Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
540.00 ft (164.59 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
5.50 mi (8.85 km)
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Waterworks Hill is a short but rewarding hike within the city of Missoula. These big hills are the most immediate northern backdrop of the city, recognizable by the giant peace sign made in stone on its eastern face. This hike is a favorite for students, visitors, and the community of Missoula. It’s perfect for an impromptu pre or post-work hike or trail run. 

Waterworks Hill is often referred to as the North Hills, and either name refers to the same matrix of trails on the north side of the railroad tracks. Two primary trailheads access the hills, which are surrounded by private land. The Orange Street Trailhead is just past the roundabout and exit ramp for Interstate 90.

From the Orange Street Trailhead, hikers head up into the foothills with a steady incline. Less than a mile up, hikers confront a fork in the trail. Both directions eventually lead to the Ridge Trail and summit of Waterworks Hill. Heading west adds more miles but traverses through a beautiful valley that blocks the nearby interstate rumble. 

No matter which way they get there, the Ridge Trail is why many hikers hike the North Hills. This wide path gives way to great views of the city and surrounding mountain ranges. The trail has a great view of Missoula’s signature peak, Mount Sentinel, much of the way. Other prominent peaks insight include Lolo Peak and Ch-Paa-Qn. 

Alternatively, hikers can access the Waterworks trail system from a larger trailhead off Greenough Drive. Visitors can also use this trailhead for a point-to-point hike. Several other trails lace the North Hills for variable distance loops. For a few extra scenic steps in the North Hills, Cherry Gulch is a fun alternative to the Ridge Trail.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

Not Required

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Easy access from the city. Great views of Missoula. Views of the Rattlesnake.

Cons

Gets hot in summer.

Trailhead Elevation

3,260.00 ft (993.65 m)

Highest point

3,800.00 ft (1,158.24 m)

Features

Family friendly
Big vistas

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

Missoula + Bitterroot Mountains, Montana
Missoula + Bitterroot Mountains, Montana

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana
Flathead lake + Mission Range, Montana

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