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Missoula, Montana

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Adventure Town: The Missoula Mind-Set
In this cerebral Montana enclave, higher learning begins where the asphalt ends. Text by Dan Oko   Photograph by Chad Harder
Photo: Trail running in Missoula
WIDE-OPEN SPACES: Find your stride on Missoula's 5,158-foot (1,572-meter) Mount Sentinel.

By the Numbers


The date Meriwether Lewis crossed the Clark Fork and traveled through what is modern-day Missoula


Millions of wilderness acres within a hundred-mile radius of Missoula

3 & 3.5

Driving time (in hours) to Glacier and Yellowstone
National Parks, respectively

Missoula (pop. 62,000) is home to four major mountain ranges, five trout-laden streams, nine
best-selling authors, and the University of Montana,
producer of 28 Rhodes scholars.
It's a heady place—
full of outdoorsy intellectuals who enjoy contemplating
the West almost as much as they love playing in it. And
they have plenty of options for doing so: Hundreds of
miles of trails weave in and around Missoula; the
61,000-acre (24-686 hectare) Rattlesnake National
Recreation and Wilderness Area is five miles (8
kilometers) away; and the Montana Snowbowl resort,
nine miles (14 kilometers) from town, collects 300
inches (762 centimeters) of powder annually. Just this
year Brennan's Wave white-water park opened on the
stretch of the mighty Clark Fork River that passes
through town, allowing kayakers to show off alongside
eclectic bistros and bars. There, over pints of Moose
 Drool microbrew, Missoulians ponder the arrival of
downtown's first Starbucks. But not for long: These
residents rarely let rumination distract them from the
dazzling Big Sky country just beyond their backdoors.

Scouting Trip: Your Weekend in Missoula

WHERE TO PLAY: For stunning views of the Missoula Valley, hike or bike the challenging path to 7,971-foot (2,430-kilometer) Stuart Peak, in the Rattlesnake National Recreation and Wilderness Area. Open Road Bicycles & Nordic Equipment has rentals ($18 a day; +1 406 549 2453). Lewis & Clark Trail Adventures guides rafters on dinnertime floats of the Clark Fork's Class III Alberton Gorge ($95; Or you can catch cutthroat trout on a guided fly-fishing trip ($335 a day;

WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK: Scott Gill, chef-owner of Scotty's Table (+1 406 549 2790), uses as many organic and locally produced ingredients as possible in his seasonal menu. If it's a no-frills burger or a stiff drink you're after, try the Missoula Club, aka "the Mo" (+1 406 728 3740).

WHERE TO STAY: Overlooking the Clark Fork, the historic seven-room Goldsmith's Inn Bed and Breakfast ($104; is just a short walk from downtown and the university. Car campers use fishing access points along the Blackfoot River as tent sites. The closest to town is Johnsrud Park.

Want to Live Here?
Real Estate Lowdown: Over the past five years, the median single-family-home price has risen from $140,000 to $185,000; million-dollar properties, once scarce, are becoming more common. For deals, look on the Northside, an up-and-coming neighborhood north of the railroad.

What $300,000 Buys: A brand-new, three-bedroom Craftsman-style home, centrally located on the banks of the Clark Fork (

Local Economy: Not pretty—Missoula County salaries average $28,185, and it's not unheard of to find Ph.D.'s waiting tables. Schools, hospitals, and the university are the biggest employers; a new DirecTV call center is expected to bring in about 900 jobs.

Cover: Adventure magazine

Pick up the June/July 2006 issue for 50 top adventures in the national parks; how to move to Montana; the best ten-day Brazil vacation; 11 instant weekend escapes; and new watches, cameras, and sunglasses for summer.

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