoula with your choice of nine breweries, each with their own uniqueness and award-winning tastes. It’s where you’ll find the locals and tourists alike!