(Photo courtesy of Heather Morris)
If you live in Missoula, it's likely that you either have a dog or want a dog. Recent statistics indicate there is one resident dog in Missoula per every two humans. Perhaps it's because Missoula is such a dog-friendly city. A college town known for its sports teams and the home of Pet Fest, one of the largest one day pet adoption events in Western Montana, Missoula is a friendly city to outdoor enthusiasts and their canine friends alike.
Three hours south of Glacier National Park and three and a half hours west of Yellowstone National Park, Missoula is surrounded by national forests and a handful of wilderness areas. It offers amazing scenery and many dog-friendly recreational activities.
Enjoying the Outdoors
Hiking is very popular in The Garden City and features many options for your pups to go along. A hike to the "M" is a favorite among Missoulians of all ages. After you begin hiking the trail, you'll get a birds' eye view of the University of Montana. The higher you hike, the more your view will be expanded to include all of Missoula, the valley, and surrounding scenery. Another popular hiking trail in the area is the Kim Williams Nature Trail. It meanders alongside the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula and connects to the Riverfront Trail, giving users an uninterrupted 4 miles of trail from which to enjoy the river or access other parts of Missoula.
Not only do most parks allow dogs on leash, but several public recreation areas allow canine companions to accompany their human friends on outdoor adventures. Here are some of these off-leash, dog-friendly nature areas.
Jacobs Island Bark Park, six acres at the east end of Jacob's Island Park, has been fenced and double-gated to provide a secure place for owners and their dogs to romp, get the exercise they need, and have fun off-leash. Open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Fort Missoula Canine Campus is a 1/3-acre of fenced area just west of the horseshoe pits to provide a secure place for dog obedience and agility training. Some Areas on Mount Sentinel and North Hills allow dogs as well. (You must pick up and pack out your dog's wastes.) Leashes are required where posted on Mt. Sentinel, the M trail, and trail sections on the south face and on the North Hills, the first 300 yards of Waterworks trailhead and where posted. Dogs must be under voice restraint in other areas. Voice restraint means that the dog's owner or custodian is in clear view and personally present within 25 yards of the dog and able to effectively control and recall the dog at all times. There are some areas on Mount Jumbo that are open to dogs, picking up and packing out your dog's wastes is required. North of Saddle is closed to dogs and people from December 1 - April 30, and dogs are allowed off-leash under voice restraint from May 1 - November 30. Voice restraint means that the dog's owner or custodian is in clear view and personally present within 25 yards of the dog and able to effectively control and recall the dog at all times. The south side of Saddle is closed to dogs and people from December 1 - March 15, and dogs are allowed off-leash under voice restraint from March 16 - November 30. Lands below Upper Lincoln Hills Drive, Trail to L but not beyond and U.S. West easement above I-90 is open to dogs but dogs must be leashed December 1 - April 30. May 1 - November 30, dogs must be under voice restraint.
Blue Mountain Recreation Area is a 4,900-acre recreation area that includes 41 miles of system trails and is a popular spot for locals and visitors because of its proximity to Missoula and the views of the Missoula valley, and the Sapphire and Rattlesnake mountains. This area is well-suited for hiking, biking, and exercising with dogs on voice restraint. Open 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Pattee Canyon Recreation Area is close to Missoula city limits and there are no dog restrictions from the Crazy Canyon area to City of Missoula property. Elsewhere in this wooded, year-round recreation area, dogs are generally allowed, except for on groomed ski trails in winter months. Open dawn until dusk.
Rattlesnake National Recreation Area where dogs on leashes are welcome in almost all areas of this vast, 33,000-acre wilderness and recreation area. The Woods Gulch trail loop has no dog restrictions. Open dawn until dusk.
Floating the river is a favorite summer past time of many Missoulians. The Clark Fork River cuts through town, which was once an old, glacial lakebed. The Bitterroot River feeds into the Clark Fork on the Southwest edge of town; the famed Big Blackfoot River meets the Clark Fork just east of town. Bearpaw River Expeditions offers kennels where your dog can wait while you float and then meet up with you for a picnic afterwards. For more information on their guided float trips, visit www.bearpawexpeditions.com. (Typically the floating season is from April - June, so plan ahead for next year.)
Alpine Canine Alpine Canine is Missoula's premier alternative to the typical dog daycare, offering a private, on-site Dog Recreation Ranch. This fenced 72+ acre facility features established trails, shade breaks and a small stream to splash in. Elevation changes are modest to significant, offering the perfect workout both for energetic puppies who want to climb and for mature seniors who need less strenuous exercise to help combat stiff joints and muscles. Their experienced team can create a safe pack structured environment that your dog can enjoy time and time again. Alpine Canine is conveniently located in Missoula, just off of Highway
93 at the Reserve street exit.
A Place to Stay
Whether your idea of accommodations is a place to pitch your tent, hook up your RV or a dog friendly hotel, Missoula has plenty of options for you. Most hotels and motels will accept pets for an additional fee. Listed here are few special accommodations that make extra efforts for your pet.
KOA Kampgrounds are pet friendly. Use Missoula KOA as your base camp for an abundance of recreational opportunities in the area. There is camping available to fit any need - Deluxe cabins (full service) & cabins, premium patio sites, RV, van & pickup camper sites, and tent sites. In addition, there are two large fenced dog walks, and one K9 park, playgrounds for the kids and a community campfire area provided for guests who donít have a fire ring on site. Kamp K9, the K9 park on-site, is fenced-in, features agility obstacles, and has plenty of room for furry family members to run free, along with shaded benches available for you to relax and enjoy the fun. KOA Kampgrounds are pet friendly and they welcome guests who enjoy traveling and sharing their camping experience with the family dog. They do require guests to read and abide by the KOA pet policy. To find out more, go to www.missoulakoa.com.
La Quinta Inn offers lodging for two pets of any size with no additional pet fee. Guests just need to fill out a pet information sheet at check-in. Dog treats of dried chicken jerky are offered at the front desk. There is a designated area for dogs to relieve themselves and bags are available. La Quinta also positions guests with dogs near exits for them to easily access outside to walk pets. Their staff has a soft spot for pets.
Motel 6 is the original pet friendly hotel chain and pets stay for free, and there is no weight limit or restriction on the number of dogs per room. In Missoula, the Motel 6 is located just off I-90 at 3035 Expo Pkwy.
Dog Friendly Dining
Missoula is packed full of restaurants and eateries with many different options. The places listed here allow your dog to sit with you at their outdoor seating. But please check with them as outdoor seating is seasonal and dependent on weather and policies do change.
Bernice's Bakery Bakery is a scratch bakery where they create and sell a full line of pastry, cakes and breads. The atmosphere is warm and casual. There you'll find an interesting cross section of Missoula including students, people from the neighborhood, police officers, carpenters, university professors, and artists who all enjoy treats from Bernice's. Pets are encouraged in the outdoor eatery.
Sean Kelly's motto is "Where the Gaelic and the Garlic Meet". This public house is known locally for Pub Trivia Tuesdays and Open Mic Thursdays, it also boasts an outdoor eatery where you can enjoy the sunshine while you eat with your pup at your feet.
Brooks and Browns is located in the Holiday Inn downtown and has an outdoor patio where they host Yappy Hour. From 5 to 7 pm every Wednesday night, Yappy Hour is an event that people are encouraged to bring their dogs to and where dog toys and bones are on hand to help entertain canines while their humans are enjoying dog-themed beverages.
Big Dipper Ice Cream is one of Missoula's favorite ice cream places and offers free small dog cones for your four legged friends. And Big Dipper ice cream is yummy!
As they say, "make hay while the sun shines", and Missoula is no exception. The Missoula area is home to many summer festivals. Caras Park and downtown Missoula host so many that they have a web site dedicated to the event schedule. Make sure to visit www.MissoulaDowntown.com and www.MissoulaEvents.com for current event information.
Pet Fest is Western Montana's premiere pet showcase and adoption event and promotes responsible pet ownership through education and entertainment. The event features exhibitors, rescues, shelters and contests, like the extremely popular Wiener Dog Dash and the Doggie Olympics where dogs of all ages, sizes and abilities have a chance to go for the gold. And owners range in age and size just as much as their furry friends do!
Check out the schedule at www.PetFest.net and check back often because all times are approximate and subject to change at any time. Admission is free but a generous donation of pet food to help feed homeless animals is encouraged. The 7th annual event will be held from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, August 18th at Caras Park. Spayed or neutered four-legged friends may attend Pet Fest with a responsible two-legged friend. All pets must be leashed, current on vaccinations and you must be prepared to pick up your pet's mess.
Rock Against Racism is an awareness and education event to support the YWCA Missoula Racial Justice Program. A free event hosted at Caras Park in downtown Missoula, this year's event will be held on September 14th from 4pm to 10pm. and will feature 6 great bands, food, a beer garden, t-shirts, exhibits from local organizations, information and more! Visit www.MissoulaRocks.com for a band line up and more.