Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
3,720.00 ft (1,133.86 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
18.00 mi (28.97 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Blue Mountain National Recreation Area encompasses over 49,000 acres of mixed-use land on Missoula’s southwest edge. Recreation runs abundant with over 41 miles of trails catering to hikers, horse riders, and ATV operators - all within 15 minutes of downtown Missoula. 

The main trailhead, situated off Blue Mountain Road shortly after its turnoff from Highway 93, has parking spots for all types of trail users. An excellent route through the National Recreation Area is on it’s solely designated National Recreation Trail. This nine-mile route to the top of Blue Mountain starts from the Main Trailhead and climbs from there. 

Blue Mountain National Recreation Trail is open for hikers and horse riders. The entire route is dotted with various parking areas accessible via a dirt road. The peak of Blue Mountain itself is accessible via all-terrain vehicles - but hiking to it is much more fun. 

The hike begins in a big open valley that’s familiar to anyone who has visited before. It doesn’t take long for the trail to enter foliage or come across a second parking area a mile down the route. The trail continues as singletrack through a dense forest from this secondary parking area near the back 9 of the excellent Blue Mountain Disc Golf Course. 

Several other trails bisect the Blue Mountain National Recreation Trail. Users will want to keep their eyes out for well-signed “Trail 3.01” markers to stay in the right direction. The route continues to climb, climb, and climb for approximately 3,500 feet in its nine-mile duration. The good news is that much of the elevation gain is spread out with a moderate grade.

The nine-mile route traverses singletrack as well as wider trails on the way to the top. Several vantage points of Missoula and the surrounding Sapphire Mountains encourage moments to take a breath and enjoy the view. The route crosses the dirt Blue Mountain Road several times along the way. 

After what feels like a steeper final 2 miles to the top of Blue Mountain, the Blue Mountain Fire Lookout awaits hikers who make the journey. Here is an excellent place to enjoy the views and eat some snacks before heading back down the mountain. Users can head back the way they came on the Blue Mountain NRT for an 18-mile out-and-back or head in the other direction down Deadman’s Ridge for an approximately 15-mile round trip. 

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Solitude. City views. Mountain views. Lookout tower.

Trailhead Elevation

3,212.00 ft (979.02 m)

Highest point

6,437.00 ft (1,962.00 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Geologically significant
Shelters
Big vistas
Horseback riding
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

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