Missoula, Montana

Living in Missoula

Iyna Bort Caruso

It’s hard to beat the setting of Missoula, Montana’s second largest city. It’s situated at the confluence of three rivers, ringed by national forests and wilderness areas and the midpoint between Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.

But residents love the town as much as what surrounds it. Smithsonian Magazine called Missoula the “perfect mix of town and country.”

The culture is eclectic. Missoula’s population includes an abundance of writers--and the indie bookstores to sustain them. There are monthly downtown art gallery nights as well as festivals and concerts at Caras Park on the Clark Fork River.

College football and basketball are huge. The University of Montana, the state’s first university, is among the city’s largest employers, producing a dynamic and educated workforce.

Missoula repeatedly shows up on the Livability rankings of “Best Places to Live” for the true western experience it offers intermixed with culture and quality of life.

Locals embrace every season with a passion. In “A River Runs Through It,” the autobiographical novella about life in Missoula, author Norman Maclean describes summer days as “almost Arctic in length.” Those days are ideal for fishing and strolling along the Riverfront Walking Trail. Come autumn, the Garden City, as Missoula is called, transforms with the fall foliage. A hike up Mount Sentinel is the perfect spot for leaf peeping. Winter means a world of possibilities in white: skiing, snowboarding, even dogsledding. And in spring, the thaw ushers in bike season with riders pedaling through lilac-covered landscapes.

Established as a trading post in 1860 and redefined by the coming of the railroad in 1883, Missoula’s past shows in its seven historic districts and extensive listings of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The city also has its share of modern executive estates, sprawling ranches and rural, riverside mansions.