Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
850.00 ft (259.08 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
4.10 mi (6.60 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.

On the southwest fringe of Missoula, Blue Mountain is one of three national recreation areas bordering the city. This vast expanse of public land covers 4,900 acres and is host to many outdoor outlets. 

Alongside a honeycomb network of hiking trails, the area supports other activities like disc golfing, hunting, motorcycling, and mountain biking. Not bad for a site that required significant restoration efforts in the 1970s after decades of unregulated use.   

Several trailheads in Blue Mountain access different routes within the National Recreation Area. The most accessible trailhead, and the one with the largest parking area, is on Blue Mountain Road shortly after turning off Highway 93. Several routes begin at this trailhead, and the initial network of trails resembles a wagon wheel in construction. 

The Vista Point Loop is a great introductory hike to the area. The most direct approach makes for a 4.1-mile lollipop loop, with plenty of side trails along the way to extend the journey. To take the quickest approach to Vista Point, head straight on Trail 3.04 from the trailhead. 

The route leads through a big open field for the first 0.8 miles at the base of Blue Mountain. This open field offers excellents vantage points of Missoula on the way back. After traversing the open field, the route continues to follow a retired forest service road through a mature forest of ponderosa pine. 

A fun singletrack trail parallels this forest service road. The entire network of trails is popular with mountain bikers, and hikers should keep their ears open for anyone cruising behind them. After just over 0.3 miles on the singletrack or forest service road, hikers should keep eyes for a junction with Trail 3.06 - which leads to Vista Point. 

It’s less than a mile climb up to Vista Point with only a handful of spread-out switchbacks. After stopping to take a picture of the distant Mount Sentinel, Mount Jumbo, and Missoula on the horizon, it’s all downhill back to the car.

After Vista Point, the trail drops into more forested scenery before connecting with Trail 5.03, which by heading to the right, should lead back to the original retired forest service road to complete the loop. More great views of the Missoula valley peek out between the vegetation on the trail. 

The remaining 1.5 miles back on the forest service road are all downhill and very scenic. Upon reaching the big open meadow of the first/last mile of the trail, the Missoula valley really stands out. This is a great place to be as the sun sets behind your shoulder. 

  

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Opens access to huge network of trails. Great views of Missoula. Close to town.

Cons

None.

Trailhead Elevation

3,217.00 ft (980.54 m)

Highest point

4,030.00 ft (1,228.34 m)

Features

Vault toilet
Wildlife
Big vistas
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

No

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Comments

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