5 Best Day Trips From Missoula To Help You Explore More Of What Montana Has To Offer

Are you looking for day trip ideas from Missoula? Well, you’ve come to the right place because this list has some beautiful, fascinating, and fun destinations you can visit that are near Missoula!

Whether you’re a Missoula resident wanting to get out of town for the day or a visitor to the city wanting to explore the surrounding territory, you won’t have to venture too far to have a fun filled day.

This northwest corner of Montana offers wide open spaces, mountainous landscapes, an abundance of outdoor recreation, and a few interesting cities sprinkled in for good measure. You certainly won’t be bored with these day trip ideas.

Best Day Trips From Missoula

1. National Bison Range

National Bison Range Near Missoula, Montana
  • Distance From Missoula: 47 miles
  • Drive Time: 49 minutes

Tucked away in the northwest corner of Montana is the National Bison Range, one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the United States. It was established in 1908 to provide protection for bison and other native wildlife.

The 18,500 acre property contains beautiful rolling prairie lands where visitors can enjoy phenomenal views of surrounding farmlands and of the nearby mountain range. Of course, you’re guaranteed to see bison as well, and if you’re lucky, other animals like elk, antelope, and deer.

Visitors can take an auto tour of the park along Red Sleep Mountain Drive, a gravel road that travels through the middle of the park and up to the top of the large hills located in the center of the refuge.

There are no hiking trails in the park as it is not recommended that you stray too far from your vehicle due to the large herds of grazing bison in the area. Bison numbers inside the park are estimated at about three hundred and since the park is not that big, it is very likely you will stumble upon them during your visit. Even in your vehicle, the bison seem to be mammoth-sized and really not an animal you want to have a run in with.

Although the park is open year-round, Red Sleep Mountain Drive, the road that travels through the middle of the park, does close between mid-October to mid-May.

We visited in winter, and were still able to see a lot of bison. The park was especially beautiful under a blanket of white snow, and to be honest, it wasn’t all that cold.

If you’re looking for somewhere to get outside in nature, and to enjoy that fresh Montana air, the National Bison Range is a beautiful place to take a day trip from Missoula.

2. Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site

Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Site Is A Short Day Trip From Missoula
  • Distance From Missoula: 80 miles
  • Drive Time: 1.5 hours

Grant-Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site is a place that preserves symbols of the American West; wide open spaces, cowboys, and cattle. The ranch, which was established in 1862 by a Canadian fur trader, but later expanded by a cattle baron named Conrad Kohrs, was once the headquarters of a ten million acre cattle empire.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960, the park is now maintained by the National Park Service as a place that commemorates the western cattle industry from its inception in the 1850s to recent times.

At the park, visitors can see historic buildings and walk through old bunkhouses to see how real cowboys used to live. There are eighty-eight well preserved historic buildings onsite, as well as ten miles of ranch roads and trails to hike.

Visitors can also see live demonstrations conducted by park rangers, take guided tours of ranch homes, and enjoy wagon tours of the 1,600 acre working cattle ranch. See all of the fun things to do at Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Site.

3. Kalispell

Kalispell is a great day trip destination from Missoula, Montana
  • Distance From Missoula: 117 miles
  • Drive Time: 2 hours

Kalispell is a quaint western town nestled between Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park. This charming destination which is full of beautiful historic buildings in the downtown area, has a lot to offer day trippers.

Take a stroll along the city’s Main Street to see handsome buildings that date back to the late 1890s and early 1900s. Stop in at some of the boutique stores, art galleries, and shops full of western wear on your way. One of the most popular stores is Western Outdoor, a shop with shelves full of western boots and cowboy hats.

Don’t leave downtown until you’ve stopped in at one of the three breweries in the area, or Norm’s Soda Fountain for a huckleberry milkshake. There are many great restaurants in Kalispell to choose from if you plan to stay for dinner, and a divine ice cream shop which is the perfect place to end your day trip.

Although Kalispell is an easy day trip from Missoula, the relaxing atmosphere of this town and its close proximity to many beautiful outdoor destinations might tempt you to stay here a little longer. Fortunately, there are many clean and budget-friendly accommodations in Kalispell to choose from.

4. Wallace

Wallace, Idaho is an easy day trip from Missoula, Montana
Photo: Wallace Chamber of Commerce
  • Distance From Missoula: 118 miles
  • Drive Time: 2 hours

Wallace was once a hard-drinking, brawling, mining town that was, and still is, the biggest producer of silver in the United States. This fascinating place with its colorful history is an exciting destination to visit on a day trip from Missoula.

Spend your day touring Wallace’s downtown core area which is full of historic buildings. In fact, this whole city has been listed on the National Register Of Historic Places so you’ll have a lot to look at as you wander the city blocks.

To dive into Wallace’s mining history, you simply must stop in at the Wallace District Mining Museum which has a number of informative exhibits, mining artifacts, and even a one of a kind mock mine that visitors can walk through.

Next, swing by the Oasis Bordello Museum on Cedar Street, a building that housed a bordello until 1988 when the occupants hastily left town leaving personal items, furnishings, food in the cupboards, and even groceries that still sit in a grocery bag on the kitchen counter.

Then spend your afternoon exploring the city’s bars and saloons. Some establishments worth checking out include the North Idaho Mountain Brewery where you can sample locally brewed ale, The Fainting Goat Wine Bar for a casual fine dining experience, and Wallace Brewing Company, a 15-barrel microbrewery that pays homage to the town’s notorious past through a brand of beers with mining and bordello-inspired monikers such as 1910 Black Lager, Jackleg Stout, and RedLight Irish Red Ale.

5. Bitterroot Valley

Bitterroot Valley, Montana
Photo: Montana Office of Tourism and Business Development
  • Distance: 30 miles
  • Drive Time: 40 minutes

Discover the Bitterroot Valley’s stunning landscape and endearing communities along the Bitterroot Valley Scenic Byway. Located in the least visited southwest corner of Montana, the Bitterroot Valley extends 95 miles from Missoula south to the Idaho border.

The Bitterroot Valley sits in between two mountain ranges; the Bitterroot Range to the west and the Sapphire Mountains to the east. Adventurous travelers can explore the Bitterroot Mountains in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area or visit Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area which is in the Sapphire Mountains.

From Missoula, take Highway 93 south through the picturesque valley and be sure to make time to visit some of the quaint historic towns along the way. Stevensville will be the first town you will drive through which is officially recognized as the first permanent settlement of non-indigenous peoples in the state of Montana. Stop and see St. Mary’s Mission and Fort Owen State Monument, site of the first permanent white settlement in Montana before continuing to Hamilton, the hub of the Bitterroot Valley.

Hamilton was founded by copper baron Marcus Daly in the late 19th century. In Hamilton, don’t miss visiting the Daly Mansion for a glimpse into how the rich lived back in the early 19th century. The 24,000 square foot mansion features over fifty rooms and has twenty-five bedrooms.

Outdoor enthusiasts will love the outdoor opportunities that abound in the Bitterroot Valley which includes hiking, fly-fishing, wildlife viewing, and camping.

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