a guide to the Rattlesnake Wilderness
When I think of Missoula, I think of the Rattlesnake—it’s close to my heart for many reasons. It’s where I met my husband and packed with miles and miles of endless trails, and it just feels iconically Missoula to its core. Every time I sit near the creek, I can’t help but think of “A River Runs Through It,” even after years of calling this place home.
So where are the best spots in this vast wilderness area? Well, here’s a list of some that I swear by and am often asked, “where the heck is that?”
Whether you’re planning an outing with your dogs, a trail run, or wanting to soak in golden hour, Lincoln Hills is a top destination. Here, the trails are a playground, catering to all levels from easy to challenging. From May to June, the hillsides come alive with Arrowleaf balsamroots, evoking scenes from the Sound of Music that are hard to resist.
As temperatures rise, remember to bring water for yourself and for your furry companions, because there’s none available up there! There are loads of options from the backside of Mt. Jumbo to exploring the tranquil woods.
ph: Gloria Goñi
Tom Green Memorial Park
When I think of an ideal suburban area, this Upper Rattlesnake neighborhood takes the cake. It’s a vibrant neighborhood with parents casually walking their kids to school, dogs trotting along side of them off leash. The tennis courts are always bustling from dusk till dawn and it’s common to see friends and loved ones running from the trails to the storybook streets. This place is especially great for families, with a playground for kids and a winter ice rink for hockey and skating. Behind the playground, you’ll find a little path leading to the creek. There is also a walking bridge that is behind the tennis courts that links you to the other side of the Rattlesnake. Which leads me to next spot…
PEAS Farm Trail
I’m sure this trail has an official name but I only know it as the PEAS Farm Trail. It’s about a mile loop that can be accessed from TGMP on the other side of the river via the walking bridge, or you can park at the PEAS Farm and cut across the soccer field to the entrance. This trail does have an electric fence for the horses that graze in the field for most of the day so be careful if your dog is untrustworthy around things like that. Although it’s not a very long, it is adorable with views of Mt Jumbo and Mt Sentinel and you can cool off by the creek.
Backside of Waterworks
Okay, if you’ve live in Missoula for more than a month then I’m sure you’ve heard of Waterworks. It’s extremely popular and for good reason. You get the views without anything too steep and it also has a valley trail that is perfect for an easy day. The downside with a place like that that it it can get pretty busy for Missoula. So, if you park at the PEAS Farm near the soccer fields and cross the street, there is an entrance for the backside which is way less populated and in my own opinion, way better. In the spring it also has its fair share of balsamroot and connects to the main side of Waterworks at the top.
This is my go-to spot when it’s hot out but the dogs still need to burn off some energy. I swear it’s about 10-15 degrees cooler with being tucked into the woods and extremely shaded. There is a little stream that carves through and some of the most lushes plants that I’ve seen in the Missoula valley. It is mountain bike friendly and can get a bit steep but like I said, it is cooler than most of the exposed trails. If you find your way over there, make sure you have bear spray. Woods Gulch is known to have black bears and an article just came out about some grizzly sightings. If you’re lucky, you can find huckleberries on your way up to the top to snack on along the way.