Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
485.00 ft (147.83 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
3.60 mi (5.79 km)
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Named after a famous Missoula adventure athlete, this National Recreation Trail (NRT) is in the city’s backyard within Pattee Canyon National Recreation Area. The 3.4-mile loop is fast and flowy and appeals to hikers and mountain bikers alike. Bring along the trail guide for your adventures, as several other paths intersect with the trail along the route. 

The hike begins from the main Pattee Canyon Trailhead parking lot. Visitors are immediately confronted with a fork at the trailhead and will want to go right to reach the Sam Braxton NRT. After a short walk on a retired forest road, the trails' true beginning is clearly marked with “National Recreation Trail” signage. 

The loop ends slightly further down the retired road, making only one direction to head. Hikers will immediately want to take note of the gray blazers denoting “Trail #9.0,” as these marker tags are the ones to follow to stay on the Sam Braxton NRT, which crosses several other trails along the way. 

The trail has rolling topography, with gradual incline. Immediately on the path and throughout the trail, the enormous ponderosa pines of Pattee Canyon rise above. Keep an eye out for all types of wildlife on the Sam Braxton NRT. Reports of elk, owls, and black bears are often shared over beers at one of Missoula’s local breweries. All four seasons also add to the attraction of the trail. Spring is an excellent time for wildflowers, and despite the evergreen surroundings, the autumn delivers a change in color throughout the landscape. 

The trail loops back to the retired forest road with some slight backtracking to the trailhead. Pit toilets are available at the trailhead and other local favorite hiking trails like Crazy Canyon.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful pine surroundings. Flowy trail for running and biking. Easily connects to other adventures in the area.

Cons

Somewhat confusing side trails.

Trailhead Elevation

4,173.00 ft (1,271.93 m)

Highest point

4,458.00 ft (1,358.80 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Wildlife
Family friendly
Bird watching
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

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