Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
1,100.00 ft (335.28 m)
Trail type
8.80 mi (14.16 km)
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Hiking trails are in no short supply in Missoula. Perhaps that’s why this loophiking route on the southwest edge of the city sometimes goes unnoticed. Abutting Blue Mountain National Recreation Area, the O'Brien Creek trail system offers a handful of trails and loops to choose from. 

Three different trails head off from the small trailhead parking area of O’Brien Creek. The gravel road that accesses the parking area continues as the wide and non-motorized O’Brien Creek Trail. From either corner of the parking area, the South and North O’Brien Creek Trails ascend the mountainside. 

All three routes offer a rejuvenating hike, and all essentially lead to the same place. The South O’Brien Creek Trail takes an elevated approach and connects with the main O’Brien Creek Trail five miles from the trailhead. North O’Brien Creek Trail ascends even higher and hits South O’Brien Creek after four miles. Within this network, several loop options are available.

This guide makes for one of the longer loop combinations by utilizing all three trails, starting with North O’Brien Creek.  

It’s a steady climb for the first two miles on the North O’Brien Creek Trail from the parking area. This effort is rewarded by expanding views of Missoula to the east and Blue Mountain to the south. Keep an eye out for a hard-to-see sign about a half-mile from the trailhead. After gaining the initial elevation, the trail mellows out for some reasonably smooth singletrack. 

After four miles total on North O’Brien Creek, the trail connects to the South O’Brien Creek Trail. This intersection puts hikers approximately halfway on the five-mile South O’Brien Creek Trail. Heading left at the junction (east), the singletrack leads back to the original trailhead and parking area. To the right (west), the trail continues navigating eye-catching landscape full of autumn colors during fall, eventually leading down to O’Brien Creek.

The South O’Brien Creek Trail connects to the end of O’Brien Creek Trail. It’s approximately 2.8 miles from the end of the trail back to the parking area. This scenic section is mostly flat and wide as a retired road. The route also includes the sound of O’Brien Creek flowing nearby. 

Some of this near three-mile stretch passes through private property, where owners have granted trail access, so be sure to stay on the trail. One local landowner has added a little flair to the trail that sometimes the route is known for. Keep eyes out for several angelic figurines adorning small sections of the trail.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Uncrowded trails. Good flowy elevation change. Autumn colors in fall.



Trailhead Elevation

3,900.00 ft (1,188.72 m)

Highest point

4,499.00 ft (1,371.30 m)


Family friendly
Big vistas
Bird watching

Typically multi-day


Permit required




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