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Top 3 Outdoor Adventures You Must Do in Missoula

By April 11th, 2022Travel

Turn to the Professionals for World-Class Outdoor Adventures in Missoula’s Backyard

Few things get my heart racing more than the prospect of diving headfirst into a destination. Especially one known for its outdoor adventures and unequaled natural beauty. What really moves me and speaks to my soul is immersing myself in the natural world.

And Missoula Montana exudes natural splendors and adventures in spades! From gold and gem mining to river surfing, where does one begin to plan their explorations?

With the experts of course! With only a few days to explore Missoula, I needed help ensuring I experienced the best of Missoula’s backyard.

White Water Rafting with Montana River Guides

Located just 30 minutes west of Missoula, rapids carving their way through “The Gorge” reign supreme as Montana’s premium whitewater run. And since 1995, Montana River Guides not only guide on these waters but also teach swift water rescue courses.

That means no one knows these waters better or more intimately.

Under the guidance of Montana River Guides, we slipped our bright yellow raft into the frigid emerald water of the Clark Fork River. Beneath the looming shadow of the Cyr Bridge, our expert guide and whitewater rescuer, Leon, led the way. Using the first few calm minutes of our float, he briefed us on the river and upcoming rapids.

launching raft into Clark Fork River
Launching our raft into the Clark River near Alberton Gorge

Ranging from Class II to Class IV, with names like Boat Eater, Roller Coaster, and Tumbleweed we needed all the prepping. Within minutes the soft roar of The Shelf and Potter’s Plunge reverberated off the steep cliffs of Alberton’s Gorge.

white water rafting with Montana River Guides
Catching our breath between rapids

In between rapids, rafters float serenely through sheer cliffs carved by glaciers. While drifting along, watch for eagles, osprey, river otters, beaver, and other wildlife inhabiting the river and surrounding forest.

After several hours of floating and running legendary rapids like Cliffside and Fang, we stepped out of the crystalline waters completely soaked but also completely stoked.

While we opted for the adrenaline-filled half-day whitewater rafting trip, Montana River Guides offers several more options. Ranging from relaxing to heart-pounding, other options include standup paddleboarding, scenic floats, kayaking, and riverboarding.

World Class Fly Fishing with Grizzly Hackle Fly

When you visit one of the prime trout fishing destinations in the world, you want one of the best outfitters and guiding services in the nation. You want the pros at Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop.

dry flys for sale at Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop
A staggering selection of flys at Grizzly Hackle Fly Shop

Not only do they offer quality rods, reels, flys, and waders but they offer unparalleled knowledge along with unsurpassed customer service. Whether you are a complete novice or a seasoned professional, they provide assistance, instruction, and encouragement every step of the way.

Having never seen a fly rod in my life much less touched one, my stint as a fly fisher could have easily turned into a mess of tangled lines and soggy clothes. Fortunately, Sam, my guide and consummate pep-talker, had my back.

Fly Fishing with Grizzly Hackle Guides on Clark Fork River
Check out my Mountain Whitefish in the net

We slipped into the placid stretch of the Clark Fork winding its way through the middle of Missoula. In no time flat, Sam had us casting our stonefly nymphs and mending the lines effortlessly.

While he paddled and steered, we bounced between banks in search of troat while the midday sun glinted off the rippling surface of the river.

After only a couple of hours on the water, we managed to land several trout and kindle my everlasting love of flyfishing.

Trail Riding with Dunrovin Ranch

To truly experience the rugged wildness of Montana, one must set out into the wilderness like the natives and pioneers. On horseback. And just like in the days of the Wild West, horses were more than just mounts. They were vital partners and family.

Dunroving Trail Riding in Missoula
Trail riding at Dunrovin Ranch

And the herd over at Dunrovin Ranch, just 8 miles outside of Missoula, remains precisely that.

Each of the horses, ponies, and donkeys provides an essential service both to each other and guests visiting the ranch. Luckily, guests get plenty of opportunities to meet the herd through numerous activities. Such as River and Ranch rides, half-day and full-day rides, Historical rides, riding lessons, and corral lessons.

We opted for Dunrovin’s most popular River and Ranch Ride.

In the safety of the corral, we introduced ourselves to our mounts while covering the basics of horsemanship. After mounting Razz, my handsome steed for the day, we left the dusty corral and headed out into the swaying grasses of the fields. Surefooted and steady, our horses sashayed along the trail toward the Bitterroot River.

Riding along Clark Fork River
Trail Riding along the Clark Fork in Missoula

River Riders ford the river and follow the trail as it continues onto adjacent public lands. From there they continue to follow the river upstream into the forest, and across again into open meadows. Before heading back toward the ranch the ride rounds off with a short uphill trek. From the top, catch sweeping views of the Heavenly Twins, the Bitterroot, Ch-paa-qn Peak, the Rattlesnake Wilderness, and a snippet of the Lewis and Clark Trail.

We Ranch Riders meander alongside the Bitterroot River and through a beautiful wetland meadow dotted with willow bushes and apple trees. After a couple of hours in the saddle, we sauntered back into the corral in time for a picnic lunch and fresh-picked apples.

Horse back riding at Dunrovin Ranch
Riding Fences at Dunrovin Ranch

From scaling mountains to leisurely tubing the Clark Fork in summer, there’s still so much left to experience! Fortunately, the dedicated local guides ensure visitors are welcomed back to explore Missoula’s backyard like a pro!

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Jessica Pickett

Gypsy mom, storyteller, and daydreamer extraordinaire, you can usually find me researching our next adventure. An explorer, lover of craft beers, and anything outside I'm at my happiest getting lost in a new city or hitting the trails with my family in tow.

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