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Trail Well Traveled – 9/30

Welcome to the Trail Well Traveled!

Each Friday, in partnership with Montana Wilderness Association we will feature a new western Montana trail and then give one lucky listener some cool goodies to help them embark on their journey!

Rattlesnake Main Trail

We celebrate homecoming weekend with a close-to-home easy stroll that shows off why it’s so easy to fall in love with Missoula!

Roundtrip: 6 miles

Directions: From the intersection of Van Buren and E. Broadway, head north under the freeway and into the Rattlesnake neighborhood. Van Buren turns into Rattlesnake Drive – stay on it for about three miles (following it left at the entrance to the Lincoln Wood neighborhood) until you reach the Rattlesnake National Recreation entrance.

What to expect: The Rattlesnake Recreation Area and Wilderness are comprised of 61,000 acres, 33,000 of which are designated wilderness, with more than 73 miles of trails – great for activities such as hiking, biking, skiing, horseback riding, fishing and more!

From the large parking area, begin hiking on the wide trail (a single-lane former logging road), and after a quarter-mile you’ll see Rattlesnake Creek on your right.  At 0.4 miles there is a horse bridge that goes over the creek.  If you’re lucky you’ll see an American dipper hopping around on the rocks below.  This is a lovely spot for the kids to play in the water or to have a picnic.

At 0.6 miles, a small trail splits off to the right off of the main trail.  If you take this trail, you’ll hike closer to the creek for the next mile.  Or if you stay on the main trail, you can go as far as 15 additional miles!


We suggest taking the smaller trail on the right that follows the creek.  Here you’ll be hiking through ponderosa pine/Douglas fir forest with an understory of primarily ninebark.  Look for lady slipper orchids, buttercups and even trilliums.

At 1.7 miles this narrow river trail meets back with the main trail.  Stay on the main trail until you come to an outhouse (3.0 miles).  From this point on, you are officially in the wilderness and permitted to camp – turn around here unless you’ve got time for a deeper foray into the wilderness!

Tip: Dogs need to be leashed at the beginning of the hike, but they can be unleashed beyond 1.7 miles into the main Rattlesnake Creek drainage area. Signs make this clear.

Learn more about this trail, file your own trip report and photos, or check out some other great hikes at And don’t forget to tune in to the Trail 103.3 each Friday at 9:50 am for the next featured trail and your chance to win!

Big thanks to Bretz RV & Marine for sponsoring the Trail Well Traveled! Whether you are looking for a travel trailer, motorhome, fifth wheel, toy hauler or boat you will get the best deal at Bretz RV & Marine, 4800 Grant Creek Road or 541-4800!

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