Mission Mountains in Montana

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Mission Mountains

Void of foothills, the jagged inhospitable peaks of the Mission Mountains cut through the landscape with such dominance that one is left wondering if they are in Montana or viewing the Alps in Europe.

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  • Elizabeth and Mission Falls cascade over 1,000 feet
  • An easy drive from Missoula, spend the weekend exploring the Mission Mountain Range.
  • Mc Donald Peak rises above all other peaks at 9,820 ft.
  • Catch a cutthroat in one of the frigid alpine lakes.


The Mission Mountain's inspire awe with all that view their rugged, snowcapped peaks that jut straight out of the valley below. The Missions, dotted with multiple alpine lakes, small glaciers, timbered slopes, and vertical cliffs, range in elevation from 4,500 ft up to Mc Donald Peak, 9,820 ft.

This daunting terrain keeps many away making the vast landscape of the Missions the solitude seekers paradise. Keep your eyes open for grizzly and black bears, white-tailed deer, elk and the occasional wolverine.

Those that venture into the Mission Mountains are sure to experience a truly wild and amazing wilderness.


The Mission Mountains are located between Missoula and Kalispell and can be reached by either Hwy 93 or Hwy 83 via forest service roads. Only 80 miles away from Missoula, the Missions are an accessible escape from the hectic happenings of the city.

The Mission Mountains know no borders. Divided between federal and tribal lands the Missions are managed by both the Flathead National Forest and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Recreation Department.

In addition, the Missions became a designated wilderness area in 1975 when the Mission Mountain Wilderness Area was established. All wilderness area regulations apply when enjoying the scenic Missions.

No permits are needed in the national forest but one is required for recreation on tribal lands. For questions, maps, boundary inquiries contact the requisite office.

Flathead National Forest
Phone: 406-758-5200

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Recreation Department 
Phone: (406) 675-2700
Toll Free: (888) 835-8766


As most public lands, the Mission Mountains are open year round, but generally limited to July 1st to October 1st due to harsh winter conditions.

To protect foraging grizzly bears and avoid displacement, the tribe does close nearly 12,000 acres from July to October. This includes land adjacent to Mc Donald Peak.


The Mission Mountain Range covers 163,377 acres of wild, rugged wilderness. Yet, there are only 45 miles of trails available with non that loop together for a decent circuit. Pair that with wilderness area guidelines which prevent the use of motorized vehicles and bicycles and very quickly the number of visitors drops dramatically.

The lack of hikers in the Mission Mountains does have an advantage, solitude. Here you can listened to the call of the common loon as your mind wonders in all the quiet.

Extremely steep, rugged terrain doesn't leave much room for the easy hike. Luckily, you will be distracted from the burning in your thighs as the outstanding scenes of multi-colored wildflowers draped across alpine meadows come into view.

Hikes average 1 ¼ miles to 6 miles (remember, non of the trails loop so round trip you are looking at 2.5 and 12 miles.) The distances are as short or as long as your day hike ambitions.

A bit more effort must go into preparing for the multi-day adventure, yet, the effort is well worth it. A couple days communing with nature will make you quickly forget the chaos of the city.

Watch where you pitch your tent, no camping is permitted near Glacier, Turquoise, and Upper and Lower Cold Lakes. The Mission Mountain Wilderness map is a clear reference for camping guidelines and trails.

Don't forget you are in grizzly country. Take precautions and make sure to properly hang your food in a bear proof container.

Horseback Riding
Four legs are usually better then two on rough trails, but even the extremely steep, uneven terrain of the Mission Mountains generally proves too much for horseback riders. Best of luck to the serious, experienced rider who gives it a try.

Test your luck teasing the trout in the frigid alpine lakes of the Missions. The cutthroat thrive in these waters. Make sure to obtain a permit from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks or from a local fly shop.

Abundant big game will test your aim as you hunt in the national forest portion of the Mission Mountains. Contact the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks for information on seasons, regulations, and for permits.