Only minutes from Glacier National Park, you’ll find the arts capital and the second-largest city of the state of Montana; Missoula. This gem offers a perfect combination of big-city amenities, outdoor recreations, and the natural wonders of the state. Missoula is also home to the University of Montana.
The city is rich in culture with a vibrant downtown center filled with unparalleled historic architecture. Also known as the Garden City for its dense vegetation and lush green landscapes, Missoula’s natural beauty is the reason for the abundance of outdoor attractions.
If you are planning to take a trip to this cultural hub, you must be wondering about the ideal season to visit. Whether you are looking for a vacation filled with solitude or an action-packed getaway, this article provides details on the best seasons when you can make the most out of your trip to Missoula.
A Trip During the Summer Season
Want to visit Missoula amid a warm and beautiful season? Then plan a trip during the summer season. We suggest July and August. If you are seeking an adventurous trip with fun summertime activities such as water sports, sightseeing, and hiking; then your summer vacation should be in Missoula this year.
Summers in Missoula are short-lived but thoroughly filled with excitement. This is the season when tourism is at its peak, with busier and crowded public places and travel destinations.
Due to this, the tour expenses and accommodation costs will be higher. However, the lively experience of Missoula during this season makes it worth the price!
The weather during summers is relatively warm and dry. The average temperatures during July and August range between 16 to 17 °C. It is warm during the daytime but gets chillier during the night. You might also experience light showers of rain.
These months are the hottest months of Missoula with the highest temperature recorded at 27 °C. This makes them ideal for those who prefer outdoor experiences in the warmth of the sun.
What to Pack
During the summer season, you need to pack light. Gear up with cozy and airy summer clothes which will keep you cool and comfortable on sunny days. For evenings, however, make sure you pack a coat or a jumper since it tends to get chilly.
Things to Do
The heat of the summers calls for water activities. For this, Missoula offers a wide variety of canoeing, kayaking, and rafting experiences for you. The crowds are lively and you can find fairs and festivals happening at almost all places.
This energetic getaway will not only allow you to enjoy the recreational spots of the city but also help you experience its culture to the fullest.
Now that you know when the best time to visit is, let’s talk about the things you can do for an enjoyable summer experience.
Explore Glacier National Park
The alpine scenic views of brilliant aquamarine lakes, waterfalls, and mountain slopes covered under a blanket of wildflowers deserve to be explored. This is the world’s first international peace park and ranks as the 10th most visited park in the world.
Although the park is open all year round if you want to go down the Going-to-the-Sun Road, then you need to visit Missoula this season as it is only open during the summers. This is a gorgeous scenic mountain road which is the most crowded and popular region of the national park and tourists all over the globe appraise its panoramic views.
You can enjoy various hikes, take dips in the lagoons, savor the marvelous glacial views, witness a rich diversity of faunas and floras, or simply take a stroll as you explore your way through this national park.
A Hike to St Mary and Virginia Falls
For those whose hearts hold a special place for stunning waterfalls, this destination is heaven. Due to its scenic landscape, it is the busiest during summers. This short hike features majestic mountain views and the beautiful Virginia Creek Valley, which leads up to the spectacular St Mary and Virginia Falls. This is a great place for those interested in rich wildlife and also, bird watching. Along with water-based activities, you can also indulge in sightseeing and pick a great place to have a picnic meal later on!
Experience White-Water Rafting
Missoula is the perfect place to go for white water rafting as rushing currents pass through the canyons and gorges. One of the most spectacular settings for this activity is in Alberton Gorge, where you will find exciting rapids to navigate, with views of high mountains and lush forests lying on either side of the Clark Fork River. This stretch is popular not only for water rafting but also for kayaking, canoeing, and boat trips. Many tourists head over to this spot to beat the sun and enjoy the calm waters.
A Fun Day at Splash Montana Waterpark
Open only during the summer season, this water park is not only popular in Missoula but is one of the best water parks all over the world. It offers a lot of swirling waterslides, outdoor pools, rivers, and fun floats. With features for people of all ages, this place is great for a family outing. Experience a wet and wild day whilst soaking in the sparkling pools of Montana’s Waterpark!
A Trip During the Fall Season
If you are someone who prefers to travel during pleasant weather conditions and a less crowded environment, then the months of September and October are your safest bet for a great autumnal vacation.
Traveling in the least busy times means that lodging and other accommodations will not only be easily available but also at much lower prices. This is a good option for those who are looking for a worthwhile trip on a budget. As fewer travelers visit the state during these months, trips in autumn are one of the best-kept secrets of this place.
This time of the year in Missoula begins with frosty mornings and crispy leaves dispersed on the ground. The weather is relatively cool during September with an average temperature of 12 °C. Most of the days are sunny and rain is a lot less frequent. It gets chillier in October when the average temperature drops as low as 5 °C. And if you are lucky, you can even catch the first snowfall of the season. Nature during this time is at its very best – you can experience the great marvels of fall foliage as the thick vegetation of lush green trees is replaced with beautiful shades of crimson and gold.
What to Pack
If you are visiting Missoula during late September and mid-October, make sure to pack some extra layers for the cold weather. Jackets and thermals are a must, especially for the evenings and nights. An overcoat during the day might become a requirement if the temperatures decide to drop early on.
Things to Do – Autumn in Missoula
Now that you know when to visit for an autumn trip let’s take a look at the delicious activities which make it so special.
Autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons in Missoula. The mountains and the valleys glow with vivid shades providing breathtaking scenic views for you to enjoy. From endless biking and hiking trails, relaxing countryside drives, or even a simple walk along the spectacular tree-lined streets of Missoula’s downtown; this city has many outdoor activities you can enjoy as the fall season reaches its peak brilliance.
Not to mention, the popular Halloween celebrations you can be a part of, which are the talk of the town during this magnificent season.
Here we have listed some places you surely don’t want to miss on your visit to Missoula in the fall.
Visit the Missoula Maze
This is a great way to spend the day with your loved ones. First, of its kind, the Missoula Maze features a large corn maze with a pumpkin patch, obstacle course, and a petting zoo with a variety of animals. They also have a mini maze for younger children in the group. All you have to do is get lost in the rows and find your friends and family as you try to make your way out. And while you’re at it, we recommend visiting the pumpkin patch to pick out some jack-o-lantern for carving!
Scenic Drive to the Bitterroot Valley
You need to visit the Bitterroot Valley in the fall – the gorgeous views are steeped in oranges and browns as the fall season rolls on! It is a short drive south of Missoula and is home to charming small towns, lots of outdoor recreational sports, and plentiful historical highlights. Here, Daly Mansion is one of the destinations that most tourists appraise. This Georgian-Revival-style mansion is known for its architecture and design and it offers a spectacular view with its tree-lined entry, right in the heart of Bitterroot Valley.
A Walk on the Riverfront Trail
This trail runs along the Clark Fork River which reflects the brilliant foliage surrounding the river. It is accessible from the University of Montana and Downtown Missoula. This irresistible trail offers a beautiful and tranquil path for you to meander through.
We hope this article helps you in planning your perfect trip to Missoula, Montana. Regardless of the season, you decide to visit, Missoula offers plenty of locations and activities that are sure to make for a memorable trip for you and your loved ones.