Blue Mountain Recreation Area in Missoula

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Blue Mountain Recreation Area

Blue Mountain Recreation Area is the city dwellers playground, as it lies just two miles south of Missoula, in western Montana, and holds access to almost 5,000 acres of protected, recreational land.

  • Take the 1.25 mile interpretive trail and learn about the river, vegetation and wildlife of Blue Mountain.
  • Blue Mountain is Missoula's own wilderness playground.
  • Go for a hike, hop on your bike, or take a ride on your motorcycle.
  • The Blue Spruce gives Blue Mountain its colorful blue hue in the sunlight.


Blue Mountain Recreation Area is the quintessential spot for recreation. There is literally something for every outdoor enthusiast. The 4,900 preserved acres provide trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, motor vehicle sports, winter activities, and even disc golf.

From the top of Blue Mountain look out on Missoula Valley or turn south and take in the majestic Sapphire and Bitterroot Mountains. The mixed use trails are designated in classes so that outdoor enthusiasts of all types can play together in the Blue Mountain Recreation Area.


You don't have to go far to reach Blue Mountain, its only two miles from downtown Missoula. To get there take Hwy 93 south to Blue Mountain Road. There are three different access points from here.

  • The lower trailhead, with horse facilities, is located half a mile north on Blue Mountain Road #559.
  • Turn left off Blue Mountain Road onto Forest Road #365 roughly a mile and a half from Hwy 93. This will lead you to the Nature Trail, Motorcycle Trailhead, and the Lookout.
  • Maclay Flats is almost two miles up Blue Mountain Road from Hwy 93 south.

The Blue Mountain Recreation Area lies in the Lolo National Forest. For information regarding trails, regulations, permits, or maps contact the Lolo National Forest, the Missoula Ranger District, or if you are in Missoula, check out a one of the local gear shops.

In addition, the “Blue Mountain Brochures” and the “Missoula Trails Brochure” contain trail and usage information. Found at local stores or with the forest service.

Lolo National Forest
Building 24-A, Fort Missoula
Missoula, MT 59804
Phone: 406-329-3814
Alternate Phone: 406-329-3750
Fax: 406-329-1049

Missoula Ranger District


The Blue Mountain Recreation Area has it all. Take Blue Mountain Lookout Road for a sight at some of the amazing vistas or experience the handicapped accessible Maclay Flats Interpretive Trail.

The soft incline of Blue Mountain won't make for the most strenuous hikes, but it will get your heart pumping. With 41 miles of trail, there is plenty to explore. The trails are heavily used and well maintained, and the trailheads offer great maps of the area, so you don't have to worry about getting lost.

  • Blue Mountain Saddle to Blue Mountain Lookout: Following the last mile of the 8-mile Blue Mountain National Recreation Trail will lead you to the working fire tower. Climb the 50ft tower and take in the view of the valley below.
  • Deadman Point: This beautiful 5.6 mile loop with a mere 600 ft elevation gain is the perfect nature stroll. Beware of bikers and ATV riders as this trail is popular with both.
  • Maclay Flats Interpretive Trail
    This interpretive trail offers you the option of a 1.25 mile or 1.8 mile loop, both handicap accessible. The trail winds through meadows, takes you along the banks of the Bitterroot River and under Ponderosa Pine canopies. As if the sheer beauty wasn't enough, 16 interpretive signs explain the river ecology, wildlife and vegetation of the area. About a third of a mile down the trail you will find a lovely picnic spot next to the river. Don't worry about bringing a picnic blanket, someone thought ahead and set up a picnic table for all to use.

A lot of the hiking trails also allow biking. Blue Mountain's gentle grade provide for intense uphill rides, with extremely technical downhills. A great place to build stamina while practicing and refining your techniques.

  • The Deadman Ridge: This soft, rolling grassy knoll, in the south of the recreation area, is one of the first to dry off in the spring, making it an ideal place for mountain bikers who are itching to hit the trail.

Note that biking is not allowed north of Forest Service Road #365 or along the Maclay Flats Interpretive Trail.

Horseback Riding
All hiking trails, other then the Maclay Flats Interpretive Trail, are open to horseback riding. So saddle up and enjoy your ride.

The lower trailhead, located a half mile north on Blue Mountain Road #559, provides horse facilities and room for trailers.

The Bitterroot River cuts along the base of Blue Mountain. The shores of the river are thick with Ponderosa Pine and Cottonwoods. The river runs wide and shallow through this stretch leading to extensive gravel bars.

Try your luck teasing the trout under the watchful eye of the Belted Kingfisher and Bald Eagle. Just make sure to get your fishing permit which can be obtained at any local fly shop or with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

Sometimes a night under the stars is just what you need, not the miles it takes to backpack your way into a remote location. Blue Mountain Recreation Area is perfect for this.

Head west of Forest Service Road #365, and from there just make sure you are 4 1/2 miles up the mountain before you pitch your tent or make a campfire.   (You can also shoot a gun at this location if it so pleases you. Just make sure it is properly licensed).

Disc Golf
This exciting sport has taken off in popularity over the years. Often referred to as folf (a frisbee golf fusion), this course will test your aim with 18 baskets and a course that rolls over tree filled hills and down into ditches. You're sure to have a great time!

The course does close for part of the year to allow the vegetation to replenish.

Motorized Activities
The Blue Mountain Recreation Area has approximately 14 miles of trails for motorcycles of which 3.8 miles may be used by ATV's. So gear up, rev your engines and hit the trail for an awesome ride.

Don't forget your “off-road” stickers, a must have for off road fun in the area. You can find these at the Missoula County Courthouse. Call 406-721-5700 for more info. 

Cross-country Skiing/Snowshoeing
Blue Mountain, with its mild elevation gain, is the perfect spot for both of these activities. Groomed cross-country paths are found on multiple trails. And for snowshoeing, strap on those big shoes and enjoy a bit of winter's bounty, the snow.

This childhood winter past time is not just for children anymore, especially on Blue Mountain. As the snow falls, sledding hills will become established anywhere an accessible hill is found, generally along Blue Mountain Road. So grab your sled, hike up the hill, and experience some serious sledding.

One mile above Forest Road #365 you can enjoy this high speed winter activity. The road closes in the winter. If you have any doubt about wether the road is opened or closed, simply remember, when the gate is closed the road is closed. Closed means you are free to have an awesome ride in this snowmobile only territory.

Fun Facts

Blue Mountain got it's name from the blue hue that shines from it's hillsides on sunny days. This blue hue can be attributed to the high density of Blue Spruce trees.

With such high usage, it wouldn't take a lot for this recreation area to get trashed. Do your part to keep it clean; pack out trash, pick up after your dogs, and in general, tread lightly.